Biohack : Sleep Loading


Sleep might as well be a performance enhancing drug. We rarely get enough and thus suffer from chronic deprivation. Adults that are able to achieve close to 8 hours a night of quality sleep see dramatic improvements in the following areas:


  • athletic performance – accuracy / speed
  • cognitive ability
  • insulin / glucose / weight management
  • reduced pain sensitivity


We will take a closer look at six different clinical studies that have found sleeping an extra 1-2 hours per night over the recommended minimum level of 7 hours for adults can have significant benefits. Perhaps what is most concerning is just between the years 1998 – 2005 (we barely had smartphones) there was a 4% increase in people getting less than six hours of sleep per night.

Sports Performance

There are three well known studies that examined athletic performance while practicing sleep loading aka sleep extension. A recent 2017 experiment with professional baseball players found that averaging 8 hours of sleep per night led to improvements in five different areas.

  • DSST (Digit Symbol Substitution Task) – 13% faster
  • SA Selective Attention – 10% faster response time
  • POMS Fatigue – decrease 39.7%
  • Tension – decrease 33.8%
  • Daytime Sleepiness – decrease 36.8%

A 2011 study from Stanford looked at improved performance for basketball players that were able to sleep almost two hours more per night. These athletes were a bit faster on their sprints and significantly more accurate when it came to shooting hoops.

  • sprint time – increase 4.4%
  • free throw – increase 9%
  • 3-pointers – increase 9.2%

A Yale / UW study that pushed college tennis players to nine hours of sleep per day (naps included) found that their tennis serve placement was significantly enhanced while their daytime drowsiness was cut in half!

  • serve accuracy – increase 20%
  • daytime sleepiness – decline 54%

Weight / Diabetes / Insulin

Lower fasting blood sugar, insulin and weight loss have been found to occur with longer sleep durations. Three studies looked more into this. A 2014 NIH, 2015 from Belgium and a 2007 from UPENN. The physiological changes induced through chronically low sleep (< 7 hours per night) led to obesity, heart disease and mortality. Adequate sleep of 7-8 hours per night is vital.



4/2017 – UCSF
Sleep Loading Improves Visual Search Response Time and Reduces Fatigue in Professional Baseball Players
7/2011 – Stanford
The effects of Sleep Extension on the Athletic Performance of Collegiate Basketball Players
11/2015 – Yale / UW
1/2014 – NIH
Sleep extension improves neurocognitive functions in chronically sleep deprived obese individuals.
5/2015 – Brussels, Belgium
Beneficial Impact of Sleep Extension on Fasting Insulin Sensitivity Adults with Habitual Sleep Restriction
8/2007 – UPENN
Behavioral and Physiological Consequences of Sleep Restriction

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