Common Sleep Problems in Professional Athletes

athletes and their sleep behaviour

With the Summer Olympics in Tokyo starting very soon, you may be wondering about the sleep habits of professional athletes. It may be easy to think that they sleep well given all the physical activity they do, but that is not always the case, athletes are prone to developing sleep problems too.

Getting a proper sleep at night is essential for professional athletes to be able to perform their best. Here are a few of the most common sleep issues that athletes may have to face at some point in their careers.


This is a common problem among many professional athletes, between irregular hours of training and anxiety surrounding performance in competitions. Just like many others, insomnia can have a negative effect on how they function the following day, which includes decreased performance in their sport. Some athletes may find the benefits in taking a nap in the middle of the day if they have had an inadequate night of sleep, as well as using behavioral techniques to help with anxiety.

Jet lag

If a professional athlete is traveling for competitions across different time zones, this is something that they will have to deal with. A lot of top performing athletes who travel frequently are probably used to this, though it can still be a challenge to adjust their internal clock to the current time zone, especially with less frequent travel due to the pandemic. Adjusting to the current time zone is essential to make sure they are at the top of their game. 

Sleep apnea

While not as common, a sleep apnea diagnosis can happen to even the most seasoned athlete. Former basketball player Shaquille O’Neil has spoken about his sleep apnea many times as well as many professional football players in the US. Getting evaluated by a doctor and starting treatment is essential to ensure not only their overall health but also their performance in their sport.

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