The goal of every athlete is to improve their performance in their respective athletic arena. Athletes work hard at practice, on the field, as well as in the training room, however, it is what they do off the field which contributes just as much, if not more to the field of play. There is no training program, or supplement, which can overcome poor nutrition and poor sleep habits.
We will save the nutrition piece for another day, and will focus on the sleep piece for this post.
Adequate sleep is one of the biggest ergogenic aids an athlete can get to improve performance on the field and in the classroom. Ensuring that an athlete gets the recommended sleep requirement of 8-10 hours of uninterrupted sleep is a necessity to improve performance, and reduce the risk of injury. This can be a challenging endeavor, especially during the school year, when school work demands, as well as practices and games pile up, and the allure of social media, cell phones, TVs, and video games. However, in order for proper recovery and functioning, the body’s sleep requirement is 8-10 hours.
Studies have shown that ⅔ of teenages do not get adequate sleep, and the CDC has called this situation a public health issue. Chronically, lack of sleep is associated with increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, depression, and even some forms of cancer.
Sleep deprivation results in teenagers having worse verbal memory, visual memory, visual motor speed, and reaction times. This has effects in the classroom as well as on the playing field. Studies have also linked increased injury rates over 21 months to insufficient sleep. The two strongest predictors of sports injuries in young athletes were decreased sleep hours, and increasing grade year in school. Looking at the sleep statistics show that 65% of students with less than 8 hours of sleep got injured. This is almost a 2X greater injury rate than those students getting 8 hours or more. Comparing 6 hours to 9 hours of sleep shows a 4X greater injury rate.
To ensure optimal sleep and sleep quality, ensure the room is pitch black, with all light sources blocked out. A cool and calm (clean and tidy) room also helps with sleep quality. Lastly turning off all forms of electronics (TV, Phones, IPADs, etc) half hour before sleep also aids in better sleep. Athletes who get optimal sleep (8-10 hours/night) will improve their performance, help protect them against sports injuries, and improve their recovery and healing if they do sustain an injury.