• By: Pedro Candeias
  • Date: 06/20/2017


How Sleep affects your performance during Karate training and competition?

Sleep deprivation is a common concern in our society!


And has been one main target of scientific research…


How this affects your performance during Karate training and competition?


In this article, we’ll answer this question so you can play your role as a positive influencer in your Karate students’ life and Karate-specific performance.



1. Karate Athletes Can Be Greater Targets For Insomnia Symptoms


Energy Karate

Some modalities impact sleeping patterns and quality more than others.


Higher levels of complaints are reported in sports where success is more based on judgment by others, such as judges and coaches.


This is true to WKF Kumite and especially in Kata…


It’s less relevant in Kyokushinkai competitions where the main goal is to knock out your opponent without any concerns about aesthetical and technical standards…


Conversely, team sports athletes tend to experience less pre-competition anxiety when compared with individual athletes.


If you are Sports Karate Coach you should follow-up your athletes during pre-competitive or high-intensity training periods more closely…


And you should create a good team spirit among your Karate athletes so they can feel supported and protected by their Dojo mates!



2. Daily Sleep Deficits Affect All Ages


In a research from 2001, Pallesen et al studied the mean daily sleep deficits of adults.


Daily sleep deficits are defined as the difference between what the adults feel as their needs and what they actually sleep.


These were the mean daily deficits for each age-group:

  • 18-29 years old – 50 minutes of Daily Deficit
  • 30-44 years old – 47 minutes of Daily Deficit
  • 45-59 years old – 28 minutes of Daily Deficit
  • +60 years old – 24 minutes of Daily Deficit


If you are 18 to 44 years old, you may have a weekly deficit between 329 and 350 minutes (5 to 6 hours less).


Imagine the deficit accumulation during a month or a year!!


Adolescents suffer even more with insufficient sleep.


For example, a study of Hysing et al (2013) reported a mean daily deficit of 130 minutes in Norwegian adolescents.



3. The Negative Effects of Sleep Deprivation


Ample evidence shows the negative effects of sleep deprivation on a wide range of tasks…


Look at the following list of Cognitive Skills and think if these negative effects are important for Karate practice:

  • Reaction Time
  • Attention
  • Working Memory and Long-Term Memory
  • Visuomotor Performance
  • Decision-Making
  • Logic Reasoning
  • Response Inhibition
  • Nonverbal Intelligence
  • Moral Reasoning
  • Divergent Thinking


Evidence also shows that motor performance is significantly impaired by sleep deprivation.



4. Sleep Deprivation is More Negative on Long Duration Tasks


For short tasks with a considerable anaerobic component, the effects of sleep deprivation are not significant…


If you go to the Dojo and perform one Kata at full speed during 45 to 60 seconds and after that, you go home, your performance will not be significantly affected.


Or in a Karate tournament, your athlete will not be affected in the first round of Kata competition.


But a regular Karate training session lasts 45, 60, 90 minutes.


In a competition, if your athlete wins several rounds, we are talking about a long duration task.


On theses cases (that are 99,9% of Karate’s Real World), sleep deprivation can really affect your students and athletes performance.


Researchers think that the main reason of these negative effects in longer duration tasks (training or competition) is Motivation (psychological effects)…



5. Why Can Motivation Be a Central Reason For Negative Performance After Sleep Deprivation?


Both short- and long-duration tasks require motivation.


Shorter tasks demand that motivation is sustained only for a short time, making performance viable even with an accumulated sleep debt.


But in longer-duration tasks, like a Karate training session or a competition, motivation is put to the test!


The Karateka my feel less motivated to endure discomfort after sleeping less.


In addition, it also usually leads to changes in perception of effort.


Ratings of perceived effort (RPE) usually increase after sleep deprivation, what can take to a decrease in performance.


To learn more about RPE – Rating of Perceived Exertion, read the article (???????????????HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOUR KARATE SESSIONS HAVE THE PROPER INTENSITY????????).



6. Evening Karate Performance Is More Affected By Sleeping Less


That’s right…


In most of the cases and types of task, you’ll feel less activated during the evening compared to morning performance.


This is not true for every type of tasks, but for the most of them (we’ll go deeper on this subject in other Karate Science Academy’s materials).


But it’s especially true if you have a total sleep deprivation.


In other words, when you don’t rest a single minute during an entire night.



7. What is Worst? Going to Sleep Later or Waking-up Earlier?


Let’s see what happens in the case of partial sleep deprivation…


Note: Partial sleep deprivation is when you sleep but fewer hours than you need.

Total sleep deprivation is when you don’t sleep at all.


If you’re talking about one single night that you don’t rest what you need, it’s worst to cut your sleeping hours in the morning…


In other words, waking-up earlier will affect you more than going to bed later.


But the real problem is when you have partial sleep deprivation over several days!!


And in this case, it’s worst when you go to bed later compared with waking-up earlier…


This happens because of an accumulation of sleep debt and fatigue.



8. A Nap Is The Best Thing You Can Do If You Have To Recover From a Partial Sleep Deprivation


When you have a sleep debt, take a nap!!


A nap will help your Karateka to improve their performance during a training session or a competition…


Napping is good whether it is a short or long duration task…


… whether or not it includes deep sleep.


It will help your students and athletes to overcome sleep inertia!



9. Acute Sleep Deprivation Affects You More As Your Age Go Forward


When science compares the effect of one single night of sleep deprivation between different ages…


… the results show that the young population tends to be more effective at dealing with the negative effects.



10. And What About Sleep Duration?!?


Mah et al (2011) studied the effects of extended sleep duration in athletic performance.


After a baseline period of habitual sleep durations, the subjects slept as much as possible over a period of 5 to 7 seven weeks.


This extended period of sleeping duration leads to improvements in sprint times and basketball-shooting accuracy.



11. Can Karate Help To Improve Sleeping Habits?


The answer is YES!!


Brand et al (2010) used Polysomnographic indicators and found that male football players showed greater sleep efficiency, shorter sleep onset latency, less awakening during sleep, more Stage 4 sleep, and less REM sleep compared with non-athletic controls.


In another study, Brand et al found that Olympic athletes reported better sleeping habits than non-athletic population. This measurement was made with the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index.


How can this happen?


An increased need for sleeping following Karate training is related to a broad range of physiological changes…


The possible factors are:

  • Body Energy Conservation and Body Restoration
  • Temperature Down-Regulation as an effect following exercise-induced hyperthermia
  • Effect on Central Nervous System


Research has shown that participants with a high baseline physical activity obtain more slow-wave sleep benefit from acute exercise and vigorous exercises of long duration.



12. But What About The Insomnia That Karate Athletes Sometimes Feel?


Yes, that’s true that especially elite athletes sometimes suffer from insomnia symptomatology…


Sleep quality is more vulnerable prior to major competitive events, during periods of high-intensity training and following long distance travel!


These disturbances can affect training and competition…


Directly, through fatigue, or indirectly, through sleep-related performance anxiety.



13. Women vs Men Athletes


This is a robust finding in sleep research…


For all adult age groups, women tend to report higher levels of insomnia symptoms than men!


Sports like Karate can reflect more this trend.


If you want to know more about Karate Science, click here.

Karate Science Academy has a mission: to take Science into all Dojos in the world.

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Complimentary Readings:


Harris A, Gundersen H, Andreassen PM, Thun E, Bjorvatn B, Pallesen S. A Comparative Study Of Sleep And Mood Between Young Elite Athletes And Age-Matched Controls. Journal of Physical Activity & Health. 2017


Pallesen S, Gundersen HS, Kristoffersen M, Bjørn Bjorvatn B, Thun E, Harris A. The Effects Of Sleep Deprivation On Soccer Skills. Perceptual and Motor Skills. 2017; 0(0):1-18


Hysing, M., Pallesen, S., Stormark, K. M., Lundervold, A. J., & Sivertsen, B. Sleep Patterns And Insomnia Among Adolescents: A population based study. Journal of Sleep Research. 2013; 22(5), 549–556


Pallesen, S., Nordhus, I. H., Nielsen, G. H., Havik, O. E., Kvale, G., Johnsen, B. H., Skjøtskift, S. Prevalence Of Insomnia In The Adult Norwegian Population. Sleep. 2001; 24(7): 771-779.


Gupta L, Kevin Morgan K, Gilchrist S. Does Elite Sport Degrade Sleep Quality? A Systematic Review. Sports Medicine. 2016


Taylor L, Chrismas BCR, Dascombe B, Chamari K, Fowler PM. The Importance of Monitoring Sleep within Adolescent Athletes: Athletic, Academic, and Health Considerations. Frontiers in Physiology. 2016; 7.
Patrick Y, Lee A, Raha O, Pillai K, Gupta S, Sethi S, Mukeshimana F, Gerard L, Moghal UM, Saleh SN, Smith SF, Morrell MJ, Moss J. Effects Of Sleep Deprivation On Cognitive And Physical Performance In University Students. Sleep and Biological Rhythms. 2017


Mah CD, Mah KE, Kezirian EJ, Dement WC. The Effects Of Sleep Extension On The Athletic Performance Of Collegiate Basketball Players. Sleep. 2011; 34:943e50.


Brand S, Beck J, Gerber M, Hatzinger M, Holsboer-Trachsler E. ‘Football Is Good For Your Sleep’: Favorable sleep patterns and psychological functioning of adolescent male intense football players compared to controls. Journal of Health Psychology. 2009; 14(8):1144-1155.


Brand S, Beck J, Gerber M, Hatzinger M, Holsboer-Trachsler E. Evidence Of Favorable Sleep-EEG Patterns In Adolescent Male Vigorous Football Players Compared To Controls. The World Journal Of Biological Psychiatry. 2010; 11:465-475.