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WHOOP For Athletes: Optimize Sleep and Performance

Why Sleep is Crucial to Your Performance 

Science tells us that you don’t get stronger in the gym—that’s what breaks you down. You actually get stronger during rest. Sleep is the time where your muscles repair, regenerate, and prime your mind and body for peak performance.

WHOOP Sleep Performance 

Our Sleep Performance score answers the question, “How much of my Sleep Need did I achieve?”


Sleep Need

As an athlete, you likely need more rest than the average person. WHOOP determines your Sleep Need by learning your personal baseline and factoring in the additional rest your body needs due to recent Strain and Sleep Debt.


Sleep Debt

Sleep Debt accumulates if Sleep Need continues to not be met. Chronic sleep deprivation has been correlated with a 68% greater risk of sport-related injury over the course of a 21-month period, when compared to athletes (with similar training loads) who do get a sufficient amount of nightly sleep. (Read more here)

To Avoid Accruing Sleep Debt:

  • Keep sleep debt under 25 minutes.
  • Try taking a nap, practicing deep meditation or breath work, extending your sleep, and other tips to combat sleep debt
  • Follow our nap best practices.Try a short mid-afternoon power nap (10-20 mins) or a full sleep cycle (90 mins) prior to 3:00pm or around the middle of your day (between your wake and sleep cycles).

Sleep Consistency

Sleep consistency is a measure of how similar your sleep and wake times are.

Improving your Sleep Consistency and maintaining your circadian rhythm helps your body function more smoothly and improves overall sleep efficiency and time spent in REM and Slow Wave Sleep. To find sleep consistency in the app, swipe up from the Sleep screen and click into the trend view for “Time in Bed.”


The Importance of Restorative Sleep Stages: REM and SWS

Many often overestimate the amount of quality sleep they get. WHOOP measures the time spent in each sleep stage to help you better understand sleep quality.

REM Sleep is when memory consolidation and dreaming occur. As an athlete, any time you are practicing a skill, the actual consolidation and retention of that learning happens in the REM stage.

SWS or Deep Sleep is when roughly 95% of the human growth hormone is released, helping the body repair and regenerate tissues, build bones and muscles, and strengthen the immune system. 

For Sleep, Aim to:

  • Spend 50% of your sleep in the restorative sleep stages.
  • Stay within +/- 30mins of your sleep and wake times.
  • Achieve 90% Sleep Performance by spending more time in bed.
  • Get Sleep Debt under 25 minutes. 

Disturbances and Time Spent Awake

It's normal to be awake for brief periods during sleep and, more likely than not, you won’t remember them. On average, you’ll experience 10 to 20 disturbances and 30 mins or less spent awake throughout sleep. If your disturbances are higher than 20 and/or your awake time is greater than 30 mins, evaluate your daytime behaviors and sleep environment.

Sleep Tips

Tips to Optimize Daytime Behaviors for Sleep:

  • Get bright, natural light upon awakening by getting outside within 30 mins of waking up.
  • Schedule your last meal at least 3 hours before bed.
  • Hydrate throughout the day and not just before bed. You should consume 1 oz. of water per pound of body weight.
  • Avoid PM caffeine—at least 8 hrs prior to bedtime.  
  • Avoid alcohol, especially close to bedtime.
  • Avoid Aspirin and Ibuprofen close to bedtime, as they have been shown to increase time spent awake and delay onset of deep sleep

Tips for an Optimal Sleep Environment: 

  • Make it dark with blackout shades, an eye mask, and all lights off.
  • Keep it quiet with earplugs or a sound machine.
  • Keep it cold—about 68 degrees or less. Just make sure to keep your feet and hands warm.

More Sleep Tips:

  • WHOOP Sleep Coach recommends when you should go to bed to maximize your Recovery the next morning. You can also set sleep goals in order to “get by,” “perform,” or “peak
  • Avoid the snooze button!
  • Create a pre-bedtime routine, log behaviors in your WHOOP Journal, and monitor the impacts on your Sleep Performance.
  • After sunset, avoid overhead lights or dim the lights if possible.  
  • 3 hours before bed, wear blue-light glasses when staring at a screen.
  • Eliminate screened devices in bed.
  • Read or journal.
  • Take a hot shower or bath.
  • Try light stretching or yoga.
  • Do meditation or breath work.



Sleep as a Predictor of Swimming Performance in NCAA Division I Collegiate Athletes

Longer time spent asleep and longer time spent in REM sleep are both positively correlated with next-day swimming performance, and athletes were able to use their WHOOP data to positively impact their sleep patterns from mid-season to the championships.

Learn More About Sleep 

WHOOP Podcast: How Sleep Impacts Performance

Listen to this sleep podcast where our VP of Performance and VP of Data Science do a deep dive into the impact sleep has on performance. They discuss what happens during the various stages of sleep as well as the benefits of each, the negative effects sleep deprivation has on how your body functions, how much sleep you should get each night, and the best ways to maximize the efficiency of your time in bed.

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