FRIDAY, July 1 (HealthDay News) -- Even though practice is key for young athletes, getting more sleep also helps college basketball players improve their play, researchers say.
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The new study included 11 male basketball players who maintained their normal nighttime schedule (sleeping six to nine hours) for two to four weeks, and then aimed to get 10 hours of sleep per night for the next five to seven weeks. When travel prevented the players from getting 10 hours of sleep in a night, they took daytime naps to get the full amount of required sleep.
The players showed a number of improvements after the weeks of increased sleep compared to their normal amount of sleep. They ran faster 282-foot sprints (16.2 seconds versus 15.5 seconds), their free throw percentages increased by 9%, their three-point field goal percentage increased by 9.2%, they had lower fatigue levels, and they reported improved practices and games.
At the start of the study, a questionnaire-based sleepiness scale revealed that many of the basketball players had sleep debt accumulated from chronic sleep loss, said Cheri Mah, a researcher in the Stanford University Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Laboratory, and colleagues.
"The athletes were training and competing during their regular season with moderate-to-high levels of daytime sleepiness and were unaware that it could be negatively impacting their performance," Mah said in a university news release.
"But as the season wore on and they reduced their sleep debt, many athletes testified that a focus on sleep was beneficial to their training and performance," she added.
The study is published in the July issue of the journal Sleep.
-- Robert Preidt
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SOURCE: Stanford University, news release, June 30, 2011