We all know that exercising, eating right, and staying hydrated are important components of a healthy lifestyle; however, many forget about other important factors. With the increasing demands of school, students are staying up later and sleeping less. Sleep is an incredibly important component to a healthy lifestyle, but the majority of athletes are not getting the sleep they need. The National Sleep Foundation has developed new sleep times for children, teenagers, and adults with recommendations for 6-13 year olds sleeping 9-11 hours a night, 14-17 year olds sleeping 8-10 hours, and 18-25 year olds sleeping 7-9 hours. With only 15% of teenagers getting the recommended amount of sleep each night, we are seeing many athletes and students functioning at below optimal levels.
Inadequate sleep has detrimental effects on the body, such as: elevating blood pressure, decreasing function of the immune system, reducing memory and cognition, and increasing risk for injuries. How does this affect an athlete though? Reduced sleep also has been shown to reduce production of key nutrients needed for energy, reduces accuracy and quick decision making, increases stress, decreases focus, and limits an athlete’s ability to recover after a hard work-out or game. Getting sufficient rest could make the difference between scoring the winning goal or losing a championship game. Sleep should be a priority for all athletes and students and is something that can easily be achieved by making a few quick adjustments. Avoiding use of laptops and cell phones right before bed, stopping homework and stressful activities an hour before resting, decreasing use of caffeinated beverages/foods in the evening, and not eating within 3 hours of going to bed are easy ways to improve sleep and overall health.
Information can be found on the The National Sleep Foundation website