The Secret to Improved Hockey Performance: Sleep

“Athletes may be able to optimize training and competition outcomes by identifying strategies to maximize the benefits of sleep.”

Sleep is the forgotten component of performance enhancement for players. Without proper quality and quantity of sleep, it is hard to improve, or maintain, high level hockey performance. However, there is compelling evidence that when players do get enough sleep, their performance, training, and recovery will improve. We want sleep to be our players’ best friend and their most important training partner.

Overview of Healthy Sleep

The on-line Merriam-Webster dictionary defines sleep as “the natural periodic suspension of consciousness during which the powers of the body are restored.” There are five stages of sleep through which we cycle during the night in a pattern called ‘sleep architecture.’ Within the sleep architecture there are approximately 6 – 8 cycles each lasting 1 – 1.5 hours. We start in stage one then cycle through stages 2, 3, 4, and 5 until we go back into stage one again, and the cycle repeats for the duration of the night until we wake up in the morning.


In stage one, the body starts to lose muscle tone, the muscles twitch, and there is a loss of self-awareness. Stage two is a light dreamless sleep with a loss of nearly all muscle tone, and brain activity, heart rate, and breathing slow down. Stage three is the beginning of deep sleep and human growth hormone starts to be released. Stage four is the deepest sleep, and is important because it replenishes physical and mental energy. The body does most of its repair work in stages three and four because of the release of human growth hormone. Stage five is also called “Rapid Eye Movement,” or REM sleep, because the eyes dart back and forth in this stage. Dreaming is done in REM sleep. Dreaming is important for healthy brain functioning, providing energy to the brain and body, and the creation of long-term memories.

Can Getting More Sleep Improve Sports Performance?

“Athletes may be able to optimize training and competition outcomes by identifying strategies to maximize the benefits of sleep . . .



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Mike Bracko

Mike Bracko is a skating coach, skating researcher, strength & conditioning coach, and fitness educator. He holds a Doctorate degree in Exercise Science and Biomechanics and is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Coach through the NSCA. He played hockey in the AJHL, BCHL and NCAA (University of Illinois-Chicago). He does skating clinics with 300–400 hockey players every year specializing in 1-on-1, small group, and team skating with male and female players ranging in age from 8 years old to pro players.  He is also the strength & conditioning coach for the USA Men’s Deaflympic hockey team.  [email protected]

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