This article is sponsored by SleepAdvisor.org, a company that is dedicated to helping everyone achieve their optimal sleep level and wake up each day with more energy and focus.
Good Sleep is often overlooked as a fitness strategy for athletic performance. Every athlete knows they need the right calories to fuel their bodies, but often overlook the need for sleep.
Many of today’s greatest athletes know how important sleep is for their game. It is often the key to their victories. Sleep experts say that REM sleep provides energy for the brain and body.
Tennis star Serena Williams says that she enjoys going to bed early, sometimes as early as 7 pm! Cyclist Lance Armstrong challenges athletes to get 6-8 hour of sleep a night.
“Getting enough sleep is crucial for athletic performance,” says David Geier, MD, an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist in Charleston, SC. “Just as athletes need more calories than most people when they’re in training, they need more sleep, too. You’re pushing your body in practice, so you need more time to recover.”
Athletes in training should sleep about an hour extra. You can go to sleep earlier, or take an afternoon nap, says Jim Thornton, president of the National Athletic Trainers’ Association.
If your young athlete struggles to get enough sleep, check out sleepadvisor.org, a resource that helps everyone to achieve their optimal sleep level. It’s got a lot of great advice on how to get a good night’s sleep.
Here’s a few ways that sleep can affect an athlete’s performance:
It Improves Reactions
Sometimes, seconds mean everything in sports. Sleep deprivation can add seconds to any play, seconds that can make the difference between winning and losing, between a safe reaction and getting hurt.
You may think that just one night of scarce sleep won’t matter, but it can actually reduce reactions by more than 300%. Studies show that fatigue can hurt reactions as much as being legally drunk does.
One study tracked the Stanford University basketball team over a few months. Players added almost 2 hours of sleep a night. As a result, players increased their speed by 5%. Their free throws were 9% more accurate. They had faster reflexes and felt happier. Other studies have shown similar benefits for football players and other athletes.
It Strengthens Focus
We’ve all heard the claim that sports is 80% mental and 20% physical. If that’s the case, then mental focus is crucial. Being well-rested means that your child can be more alert, which will allow keener focus in the game.
It Reduces Injuries
Studies show that injury rates in youth athletes increases when they slept less than 6 hours the night before. Why does this happen? As I mentioned earlier, fatigue affects an athlete’s performance in a few ways: slower reactions can result in injury, a tired body is worn down and more likely to get sick, and less sleep means less time for the body to repair itself after physical exertion.
It Increases Coordination
Every athlete knows that muscle memory is important for learning skills. Sleep helps your child’s body with that muscle memory. It helps strengthen the recall that is linked to body movements.
It Allows for Recovery
Not getting enough sleep doesn’t only make you tired, it impacts what’s happening inside your body.
Felicia Stoler, RD, an exercise physiologist and registered dietitian in New Jersey, agrees. “Sleep is the time when your body repairs itself,” she says. “If we don’t get enough sleep, we don’t perform well.”
After your child has given their all in practice and games, sleep helps them recover. According to David Knight, performance coordinator from the University of Wisconsin, while your child sleeps, their body spends less energy recourses on normal awake body processes and puts it instead towards helping muscles and tissues recover.
It Raises Intensity
Athletes getting at adequate sleep are more able to do higher-intensity workouts such as weight lifting, biking, or running. Sleep gives your child more energy to give 100%.
Good Sleep is Needed, But How?
Now the question remains, how do you enforce good sleep habits in your child? Athletes especially are busy with practices, games, homework, and anything else they try to fit in their schedule?
This is where your child needs to understand, first of all, the importance of a good night’s sleep, and second the need for time management so that they can set priorities and allow time for good sleep. Help them learn how to prioritize, how to say no, and how to make good use of their time so that they can get into a regular habit of a good night’s sleep.