An athletes sleep quality and quantity plays a large role in governing both their physical and mental performance.

In the perfection world, every athlete would sleep perfectly every night without any deprivation. However, this is not always the case where sleep loss negatively impacts the body and mind.

When we think of high performing individuals who are repeatedly exposed to multiple stressors and need to continually operate at their best during sever conditions…we think of the armed forces.

Sleep is critical to peak performance. Unfortunately, armed forces in hostile environments don’t always get this luxury. Combine this with exposure to multiple stressors, cognitive performance degrades.

To investigate protocols to overcome this, Lieberman (2002) recruited 68 U.S. Navy SEAL trainees who received 100mg, 200mg or 300mg of caffeine after 72 hours of sleep deprivation and continuous exposure to stressors.

The recruits were given a battery of tests to complete to assess how caffeine impacts performance after sleep loss.

The following tests were completed one hour and eight hours post caffeine; visual vigilance, visual reaction time, memory tasks, marksmanship and mood.

Ultimately, key cognitive tasks that will keep them alive.
After the assessments were carried out, caffeine improved cognitive performance in a dose dependent manner (200-300mg was better than 100mg).

Improvements were most pronounced 1 hour after supplementation, but significant improvements were still seen 8 hours post.

Caffeine had the greatest impact on vigilance, reaction time and alertness. However, no improvements were seen on marksmanship, perhaps due it being a fine motor skill requiring higher levels of co-ordination and steadiness.

Sleep loss and deprivation is reportedly high in many athletes travelling for competition. Long haul flights, new times zones, unfamiliar environments, stress of competing and new surroundings. The list goes on.

These issues should be tackled at source to minimise the risk of sleep disruptions, but we have some security in knowing that moderate dose caffeine can mitigate some of these negatives.

Therefore, there’s no need to go above and beyond with excessive caffeine intakes that are known to be ergolytic in nature which can cause additional irritability and anxiety.

A moderate dose of 200-300mg will do just fine under these conditions.

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