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Sleep key component to athletic performance

The world’s best athletes are descending upon Sochi, Russia for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. Every elite athlete looks for an edge against their competitors to improve their athletic performance but what if the answer was as simple as getting more sleep?

According to Michael Howell, M.D., a sleep expert within the Department of Neurology, that’s precisely what elite athletes excel at.

“The best athletes I’ve ever met are extremely good sleepers,” said Howell. “Although you may not think your brain is doing much during sleep, your brain is putting connections together and it is amplifying circuits that are important.”

Howell adds that sleep, especially after an athletic event or practice, helps athletes consolidate in their brain all of the gains they made during the day. The replaying of these athletic events during sleep actually helps to improve athletic performance the next day.

With so many extracurricular activities happening during the Winter Olympics, getting a good night’s sleep prior to athletic performance is even more critical. Howell adds that with the time change many Olympic athletes will experience while traveling to Sochi, syncing up their circadian rhythm to the new time zone days or weeks in advance of competition is extremely important.

“Their body and brain has to be ready to perform at an extremely high level at the new time, not what it was back home.”

For more sleep tips from Howell, see these posts:

Sleep can improve motor skills and athletic performance

Sleep ‘cleans’ the brain of toxins

Losing weight can improve sleep and reduce risk for sleep apnea

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