Sleep - The Secret to Success?


Sleep - the “secret” ingredient for Peak Performance


I can sleep when I am dead is what I hear a lot from a young person who isn’t getting enough sleep.  Is sleep the most important factor in performing at an elite level consistently?  Coaches at many top universities are digging into the science of sleep, and what it reveals about sleep’s power to boost athletic performance.  Many top level programs in college are taking steps and mandates to ensure their players are getting sleep both in terms of quantity and quality.  Some programs are actually hiring sleep coaches to help players establish and maintain healthy sleep routines throughout the season. 


I have read two outstanding books in the past year on sleep.  Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson discusses the importance of sleep and its’ benefits.  He also discusses strategies on how to increase the quality and quantity of your sleep and lists benefits of the investment of sleep.  Shawn discusses technology devices as one of the hazards to health and to sleep deprivation for athletes and non-athletes.  I have actually started wearing blue light blocking glasses prior to bedtime and while working on a computer and/or my iPhone and have noticed a huge difference in my deep sleep cycle.  Athletes using technology today are developing more daytime fatigue and are having less elite performance on and off the field.  (All because of technology:  television, computer usage, cell phones, tablets, etc.)


Another book I suggest is Power Sleep by Dr. James B. Maas, who is the grandfather of sleep.  This book will give you the lowdown on how to optimize your sleep for peak performance.  It will discuss why sleep is so powerful, signs you’re not getting enough of it, and some best practices on how to optimize your sleep.


Sleep quantity and quality impact a bowler’s consistent performance and at what level.  Take a look at some of the most ways sleep influences athletic performance on the lanes:


Energy:  Bowlers need lots of energy in practice and in competition.  Poor sleep decreases energy for bowlers both physically and mentally.


  1. Reaction Time:  Bowlers need to react to changing environments constantly.  Lane conditions are changing constantly and bowlers must make the right move at the right time.  Moments become bigger throughout a bowler’s career.  Being able to react in a productive manner in these moments are crucial.  Sleep loss affects reaction time in both of these areas of performance.


  1. Visual tracking:  Lack of sleep impairs visual tracking skills.  Tracking ball motion is critical in gaining a competitive edge on your opponents.


  1. Accuracy:  Accuracy in physical and mental tasks are compromised with sleep deprivation.  Be able to repeat consistently in these two areas are game changers.


  1. Decision making:  Making quick, on the lane moves and correct decisions are very challenging and are key in succeeding as a bowler.  These vital keys are negatively affected with lack of quality sleep.


  1. Memory: Bowlers need to use newly acquired learned techniques and strategies and apply them during competition.  Poor sleep undermines these important processes and interferes with the application in shot making.


  1. Recovery:  Mental and physical recovery is vital for bowler’s performance - through daily training on the lanes, over a bowling season and throughout the life of a player.  Sleep deprivation and poor sleep decreases recovery drastically for a bowler.


As I reflect back on my career in bowling, especially my days on tour, I wonder how much better my performance would have been in terms of consistency and tournament outcomes. 

I think my career earnings and number of titles would be much higher if the research was out 25 years ago on the importance of sleep and techniques on how to optimize sleep for peak performance.  Competitive bowlers need to research the field of sleep and apply it to their daily regimens.  Some coaches are starting to put sleep as the #1 Pillar in athletic performance.  Look for a future article on 11th Frame blog for more detail on Sleep for bowler performance.