The Importance of Sleep
Perhaps the greatest habit an athlete can build is one that requires no physical exertion. While seemingly contradictory, sleep and rest are equally if not more important than any level of training an athlete may do. However, the majority of athletes, especially developing youth athletes, fail to reach an adequate amount of sleep instead shirking their true potentials for reasons typically pertaining to social life. According to the Sleep Foundation, student athletes should get between nine and ten hours of sleep to maximize performance and productivity. Napping is also a practice that can slightly compensate for lower amounts of sleep during the night. Yet, about 60% of student athletes get less than seven hours of sleep a night. That means that more than half of student athletes fail to perform at their peak capabilities.
Why do athletes need more sleep? Because of the constant wear-and-tear that occurs during strenuous physical activities, there is a natural requirement for more slow wave sleep which releases growth hormone and is associated with “repairing muscles, building bones, and managing energy stores”. Aside from minimizing low performance, there is also research to suggest that higher levels of sleep boost performance beyond the norm. One such study analyzed the impact of ten hours of sleep on basketball players; there were improvements noted in “reaction time, sprint time, and shooting accuracy”. Even more important than this was another study that found that athletes with less than eight hours of sleep were 1.7 times more likely to be injured.
As athletes, it is important to consistently take routine care of our bodies and minds. Maximizing our sleep routine is a necessary step in doing so. But why do athletes consistently fail to prioritize sleep? There is a negative stigma around going to bed early, but one must have the mental toughness to overcome the judgment of others. In return, they will find greatly increased performance in whatever endeavor they aim to succeed at whether it be physical or mental.