Sleeping Your Way to Better Performance

Sleep is a normal and reversible activity that is essential for recovery. Studies show that sleep is important for health and performance, especially for athletes. Getting enough sleep not only helps athletes perform better but also impacts overall physical and mental wellbeing. One tool to improve sleep is the Athlete Sleep Screening Questionnaire (ASSQ).

The ASSQ was developed by a team of four researchers and sleep practitioners* to identify elite athletes who have sleep issues. Multiple studies have shown that the ASSQ survey successfully identifies elite athletes who are abnormal sleepers.

Athlete Sleep Screening Questionnaire (ASSQ)

It is crucial in an Olympic year for healthcare professionals supporting athletes to efficiently screen for sleep difficulties. The Athlete Sleep Screening Questionnaire was developed specifically to do this.

 The ASSQ is a 16-question survey designed to look at six different sleep aspects:

  1. How well you sleep.
  2.  Total time you sleep.
  3. Preference for daytime or nighttime activities.
  4. Do you have trouble sleeping?
  5. Do you struggle with sleep while traveling?
  6. Breathing issues during sleep

Answers are used to calculate a combined score called the ASSQ Sleep Difficulty Score (SDS). Scores range from zero to 17; scores above eight suggest that an individual might need help with their sleep.

Based on an individual’s answers, the ASSQ can also help guide recommendations for improving sleep. For example, if you have a mildly high SDS and your struggles are related to poor habits, the recommendation might be general sleep hygiene information and personalized tips. If your sleep issues are related to breathing issues, you might need more help from a sports physician, or a consultation with a sleep medicine professional.

Sleep Recommendations for Athletes

Athletes can improve their ASSQ score by practicing good sleep hygiene. Use the following recommendations to get the most from your sleep.

  • Athletes need around 8 to 10 hours of sleep to recover from intense training and prevent injuries.
  • Do not rely on caffeine to replace sleep.
  • Sleep in a dark, cool room without any electronic devices.
  •  Short 20- to 30-minute naps on competition days and longer 90-minute naps on rest days can be beneficial.
  •  Sleep is vital to the immune system, so when travelling and under stress, protect your sleep.
  • Ask yourself, “Am I doing everything I can to get optimal sleep?”
Performance list of recommendations_pg 29

Jonathan Charest, PhD, is an adjunct professor in the School of Psychology at the Université Laval of Canada and holds the office of Member at Large for Media and Advocacy in the Canadian Sleep Society

 * Charles Samuels, Lois James, Doug Lawson, and Willem Meeuwisse


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