Why Is Sleep Important For Student Athletes?
Getting an adequate amount of sleep is essential for all teenagers, but it is even more important for those who are student athletes. Sleep plays a significant role in physical performance, cognitive development, and emotional regulation. During sleep, our brains store, reorganize, and process information, which allows us to better understand and remember things. Sleep also helps restore the body’s energy levels and makes us less prone to injury.
For those who participate in sports, getting enough rest at night is even more critical, as it helps to build muscle, improve reaction time, sharpen accuracy, and increase physical and mental stamina. Studies have shown that athletes are more likely to suffer from fatigue and injury if they are not getting enough quality sleep at night.
It is not only athletes that benefit from getting the right amount of rest — researchers have found that the amount of sleep a person gets directly impacts their quality of life. It not only helps us physically, but can make us more productive, creative, and emotionally stable, all of which can help athletes stay on top of their game.
Factors That Influence Sleep in Student Athletes
Given the demands of school, sports, and extra activities, student athletes tend to be the first to suffer from inadequate sleep and fatigue. Here are some of the most common factors that can unknowingly interfere with athletes getting the rest they need:
- Daily stress and pressure: Student athletes are often expected to excel both academically and athletically, and may find themselves under a large amount of pressure to perform. It can be hard to switch off at night if worrying thoughts prevent them from relaxing.
- Late-night practices and games: Evening practices and games can make it hard to establish a regular sleep schedule when athletes need to stay up late or wake up early the next morning.
- Little physical activity: Being active during the day can help athletes tire out more at night, thus making it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep. Schedules that don’t involve any form of physical activity can cause people to become more alert and make it harder to rest in the evenings.
- Poor sleep habits: Establishing bad sleep habits can lead to poor sleep quality. Oftentimes, student athletes may find themselves looking at social media or screens late at night, or going to bed too late with the intention of catching up on a few hours of sleep the next day.
Tips for Improving Sleep in Student Athletes
Although student athletes have various obligations, it’s important to prioritize sleep and make time for it. Below, we provide some tips on how student athletes can improve their sleep and, in turn, enhance overall performance:
- Set a consistent sleep schedule: Developing a consistent sleep schedule is important for regulating one’s body clock and preventing late night toss-and-turns. Aim to keep this schedule even on weekends and holidays, so that the body can stay in sync.
- Practice mindfulness and relaxation: Learning relaxation techniques such as mindfulness and yoga can help to reduce stress and ease racing thoughts at night, making it easier to fall asleep.
- Reduce blue light exposure: Using phones, tablets, or laptops at night can prevent one’s body from producing melatonin, a hormone that helps the body fall asleep. It’s best to reduce or avoid electronic devices two to three hours before bedtime.
- Exercise regularly: During the day, aim to engage in physical activity at least four hours before bedtime. Studies have shown that physical exercise can not only help make us sleepier at night, but can also improve the quality of our sleep.
- See your doctor if necessary: Fatigue and poor sleep can be a sign of an underlining medical condition. Getting enough rest at night is essential for athletes hoping to perform at their best, so it’s important to speak with a medical expert if there are concerns.
Making sure that student athletes get enough rest at night is essential for optimal performance. Though they may feel like they don’t have time for it given the many obligations they have, it is important to prioritize sleep and follow healthy sleep habits. With the right amount of sleep, athletes can stay energized and motivated, allowing them to compete at their peak.