The central nervous system is the single most important factor in optimal athletic performance. A good night’s sleep is essential to maintaining the central nervous system.

“Players ran faster and made more shots when they got 10 hours of sleep.

A prominent Stanford University study found that student athletes perform better when they get an adequate amount of sleep. According to the study, basketball players ran faster and made more shots when they slept at least 10 hours a night. Brain scans show a dramatic increase in blood flow to the brain after eight hours of sleep in comparison to the brain that received no sleep.

Central Nervous Readiness

After 8 to 10 hours of sleep, you have stored up roughly 14 hours of central nervous system readiness. The brain needs 1.5 to 2.5 hours of REM sleep each night to repair neuronal damage and reboot the brain’s energy levels. Once an athlete has built up a sleep deficit, the body cannot function at optimal levels.

Pictured on the left is a brain scan of a healthy teenager who received 8 hours of sleep the previous night. The picture on the right is a brain scan of a healthy teenager who received 5 hours of sleep the previous night. The blue areas shown are the blood flow to the brain which impacts pre-movement, movement and balance. The teenager to the right does not have as much blood flow to the brain, affecting these areas negatively.

Athletes should be cognizant and use central nervous system reserves wisely. Even activities that you wouldn’t think as draining, such as watching TV, searching the Internet, playing video games or playing on your phone can deplete your reserves.

Adequate sleep should be incorporated into a healthy lifestyle along with proper nutrition and exercise.


I am the Student Assistance Prevention Counselor for our school and it is wonderful to have the Life of an Athlete program. I bring in any sort of drug prevention that makes sense for our students. I …

— Jamie Edge (Student Assistance Prevention Counselor, Inter-Lakes High School