Why the game's best golfers need sleep to awaken their best performance

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For the world's top-ranked golfer, Brooks Koepka, getting enough sleep is a top priority. In fact, getting to bed on time was the first thing he mentioned at this year's Sentry Tournament of Champions when asked about the goals he had achieved in 2018.

"On the road, I was definitely in bed by 10," said Koepka.

It is a habit he said he would be sticking to this year, and so far it appears to be paying dividends. After winning two majors in 2018, he has continued his incredible run. Beside his three tournaments wins, including a successful defence of his PGA Championship crown, he was also runner-up at the Masters and the US Open.

Koepka understands that sleep is crucial to his golf fitness and game. So where travel and scheduling allows, he looks to factor in eight to ten hours of sleep a day.

Research shows that the average person needs between seven to nine hours of sleep each night. This is the length of time required to get enough REM and deep sleep. Dr Carmel Harrington, a sleep health expert for ResMed says that it is in these sleep stages where the body and mind do the most repair.

"During sleep, and specifically deep sleep, the body secretes growth hormone which allows for the building, repairing and restoration of muscle," she said.

In a 2017 national netball tournament, researchers wanted to see if sleep quality and competitive success were linked. They found that longer sleep durations were associated with higher final tournament positions.1

"Maybe it just all caught up with me. I'm looking forward to getting to bed early and getting a good night's sleep." - Rory McIlroy

 

When athletes are sleep deprived, they cannot be as adept the following day and will often see mixed results.

One good example is Rory McIlroy's loss at this year's Omega European Masters. A week after his triumph at the FedEx Cup in Atlanta, McIlroy was well placed to also win in Switzerland following a blistering 7-under 63 in his second round. Fatigue, however, seemed to get the better of him in the third round, where he bogeyed three of his last five holes.

He admitted that the tight scheduling between events gave him little time to rest.

"Maybe it just all caught up with me. I'm looking forward to getting to bed early and getting a good night's sleep," said McIlroy.

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Studies show this wasn't just an uninspired excuse. Sleep deprivation can cause low energy and poor concentration. There is also evidence that poor sleep impairs athletes in activities where accuracy is essential – for example, golf.

One interesting 2013 study tracked the impact of reduced sleep on the serving accuracy in tennis players. It found that when they cut the players' sleep to four to five hours, their serving accuracy fell by up to 53%.2

Athletes are now placing increased attention on not only their training and nutrition but also on their recovery. Considering the long training hours, travel demands and distractions, many are turning to sleep experts for help.

According to a ResMed survey, it is not only athletes who need help. Forty-one per cent of Australians said they were not getting enough sleep.3 For all concerned, Dr Harrington has one piece of advice.

"Missing a workout isn't ideal, but it won't stop you from operating, whereas a lack of sleep definitely will," she said.

With Koepka joining the US team at this year's PGA President's Cup in Melbourne, it will be interesting to see if he is sticking to his goal. That extra hour's sleep could be the defining margin he needs to win.

Learn more about sleep health.

Take the free sleep assessment

Our online sleep assessment helps uncover whether you have a sleeping disorder or not.

 

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Citations

1

Source: Juliff LE, Halson SL, Hebert J, et al. "Longer sleep durations are positively associated with finishing place during a national multi-day netball competition." J. Strength Cond. Res. 2018; 32:189-194.

2
Source: Reyner LA, Horne JA. "Sleep restriction and serving accuracy in performance tennis players, and effects of caffeine." Physiol. Behav. 2013; 120:93-6.
3

Source: Atomik Research. "The ResMed Sleep Health Survey." Survey. 4-6 Sep. 2019.

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