Want better performance during your workouts? Make quality time with your pillow, suggest findings from a new sleep study announced July 1.

US researchers from Stanford University evaluated the sleep patterns of the university's male basketball team and studied how sleep affected the athletes' performance. The team was asked to sleep for 10 hours a night for about six weeks, and as a result, their shooting accuracy improved by 9 percent and they ran faster 282-foot sprints by .7 seconds. The study was published in the journal Sleep.

"Sleep is an important factor in peak athletic performance," said lead researcher Cheri Mah in a statement. "Athletes may be able to optimize training and competition outcomes by identifying strategies to maximize the benefits of sleep." She adds that it's important for serious athletes and trainers to prioritize sleep over a long period of time, not just the night before the big game.

Mah has led prior studies on athletes and sleep, including one released in 2009 that found that when the Stanford women's tennis team snoozed for 10 hours a night, they improved their serve and overall hitting accuracy.

Want to improve your athletic performance? The researchers offer these tips to maximize your sleep:

• Make sleep a part of your regular training regimen.
• Extend nightly sleep for several weeks to reduce your overall "sleep debt" before a competition.
• Maintain a low sleep debt by obtaining a sufficient amount of sleep every night (seven to eight hours for adults, nine or more hours for teens and young adults).
• Keep a regular schedule - go to bed and wake up at the same times every day.
• Take brief naps during the day, especially if drowsy.

Access more information on the study: http://med.stanford.edu/ism/2011/july/sleep.html