WebMD explains that athletes generally need an hour more of sleep than average people in order to recover from intense training. Sleep deprivation in athletes decreases energy, reduces reaction times and changes hormone levels. Athletic performance decreases when athletes don't get enough sleep over the long term. The recommended amount of sleep is 7 to 9 hours per night.
A 2011 study tracked the Stanford basketball team for several months. WebMD reveals that when the players added an additional 2 hours of sleep per night, they increased their speed by 5 percent and their free-throw shooting percentage improved by 9 percent.
The Sleep Foundation states that losing sleep for just a few nights may not affect an athlete's performance. Studies are limited in this regard because athletes intolerant of sleep loss don't often volunteer for studies. Athletic skills related to cognitive functions and sleep loss haven't been adequately addressed in scientific studies. Sleep loss in athletes may occur in delayed circadian rhythms when athletes train in the morning and afternoon.
David Knight, the athletic performance coordinator of the University of Wisconsin, told ABC News that sleep helps athletes focus mentally. Sleep helps the human body heal from the rigors of daily workouts and assists in recovery from the stresses muscles endure during athletic activities.