PART 2 – Using Sleep to hack performance

music sheet on black piano
Photo by Steve Johnson on


Using Sleep to improve  Skill Performance

It has been shown in many studies that  7-9 hours of sleep can enhance a skill by up to 20%.

Key point–  If learning a new motor skill, like learning a new piece on the piano or learning to  play baseball,  7-9  hours of sleep after practising the skill may give you  a significant 20% improvement in the same skill performed again the next day.

boy in red and white baseball jersey tilt shift lens photography
Photo by Pixabay on

Using Visualisation before Sleep

Numerous studies have shown that just visualising a skill can be as effective as actually practising the  skill.  Both are equally efficacious in rewiring the brain and even better when both are carried out one after the other as seen below.


3  Key steps to Hacking your Performance

  1. PRACTICE: Spend the time needed daily to repeat and perform the skill. This allows your body to gain  a certain ‘muscle memory’ or ‘learned motion’ of a new movement you have not previously been used to.

  1. VISUALISE: Every night after training and especially the night  before a test of the skill, be it a big game or a grading; visualise the skill in action going right through the motions  in your mind from the set up   to the desired endpoint.


For example, actually seeing your fingers over the keys playing the piece and hearing the music or seeing yourself holding the cricket bat, moving your body and getting your head and feet in the right place to play the front foot drive, execute the perfectly timed shot and watching the red ball cross the boundary rope.


  1. SLEEP:  Having done the physical practising, visualised the skill in action, the outcome and feeling the emotions of achieving your goal…  all that’s left is to  gift yourself 7-9 hours of sleep.


This allows the brain to cleverly go over what you know and most importantly seek and smooth out the imperfections.  Dream sleep in particular allows these new learned neural connections to mingle with the old pre-existing neural connections; revising our ‘Mind-Wide Web’ as Professor Walker so eloquently describes it.

These 3 steps have been shown to enable us to repeatedly  perform a skill at a much higher level than if we had only practised or only visualised it.

I find this fascinating and perhaps an under-used superpower that we all have.  As a sports coach this is definitely something I will share with my squad.

Can sleep enhance athletic performance?

7 to 9 hours of Sleep could be described as an Elite Sports hack with  results such as:

  • Improved peak physical speed
  • Improved strength
  • Improved vertical jump height
  • 30% LESS  lactic acid produced during the acticity


woman in blue and white basketball jersey holding brown basketball
Photo by Pixabay on


Can sleep affect sports injury rates?

5 hours of sleep has shown to correlate with a  60% increased risk of  injury in one season.

Why?   Lack of sleep results in significantly reduced functioning of our stability muscles involved in microbalance.


Can sleep be used to enhance endurance?

Studies have been conducted on boxers after 7 hours or more of sleep and after less than 6 hours of sleep.


After 7 hours or more, boxers were able to go the full 10 rounds before showing signs of physical exhaustion.

After 6 hours or less the boxers showed physical exhaustion after 7 rounds.


Key point– 7 or more hours of sleep has been shown to have a 30% improvement in physical endurance.



 ‘ 7-9 hours of sleep may be seen as the greatest legal performance enhancing drug known to man ’

– Professor Michael Walker



Can sleep deprivation really cause weight gain?

Join me soon  for Part 3 on the science of Sleep and Diet.


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