- Injury rates increase with sleep deprivation and the accompanying fatigue. A study on sleep and immune function also found that reduced sleep was associated with increased susceptibility to illness.
- Accuracy and speed notably decreases in athletes with poor sleep habits, whilst increased sleep significantly improves athletic performance.
- Reaction times decrease with lack of sleep, with the effect of even low levels of fatigue in poorly rested athletes comparable to intoxication by alcohol – according to Harvard Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine.
- Decision making and judgement skills are significantly impaired as a result of fatigue following sleep loss. Concentration, motivation, memory and learning are also reduced.
- Playing careers of amateur and professional athletes can be shortened by consistent lack of sleep and fatigue. A study of Major League Baseball players found an almost linear relationship between fatigue and career longevity.
Sleep plays a huge role in athletic performance, and for those players looking to play at their best, consistently getting enough sleep (around 7-10 hours depending on the individual) is essential. Though the importance of sleep cannot be understated, prioritising other factors such as physical and mental conditioning, appropriate nutrition and hydration, and good preparation e.g. using the right equipment, will all enable a player to give their best whether for training or competition. For squash players, and athletes in general, maintaining good sleep habits long term may give them the competitive advantage and be the crucial difference between winning and losing a match.
Further reading linking sleep and athletic performance: