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Sleep And Athletic Performance: How Just An Extra Hour Of Rest Can Make You A Better Athlete

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If vigorous exercise makes you a better sleeper, can more and better sleep make you a better athlete?

According to Haley A. Davis and James B. Maas, Ph.D. and their new book, "Sleep To Win!", the answer is yes. Davis and Maas recently joined host Ricky Camilleri to discuss the importance of sleep for athletic performance -- and healthy, everyday functioning -- on HuffPost Live.

"We take professional athletes and we give them one more hour of sleep," Maas explained in the clip above. "We make sure every night they're getting a good night's sleep, and we make sure they don't get up too early in the morning. Even at the pro level, these people are amazed that their performance actually improves when they add that extra hour of sleep."

But how do you add an hour of sleep without cutting into practice time? Turns out, it might not matter. Healthy Living caught up with Maas earlier this month, after the release of the National Sleep Foundation's annual Sleep in America poll, focused this year on exercise and sleep.

Teams that traditionally have practiced twice a day perform better skipping the morning practice if it allows athletes to get enough sleep than sticking with two sessions, says Maas, a former fellow, professor and chairman of psychology at Cornell University. In fact, a number of professional sports teams, most notably the New York Jets, have changed up their practice schedules in order to afford players more time for shut-eye.

Just like with cognitive memory, sleep seems to solidify muscle memory as well, he says. But the big benefits don't take place until somewhere around the seventh hour of sleep, he says, an hour many athletes and casual exercisers are missing out on.

"Sleep is food for the brain, sleep is fuel for exercise." he says. "Sleep is simply not valued in our 24/7 society. We treat it as a luxury and it's a necessity. If you sleep longer and better, you can be a better athlete overnight."

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