How Much Sleep Do Swimmers Need?

Michael Butler
Written by
Last update:

What Happens When Swimmers Don’t Sleep Enough

If you’re a swimmer, chances are that you actually sleep well. In fact, according to a study conducted by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), swimmers rank as the fourth highest among all athletes for hours of sleep per night.

Still, their performance is usually directly proportional to freshness and alertness. This is why too little sleep may affect your next training session.

The USOC recommends that most swimmers in training get at least 7 hours of sleep per night.

But the amount of sleep that you need every night is a unique factor. Some people need more sleep than others. While some swimmers only need 6 hours of sleep a day, other swimmers may need up to 11 hours of sleep every night.

How Much Do Top Swimmers Sleep?

Of the professional swimmers, there’s no doubt that Michael Phelps sleeps the most – 14 hours a day. To get to bed so early, he uses the help of blackout shades in his room and a sound machine.

Stephanie Rice, another world-class swimmer, sleeps about 12 hours a day. She has a more conventional schedule, that is, she sleeps for 8 hours and wakes up to practice. Rice’s training is set up to ensure she has enough time for sleep.

Joe Clark, a coach of multiple Olympic swimmers, sleeps about 9 hours a night. He believes there’s no substitute for sleep and goes to bed every night at 11 pm and wakes up at dawn. There’s a logic behind this habit – by going to bed early, he ensures that he gets the most out of the sleep.

In the book, “Swim Speed Secrets: From Top Coaches,” the authors discuss the lifestyle of swimmers. They estimate that a good night’s rest equals 7.5 hours for gold medal athletes and 8-8.5 hours for the lesser swimmers.

How Much Did Michael Phelps Sleep?

Before his success in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Michael Phelps usually slept 10.5-12 hours. After his success, he reduced his sleep to between six and eight hours, noting that this was “enough.” But the interesting bit is that he slept light: he would briefly wake up every 30-45 minutes throughout the night, and he would then get up for an hour before heading back to sleep.

The amount of sleep for Olympic swimmers is actually quite similar across the board. Most PISAPA members recorded sleeping hours within an hour of the average of seven hours and nine minutes, which is probably correlated significantly with the age of the athletes, who averaged 24.5 years old. Olympic swimmers also averaged 3.2-4.3 hour of sleep on training days and seven time that on non-training days.

Does Your Sleep Number Match Your Swimmer Numbers?

If you sleep seven to nine hours per night, almost eight hours per day, and experience one or more of the above symptoms every week, it’s time to make some changes. If that sounds a lot like what you’re going through, you may need more sleep.

The Takeaway

As a rule of thumb, the more time you spend in the water, the more stinging and burning your eyes will suffer. In the ocean, the salt in the water will also irritate your eyes. People who use goggles to swim competitively, and those who are involved in outdoor triathlons may be more susceptible to eye irritation in the ocean water.

Experts recommend wearing shades that provide UV protection and use waterproof eye drops to help soothe the eyes as well.

If you are concerned about your eyesight, discuss swimming with your eye physician.