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These Famous Athletes Rely On Sleep For Peak Performance

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SLEEP SPORTS SPLASH
Super Bowl winning quarterback Russell Wilson, two-time NBA champion LeBron James and nine-time French Open champ Rafael Nadal all rely on ample sleep to maximize their athletic performance. | Getty Images
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For professional athletes, exercise, diet and training are crucial to maximizing their abilities. But in recent years, more and more athletes have been opening up about another performance enhancer: sleep. For example,many NBA stars swear by the benefits of napping, both on game days and off days. In nearly every sport, sleep is now considered key to achieving peak performance. Here are some of the athletes who have spoken up about its performance-enhancing powers.

  • 1
    Kevin Durant
    Martin Rickett/PA Archive
    The NBA's recently minted MVP tells HuffPost via email that he tries to get "a solid 8 hours of sleep each night." "I’m up pretty early most days so I can fit in two or three workouts," he says. "Every day is a new chance to challenge myself and push my training to the next level, but I can only do that if I keep my energy up. Sleep is an important part of that."
  • 2
    Larry Fitzgerald
    Christian Petersen via Getty Images
    Fitzgerald, the eight-time Pro Bowl wide receiver for Arizona, sleeps nine hours per night. "[On game days], that night I will for sure get 10 or 11 hours," he told HuffPost. "I always get my rest and I think that's one of the things that people don't talk often about. Your body heals and repairs itself better than anything. Being able to get some sleep really does a great cause for your recovery and helping you wake up with a renewed, fresh mental and physical outlook."
  • 3
    Usain Bolt
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Bolt is the reigning Olympic champion in three events and the first man to win six Olympic gold medals in sprinting. And Bolt sleeps 8 to 10 hours per night, according to the folks at Zeo, a now-defunct company that sold sleep-monitoring devices. "Sleep is extremely important to me -- I need to rest and recover in order for the training I do to be absorbed by my body," he said.
  • 4
    Michelle Wie
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    When Wie was 10 years old, she became the youngest player to qualify for a USGA amateur championship. Most recently, she won the 2014 U.S. Women's Open title. "I slept for 16 hours once. Early in the week of the Sony Open I went to bed at 9 p.m. and woke up at 1 the next day," she told Golf Digest. "When I can, I'll sleep more than 12 hours, and I don't feel very good if I get less than 10."
  • 5
    Russell Wilson
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Wilson, who in his second pro season led the Seahawks to their first Super Bowl title in franchise history, sleeps about seven hours per night. "When I do sleep, I’m probably dreaming about football plays," he told ESPN.
  • 6
    Rafael Nadal
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Nadal owns 14 Grand Slam titles, including a record nine French Open championships. By winning the 2014 French Open (pictured), Nadal became the only male player to win a single Grand Slam tournament nine times and the first to win at least one Grand Slam tournament for ten consecutive years. The Spaniard reportedly sleeps eight to nine hours per night.
  • 7
    LeBron James
    Martin Rickett/PA Archive
    LeBron and his four MVP awards need rest, and a lot of it. The 29-year-old James sleeps 12 hours per night.
  • 8
    Steve Nash
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Nash, a two-time league MVP, sleeps 10 hours per night. "Diet and sleep are probably the two biggest tools to recover -- definitely something that's hard to do when you're traveling a lot," he told the New York Times. "You have a busy, stressful schedule, but it's something you have to make a priority." He's also a big fan of shorter snoozes. "I nap every game day," he told HuffPost. "I'll try to nap for as long as I can. A half hour to two hours on game days is usually what it is."
  • 9
    Michael Phelps
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    It's not just the quantity of sleep that matters, but the quality. Michael Phelps, with his record 18 Olympic gold medals, used to sleep in a chamber that simulated being at an altitude of 8,500 to 9,000 feet. That decreases oxygen, forcing the body to work harder to produce the red blood cells that bring oxygen to the muscles. In turn, both blood flow and endurance improve.
  • 10
    Kurt Busch
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Busch, who competes in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (the highest class of NASCAR), has won 25 Cup races and captured the 2004 Cup Series Championship. Busch sleeps eight and a half hours per night.
  • 11
    Stephen Curry
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    In 2013, Curry set the NBA's single-season 3-point record, and last year earned his first All-Star appearance as a starter. He's also a fan of nap-taking. "When you wake up from a nap, you know what time it is, you know it’s time to get ready and get focused and go to the game," he told the New York Times.
  • 12
    Derrick Rose
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Rose, a former No. 1 pick and NBA MVP, enjoys a customary three-hour nap before every night game. "Being healthy is a complete lifestyle for me," Rose says. "It allows my brain to function at a very high degree so I can comprehend all the new things that are thrown at me. It also allows me to sleep well so that I am rested when I need to perform."
  • 13
    Andy Murray
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    When Murray won Wimbledon in 2013 -- becoming the first Brit to do so in 77 years -- he was sleeping 12 hours per night. "Rest is so ­important," he told The Mirror. "On the days when I am not playing I try to get in and do my work early, deal with ­everything else that has to happen, and then get home and have a nap. … I don’t normally have any ­trouble sleeping. I sleep well. You need rest to make sure you ­recover properly."
  • 14
    Roger Federer
    y.caradec/Flickr
    Federer owns an all-time record of 17 Grand Slam titles, and apparently loves his rest as well. "If I don’t sleep 11-12 hours a day, it’s not right," he has said.
  • 15
    Amar'e Stoudemire
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Stoudemire, a six-time NBA All-Star, likes to sleep eight hours per night. "When I get my eight hours of sleep, I wake up enthusiastic, ready to train, ready to work," he told Bleacher Report.
  • 16
    Earl Watson
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Watson, a 13-year NBA veteran, tries to sleep eight hours per night during the season. "Napping is a good way to catch up on rest," Watson told HuffPost. "They are a must because the emotions from a game can keep you up until 3:00 in the morning. ... Sleep is big."
  • 17
    Lindsey Vonn
    U.S. Ski Team/Flickr
    Vonn, a 2010 Olympic Gold medalist in women's alpine skiing, is a big fan of getting some shut-eye. "If there is a day off, she’s sleeping," her sister once told Vogue. "She loooves to sleep.”
  • 18
    Maria Sharapova
    Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP
    Sharapova, still just 27 years old, has won 32 WTA singles titles, including the "career" Grand Slam -- winning all four -- and most recently, her second French Open. The tennis star says that when it comes to special preparation for big tournaments, resting is the priority. "The only thing I do is sleeping longer. I love to sleep, it's my hobby," Sharapova says.


Email me at jordan.schultz@huffingtonpost.com or ask me questions about anything sports-related at @Schultz_Report and follow me on Instagram @Schultz_Report. Also, be sure and catch my NBC Sports Radio show, Kup and Schultz, which airs Sunday mornings from 9-12 ET, right here.

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