I was reading an article yesterday about athletes who have excelled in more than one sport when I came across someone I had never heard of before; Simen Agdestein. Simen played international football for Norway and was also their first chess Grandmaster.
Whilst this achievement in itself is extraordinary, what I found most interesting was when he was quoted as saying, “The preparation for my football matches and chess games was very similar. I would work on my own. I would concentrate and sleep a lot.”
Reading this quote I was reminded of the study by Anders Ericsson most people know as the “10,000 hour rule”. The theory states that when studying peak performers there was an overwhelming correlation between the amount of hours they practiced and level of ability in their chosen fields.
For practice read “I would work on my own” and “I would concentrate”.
What most people don’t realise is the other factor Ericsson identified from his studies was that the amount of sleep was also a significant factor in achieving mastery. In one of his most famous studies, the results showed that the most accomplished violinists slept an extra hour more than their less accomplished counterparts.
So what is it about sleep contributing to high performance?
High performance means we need to constantly challenge ourselves both mentally and physically. Sleep helps us to consolidate the learning we’ve taken from the day, process it and come back tomorrow better prepared to take on the challenge of making future improvements.
In addition, having more sleep means we have the energy to persist in the long run. What good is challenging ourselves if we are only going to get burnt out along the way?
So, if you want to strive for greatness then practice, practice, practice.
But make sure you sleep, sleep, sleep.