Sleep Like An NBA Player


Napping isn’t for the lazy. In fact, it’s probably more closely linked to the world’s best athletic performances than you realize. We found the number of hours that NBA players sleep for optimal performance and everything else about their snoozing habits.


Photo: Chris Paul/Instagram

Number of hours
In the NBA, nine to 10 hours a day is the widely accepted amount of sleep athletes require for optimal performance. The number is backed up by a 2011 Stanford University study that showed college players who slept at least 10 hours a night for six to seven weeks experienced signs of reduced fatigue and injury, plus they were better shooters from free throw and three-point distances. The Dallas Mavericks recently made a concerted effort to track their players’ performance and sleep using fitness trackers, also concluding that 10 hours is the right amount. Just bear in mind that science suggests that performance takes a dip if you don’t sleep enough, not that more sleep will necessarily improve your performance.

The best players sleep the most
An infographic created by Ffunction and Zeo appearing on Fast Code Design showed that the best-performing athletes in the world were also the ones who got the most sleep. LeBron James, for example, nets 12 hours of sleep a night on average. Steve Nash enjoys 10. On the other hand, not getting enough sleep can actually cost players their careers. In an interview with Stack, Mason Plumlee described a long-term study that showed a lack of consistent sleep linked to athletes being injured, traded and cut.

Pre-game napping
Even for athletes who get the recommended amount of sleep, pre-game naps are a useful tool to help them perform even better. Reports say that LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose and other players snooze anywhere between 20 minutes to three hours to prepare for tipoff. Like many players, Grant Hill sets aside the time between 1 and 3 p.m. every day for his nap. Steve Nash told the New York Times that he’s a believer, too. According to him, the extra hours add up over time to long-term benefits over the course of a season. Nash’s claim was backed up by a 2007 study in the Journal of Sports Sciences that also suggests 30 minutes of quiet solitude may help increase alertness, accuracy, reaction time and sprint speed about as much as a 30-minute power nap.

Sleeping rituals

Although the pre-game ritual gets all the publicity (we’re looking at you and your powder toss, King James), NBA players are just as finicky when it comes to when they hit the hay. Derrick Rose prepares for night games with three hours of sleep. Kobe Bryant sleeps in a nearby hotel room if he’s playing at home in L.A. Tyson Chandler enjoys a massage before napping. Antawn Jamison lays out his freshly-ironed suit before going to bed. Mike Bibby and Jason Terry famously sleep in NBA uniforms before games—specifically, Terry wears his opponent’s team shorts.
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