PALO ALTO, Calif., July 1 (UPI) -- Young basketball players wanting to improve their game should put in long hours -- not only of practice time, but also of sleep, U.S. researchers say.
A researcher in the Stanford University Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Laboratory said her study has shown that basketball players at the college level improved on-court performance by increasing their amount of total sleep time.
"Athletes may be able to optimize training and competition outcomes by identifying strategies to maximize the benefits of sleep," the researchers wrote in the journal SLEEP.
While it's long been known lack of sleep can have negative consequences, very few studies have looked at the effect that sleep extension can have on performance, particularly of athletes, a Stanford release said Friday.
Most athletes focus on nutrition and physical training as part of their regimen, Mah said, but competitive athletes at all levels typically do not consider optimizing their sleep and recovery.
"Intuitively many players and coaches know that rest and sleep are important, but it is often the first to be sacrificed," she said.
Over the course of two basketball seasons, Mah and colleagues worked with 11 healthy players to measure the effects of sleep extension on specific measures of athletic performance. At the end of the study period, the players ran faster 282-foot sprints (16.2 seconds vs. 15.5 seconds) and their shooting accuracy during practice improved, with free throw percentages increasing by 9 percent and 3-point field goal percentage increasing by 9.2 percent.
Sleep is an "unrecognized, but likely critical factor in reaching peak performance," Mah said.