Sleep and Golf: Too much or too little?


Author: Chad Gray

The facts about sleep and what every golfer should know.

How many of you golfers want to improve their game? Probably most of you!

You’d be surprised how “sleep” or lack of it, can greatly impact your game. Proper sleep can make a profound difference on your heart and brain and knock off about 3 years on a ‘real-age’ scale. Without proper rest, your entire physical and mental systems are stressed and your judgment may be impaired.

The National Center on Sleep Disorders Research estimates 12 million to 18 million people in the United States have sleep apnea, and more than half of those are undiagnosed. Those people triple their risk of death.

The most common sleep disorders sleep deprivation, insomnia and apnea.
Sleep apnea is potentially the most dangerous as chronic sleep apnea can increase the risk for hypertension, cardiac disease and research has also found that it may even increase the chances for a lower handicap.

Symptoms of sleep apnea can include the following:

  • Daytime sleepiness
  • snoring
  • gasping in sleep
  • Morning headaches
  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble concentrating

In a small study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine in December 2013, Dr. Marc L. Benton and Neil Friedman, sleep-medicine specialists in Morristown, N.J., monitored the golf games of players who were being treated for obstructive sleep-apnea syndrome The study compared them to a control group of golfers who didn’t have sleep apnea.

After posting 20 rounds during a six-month period, the golfers in the control group saw no significant change to their Handicap Indexes. But the Indexes of golfers who were treated for sleep apnea dropped by an average of 11.3 percent. Among that group, the golfers who started the program with an Index lower than 12 saw their numbers drop by an average of 31.5 percent. According to Dean Knuth, who was the USGA’s Senior Director of Handicapping for 16 years, only 3 percent of all golfers with registered Indexes improve by three shots or more over a year’s time.

“It was a novel study, and an important one if it gets more people to get treated for disorders such as sleep apnea,” says Dr. Nathaniel Watson, co-director of the University of Washington’s Sleep Center (and an avid golfer). “The biggest impact is mental,” he says. “Course management, reading greens, controlling emotion—sleep impairment hurts cognitive function.”

Focus and concentration are obviously important elements of a successful golf game, therefore sleep should be an important element of any athlete’s training regimen just as important as diet and exercise. Several professional teams in major sports such as the MLB, NFL, and NBA have already hired sleep experts to work with their players.

If you or think you suffer from a sleep disorder, seek professional help. Sleep deprivation and insomnia are treated with better sleep habits, exercise, improved thought habits and, when needed, medications. Apnea is most effectively treated with something called “continuous positive airway pressure.” A machine keeps your upper airway unblocked through the use of a breathing apparatus.

As with all treatment plans…treatment is ONLY effective when in used in compliance.


1) Get on a schedule and try not to vary from it on weekends;

2) Eat small portions before bedtime – skim milk, rice or oat cereals are good choices. Avoid caffeine or exercise before bedtime;

3) Use your bedroom only for sleep or romance. Keep the TV and computer out;

4) Change your bedroom climate – cool and dark works best. Can’t sleep? Try removing socks or lowering the thermostat.



The body needs it for restoration, production of growth hormone and to keep the immune system strong. The brain needs it to improve memory and learning skills.


Seven to nine hours is ideal for adults. Teenagers and younger children need more.


Yes, but keep them to 45 minutes or less or you could be sluggish for the rest of the day and struggle to sleep at night.


Sleep on your side as a way to prevent a collapse of the upper airway. It’s this collapse that leads to snoring and it’s also a major symptom of sleep apnea. If you struggle to breathe through your nose, the best position might be on your back, which helps drain the nasal passages.


Sometimes snoring is the result of allergies or sinus problems. Sometimes alcohol or sedatives are the culprits. Being overweight doesn’t help. But if you consistently snore loudly, there’s a good chance you have apnea.