The Sleeping Habits Of Elite Athletes And How It Improves Their Performance

Sleep is essential to recovery. Elite athletes rely on getting plenty of shut-eye to help them perform at peak levels. Not only does sleep aid in muscle recovery, but it also increases performance. According to one study, “increasing the average number of hours per sleep for a group of basketball players from 6.5 per night to nearly 8.5 hours per night improved their free throw shooting by 11.4% and their three-point shooting by 13.7%.” This is how much the best athletes in the world sleep and why!

You Won’t Like Roger Federer If He Doesn’t Get His 12 Hours!

roger federer tennis
Marcelo Endelli/Getty Images
Marcelo Endelli/Getty Images

Roger Federer is a real grouch if he doesn’t get his 12 hours of sleep. Not all of that sleep has to come at night, which is important to note. He says, “if I don’t sleep 11-12 hours a day, it’s not right.”

One of the benefits of all that sleep, according to Fatigue Science is improved decision making (up to 4.3 percent). Thinking even slightly more quickly, allows Federer to react faster than his opponents, giving him an edge on the court.

Kevin Durant Aims For Eight Hours A Night

kevin durant
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Kevin Durant has done it all in his NBA career. He has won an NBA championship, been named a Finals MVP, and been named the League MVP. Part of why he’s been so successful has been his commitment to sleeping.

He says, “Every day is a new chance to challenge myself and push my training to the next level, but I can only do that if I keep my energy up. Sleep is an important part of that.”

LeBron James Loves To Sleep For Half A Day

lebron james nba
Harry How/Getty Images
Harry How/Getty Images

LeBron James is one of the best basketball players all-time, as well as one of the world’s best sleepers. On a good night, the King can get upwards of 12 hours of sleep. And to make sure he’s maximizing his time knocked out, he tracks his sleep.

Darryl Gehly, the president of Roundarch Isobar says, “Wearable devices that use sensors to pick up data and provide feedback to athletes and coaches on anything from sleep quality to exertion levels, are set to be the biggest technological innovation that sports has ever seen.”

Kurt Busch Is Serious About His Eight Hours A Night

kurt busch nascar
Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images
Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

In 2004, Kurt Busch won the NASCAR Cup Series Championship. One of the best drivers of his generation, the speed demon sleeps for eight hours a night and makes sure to keep a tight routine:

“My routine keeps me performing at the highest level: eight hours of sleep, exercising daily, clean eating, race team meetings, pit stop strategy, reviewing video. Strength training, especially my upper body, is crucial… whatever I can do to make myself better. Meditation is probably the next step. I’m open to anything.”

Lindsey Vonn Was Sleeping Ten Hours A Night In 2018

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Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images
Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images

Olympic medalist Lindsey Vonn said that while she was training in 2018, she was sleeping for ten hours a night, “I love sleep. I am a good sleeper, I take naps every day, I try to sleep at least 10 hours at night. The more I sleep, the better recovered I am.”

Including naps, Vonn was sleeping for 12 hours a day, helping her recover faster from her high-intensity workouts.

Earl Watson Says Naps Help You Make Up For Lost Sleep

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Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Earl Watson learned a lot during his 13-year career. One of the most important lessons he learned was that it’s not easy to go to sleep after a game, so napping is a must if you want eight hours.

Speaking with The Huffington Post he explained, “Napping is a good way to catch up on rest. They are a must because the emotions from a game can keep you up until 3:00 in the morning. … Sleep is big.”

Sleeping Is Maria Sharapova’s Hobby

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Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images
Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

When she knows there’s a big tournament coming up, Maria Sharapova changes one big thing about her lifestyle. She begins sleeping more, “There is no special training. The only thing I do is sleeping longer. I love to sleep, it’s my hobby.”

That hobby has been good to Sharapova, who has earned nearly $40 million in tournament winnings in her career. In 2005 she hit her peak, being ranked as the number one women’s tennis player in the world.

Christiano Ronaldo Is A Nap Machine

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Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images
Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

Early on in his iconic career, soccer superstar Christiano Ronaldo was instructed to take five, 90-minute naps a day. These naps took place in a special chamber that only he had access to.

It’s no surprise that with so much sleep, Ronaldo has plenty of energy to burn. Now nearing the end of his career, he is still performing at an elite level and has barely lost a step. According to one 2009 study, all his sleeping could have actually increased his sprinting speed.

Rafael Nadal Hits The Hay For Nine Hours A Night

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Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

As of this writing, Rafael Nadal has won 19 Grand Slam singles titles. He was the first male tennis player to win a Grand Slam in ten consecutive years and was ranked as the world’s number two male tennis player in 2020.

To help keep his game sharp, Nadal tries to hit the hay for nine hours a night. According to one study from Fatigue Science, this sleep routine can help improve a player like Nadal’s accuracy by 42 percent!

Steve Nash Finds The Time To Sleep Through The Chaos

steve nash nba
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

During his NBA career, two time MVP Steve Nash placed a priority on sleeping, even during the chaos of the regular season, “diet and sleep are probably the two biggest tools to recover. Definitely something that’s hard to do when you’re traveling a lot.”

He continued, “You have a busy, stressful schedule, but it’s something you have to make a priority… I’ll try to nap for as long as I can. A half-hour to two hours on game days is usually what it is.”

Michael Phelps Sleeps In A Chamber

michael phelps swimmer
Adam Pretty/Getty Images
Adam Pretty/Getty Images

For Michael Phelps, it’s not about the quantity of his sleep, but the quality. While training for the Olympics, the record-holding swimmer would sleep in a chamber that simulated him being at an altitude of 9,000 feet.

The decreased oxygen he would get in the chamber would force his body to produce more red blood cells improving both his blood flow and overall endurance, “I don’t mind it. There’s a giant door at the end of my bed. The worst thing is trying to watch TV in it. I’ve got to watch it through Plexiglas — it’s blurry.”

Michelle Wie Needs 12 Hours A Night To Feel Normal

michelle wie golf
Scott Halleran/Getty Images for KPMG
Scott Halleran/Getty Images for KPMG

At ten-years-old, Michelle Wie was the youngest player to ever qualify for the USGA amateur championship As recently as 2014, the young golfer claimed the U.S. Women’s Open Title. Maybe it’s her youth that lets her sleep for half the day.

Wie claims that she once slept for 16 hours, “Early in the week of the Sony Open I went to bed at 9 p.m. and woke up at 1 the next day… When I can, I’ll sleep more than 12 hours, and I don’t feel very good if I get less than 10.”

Russell Wilson Dreams About Football

russell wilson seahawks
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Russell Wilson is a Super Bowl winning quarterback and perennial Pro Bowler who surprisingly only sleeps around seven hours a night, “I usually go to bed around 10 [p.m.] and get up around 5 or 5:15… So, that’s what, seven hours or so? Something like that.”

Wilson also says that when he does sleep, he’s probably dreaming about football, proving his work on the field is never done. For Wilson, sleep is just another chance to mentally prepare for the game on Sunday.

Usain Bolt Tries For Eight To Ten Hours A Night

usain bolt
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Being the fastest man in the world takes a lot of work, and Usain Bolt didn’t become the first man to win six Olympic gold medals in sprinting by staying up all night. He says, “sleep is extremely important to me — I need to rest and recover in order for the training I do to be absorbed by my body.”

Bolt aims to get between eight and ten hours of sleep every night to ensure he is refreshed, recovered, and ready to face his next challenge.

Stephen Curry Swears By Napping

stephen curry basketball
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Like Steve Nash, Stephen Curry swears by napping, “When you wake up from a nap, you know what time it is, you know it’s time to get ready and get focused and go to the game.” Curry even admits that when he skips his nap, he’s not as sharp or focused.

There’s science behind napping, too.Dr. Charles Czeisler who is the director of the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard has become the NBA’s sleep expert. He explains that nine hours of sleep is optimal for an NBA player, and because of travel, napping is a vital part of that clock.

Derrick Rose Takes A Three Hour Nap Before Games

derrick rose nba
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Before games, Derrick Rose takes a three-hour-long nap. While that may seem extreme to some people, it’s just part of his healthy lifestyle. In an interview he revealed:

“Being healthy is a complete lifestyle for me. It allows my brain to function at a very high degree so I can comprehend all the new things that are thrown at me. It also allows me to sleep well so that I am rested when I need to perform.”

Larry Fitzgerald Sleeps For 10 Hours On Game Days

larry fitzgerald cardinals
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Larry Fitzgerald is one of the greatest wide receivers in NFL history. The older he gets, the better he seems to perform, and it’s no secret why – he sleeps a ton. While talking to The Huffington Post he revealed:

“[On game days], that night I will for sure get 10 or 11 hours… I always get my rest and I think that’s one of the things that people don’t talk often about. Your body heals and repairs itself better than anything. Being able to get some sleep really does a great cause for your recovery and helping you wake up with a renewed, fresh mental and physical outlook.”

Andy Murray Won Wimbledon On 12 Hours Of Sleep A Night

andy murray tennis
Dan Mullan/Getty Images
Dan Mullan/Getty Images

When he won Wimbledon in 2013, becoming the first British person to do so in 77 years, Andy Murray was sleeping for 12 hours a night. Speaking with The Daily Mirror, the superstar said:

“On the days when I am not playing I try to get in and do my work early, deal with ­everything else that has to happen, and then get home and have a nap. … I don’t normally have any ­trouble sleeping. I sleep well. You need rest to make sure you ­recover properly.”

Amar’e Stoudemire Sleeps Eight Hours A Night

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Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

When you’re a six-time All-Star, you know you’re doing something right. For Amar’e Stoudemire, that would be his sleep – he regularly gets eight hours a night, “When I get my eight hours of sleep, I wake up enthusiastic, ready to train, ready to work.”

Speaking with Bleacher Report, Stoudemire credits his sleep for his ability to stay positive, which in turn helps him form better, more productive relationships with his basketball team.

Leonard Fournette Is Still Learning How To Sleep

leonard forunette nfl
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

NFL running back Leonard Fournette, unlike other athletes on this list, has not yet found his ideal amount of sleep. He is taking steps to learn though:

“Sleep is very important [for rest and recovery before and after games]. I just bought a sleeping bed. It tells you what temperature I need to keep my room at, so I could sleep comfortably, and how many hours I should get. It’s very important because the more hours you sleep, you recover faster. Your reaction on the field is much quicker if you get rest than if you didn’t get any rest, so sleeping helps you a lot.”