Let’s face it – high school students are busy! School, homework, part-time jobs, activities, family, and friends all vie for their time and attention. And for student-athletes, practices, training, and competitions are all added to this list. So where do busy students find the time to meet all their obligations? Often, they forgo a healthy amount of sleep. So, the question is often posed: is sleep really that important?
For peak performance, it absolutely is!
- According to the CDC, high school students (grades 9-12) should get 8 – 10 hours of sleep per 24 hours and about 7 out of 10 (72.7%) do not get enough sleep on school nights (1).
We aren’t talking about one night without enough sleep that just leaves a student cranky the next day. We are talking about students missing out on consistent, quality sleep that has numerous health benefits.
Unfortunately, when it comes to training for sports, many student-athletes and their parents recognize the importance of eating well and exercising consistently but overlook sleep as a factor that can affect performance and recovery (2). The hidden cost of insufficient sleep can take its toll over time.
So, let’s discuss why sleep is so important for you as an athlete and what you can do to ensure you are meeting your sleep quota.
Sleep keeps you sharp
Have you ever pulled an all-nighter studying for a test? How’d it go the next day? Chances are, you didn’t do very well, because without enough sleep, it’s tough to focus and take in new information. One function of sleep is to properly store memories. So, if you don’t give your brain enough time to do this – come test time – you will have difficulty pulling up the very facts you are tried to commit to memory by staying up all night! And of course, high-achieving athletes need to keep their grades up if they want to advance their athletic careers and/or play at the college level.
Sleep is when your body recovers
Muscles need time to rest and repair after rigorous practices and competitions. In addition to following your coach’s recommendation on a training and rest regime, make sure you allow your body the sleep it needs to recover. Sleep promotes muscle repair, which is necessary to continue progress and improve as an athlete.
Another benefit of enough sleep is that it keeps your heart healthy. During sleep, your blood pressure goes down, which gives your heart a bit of a rest. If you sleep less, your heart rate stays higher longer, which can lead to heart disease. While this concern may feel like it is a way down the road, it’s never too early to start taking care of your heart!
Sleep helps your game
Lack of sleep zaps your energy and motivation, and without those, you will not reach the finish line. Every challenge will be more difficult – both mentally and physically – and your reaction time will suffer too!
By contrast, getting enough regular sleep improves your physical energy and your mental stamina. This will put you at your best for practices and games. According to the National Sleep Foundation, “Sleep can improve skills specific to various activities. For instance, logging more snooze time can increase shooting accuracy among basketball players, and the accuracy of serves among tennis players” (2).
How do you get more sleep?
- Practice good time management and plan for those tests and projects. Schedule a little time each night to devote to test-prep so that all-nighters become a thing of the past.
- Go to bed and get up about the same time every day…even on the weekends!
- For I-phone users: use the “bedtime” setting on your Clock App to help hold yourself accountable to a bedtime and a wake-up time. This consistency will keep you in a routine and make those early tournament starts easier!
- Consider reinstating your early childhood habit of napping! 20 – 30 minute “power naps” can supplement an inadequate night’s sleep on an as-needed basis (2). Just don’t nap during algebra class!
Find more tips for better sleep from the CDC.
Leave a comment and let us know how you plan to improve your sleep. We’ll be including athlete tips in a future blog!