Kids Sports News Network

Are You Counting Sheep Right?

Catching those Z’s is more crucial than you think for young athletes.

Successfully juggling the responsibilities of academics, sports, and family obligations at times seem like an impossible task. Many athletes sacrifice a good night’s sleep to cater to their long list of responsibilities.

But new studies show sleep-deprivation can have a detrimental effect on the performance of a young athlete.

It’s recommended that adolescents get 8-10 hours of sleep per night to achieve the full benefits and recovery that a good night’s sleep has to offer. There are five individual stages of sleep, and it takes approximately 90-120 minutes to complete one full cycle of sleep. The fifth cycle is rapid eye movement (REM), and is the stage that the brain and body are re-energized, memories are stored and the balancing of your mood takes place. The length of the REM stage increases with each cycle, making a good night’s sleep vital for a young athlete.

Long story short, the longer you sleep the more recovered young athletes are going to feel on the field.

Despite the importance placed on receiving a full night of sleep, a study conducted by the NCAA found that one third of student athletes get less than seven hours of sleep per night, and most student athletes report at obtaining four nights of insufficient sleep per week.

“I think that’s one of the most overlooked areas when dealing with kids as athletes- how much rest they’re getting,” says Jeff Jordan, Garland High School’s athletics coordinator and head football coach in an interview with Dallas News.

Not only does a full night’s sleep improve an athlete’s performance, but it also decreases the likelihood of them injuring themselves. Research presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics conference indicated that adolescent athletes who slept for more than eight hours at night were 68 percent less likely to sustain injuries than athletes who regularly slept less.

“We know that sleep deprivation affects proprioception- the sense of balance that allows you to feel your weight shifting, even when your eyes are closed,” said Dr. Michael Landers, a sports medicine specialist on the medical staff of Texas Health Spine and Orthopedic Center in Plano. “For sleep- deprived athletes, their balance is more likely to be off, making them more likely to fall.

It’s important for youth-athletes to place the same level of value on a good night’s sleep as they do with their training on the field.

Many argue that the promotion and development of good sleep habits needs to be incorporated into youth sports programs. Teaching young athletes about the impact a good night’s sleep has on athletic success can help kids develop good sleep habits, and help reduce the rising number of injuries in youth sports. Strength and conditioning coaches need to teach sleep habits alongside other recovery methods for athletes, and schools should consult with local sleep centers to develop sleep plans for student-athletes.

The Pac-12 Student-Athlete Health Grant Program is also currently funding a project focused on observing the sleep patterns in student-athletes, as well as possible sleep problems and mood disturbances related to sleep.

While school and youth sports organizations work to address the issue of sleep deprivation amongst young athletes, there are steps parents can take to help ensure their child is getting an adequate amount of sleep each night:

Limit the consumption of caffeine and energy drinks of your adolescent, and eliminate consumption of these drinks after 4pm. Limit naps to 15-20 minutes. Dim the lights an hour before bed, and avoiding the bright lights of electronics. This can help reduce increased brain activity before bed, making it easier children to fall asleep at a reasonable hour.

Making these adjustments will help increase the performance of young athletes, and help eliminate the risk of injury.

It’s a win-win situation. When our youth athletes are well rested and recovered, everyone scores.

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