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When years of sacrifice and intense training are on the line, every advantage helps. And, quality sleep is arguably one of the best tools athletes call upon. That’s why Kobe Bryant checks into a hotel to nap before home games and you sometimes catch athletes dozing in club houses.

A study recently published in the journal Sleep found that you can get safe, legal HGH (human growth hormone) simply by sleeping. Over three seasons, scientists studied Stanford basketball players, keeping them on their normal schedules then adding more sleep. After getting more rest, the players sprinted faster and increased their free throws and three-point shooting percentage by nearly ten percent. Why? During good sleep we recharge our brain and our body releases hormones that grow our muscles.

Several years ago, the Hilton chain offered to remodel the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado to help maximize peak performance. After consulting with sleep experts, they made the following changes:

  • Got rid of twin beds and brought in full-size mattresses and extra pillows
  • Blackout curtains were added (especially helpful for daytime naps)
  • Temperatures were kept cool with extra blankets provided
  • Fans and sound machines helped mask outside noise