Sleep and Student-athletes is a hot a topic. Have you ever stopped to ponder why it is we spend about one-third of our lives sleeping? It makes sense if you dive into all the intricate and fascinating processes our bodies and mind undergo as we sleep. Sleep isn’t just a span of 8+ hours where our bodies are in a passive restful state, it is an active state of regeneration, recovery, rebuilding, and repair.
We put our bodies and minds through a lot during our wake periods. We are constantly engaged, thinking, and interacting with our surroundings. For those who are active and engage in exercise and sport, the body’s muscles and tissues are being damaged and stressed. It is during sleep and complete disconnection from our environment that our bodies are able to make gains from the previous day. Those gains can be new skills, memory consolidation, muscle growth, emotional regulation, and cell repair.
Sleep deprivation is on the rise for every age group. However, students and especially those students who are involved in athletics and other extracurriculars are experiencing the onset of sleep disorders with the struggle to balance school, sport, social life, and stress management.
Sleep And Student-Athletes
Walk up to just about any student-athlete and ask them how much sleep they got the night before and the answer is always guaranteed to be less than the optimal amount of sleep they require. Why?
For many reasons…
- Timing of practices
- Travel and Competition
- Time Management Struggles
- Cramming in Study time into the night
- Pulling all-nighters before exams
- Late-nights on the weekends
According to the NCAA, a study showed that one-third of student-athletes get fewer than seven hours of sleep per night, with greater values among women.
Educating Students On The Importance Of Sleep
If students and student-athletes realized just how important sleep was for their cognition and performance down to the science and knew how detrimental chronic sleep deprivation is to their success all-around, it would no doubt make a difference on where their priorities lie.
Instead of checking off all responsibilities and leaving sleep last on the list, adequate sleep should be placed first and then the rest of the day is planned around getting optimal rest.
Imagine the possibilities of well-rested student-athletes every single day.
This would be a game-changer not only for their physical health but their mental health.
Poor Sleep Habits Result In:
- Risk for depression
- Slower reaction times
- Reduced strength
- Reduced cognition
- Impaired decision making
- Weakened immune system
- Increased risk of injury
…the list goes on.
Students and student-athletes should be getting up to 10 hours of sleep every night.
“Athletes who sleep fewer than seven hours are 170% more likely to sustain an injury.” – Jonathan Charest
We are here to educate and support students in the importance of sleep. Without realizing its critical role in overall health and mental well-being, students are lost in the struggle of managing their time and developing chronic sleep disorders in the process.
Better Sleep Means Better Nutrition
It is not a myth that sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain and difficulty in weight management. Lack of inconsistent sleep impacts eating habits.
In fact, sleeping for less than six hours a night for 5–7 consecutive days leads to the consumption of 600 surplus calories per day. And that’s not 600 calories in micronutrient dense foods, it is typically due to the brain craving processed carbohydrates and other junk foods to activate the reward pathways in the brain due to lack of sleep.
Not fueling properly can lead to brain fog and further decrease performance.
Early Mornings Are Not Good For High-School Student-Athletes
We have talked about this several times before. High schoolers are programmed to fall asleep later in the evening and with an adequate amount of sleep, they wake up later in the morning. Those early morning practices are not productive for the minds and bodies of high school student-athletes.
“You aren’t morally superior because you train early in the morning. You are ineffective.”
High school athletes that train early in the morning show:
- Signs of sleep deprivation
- Slower reaction times
- Lower performance
- Risk to illness
- Prone to injury
Believe it or not, a high school in Virginia was able to reduce the rate of motor vehicle accidents by adjusting the start of the school day to be a half-hour later (study here).Sle