Eat. Sleep. School. Sports. Repeat. If only a day in the life of a student athlete were that simple. With school, homework, friends, family, and events, the life of a student is already hectic. A student athlete has multi-day practices, games and team events on top of their student life. This can be both exciting and exhausting for them. Late nights can become a norm after long days. Yet the importance of sleep for the student athlete is no small matter. Parents often wonder how important is a good night’s sleep for student athletes?

Facts on sleep

The National Sleep Foundation has found that school age students need more sleep than the average adult. Where we need only six hours, students need nine hours of solid sleep at night. Most kids, however, are not finding those nine hours of rest. Distractions such as TV, mobile phones and stress from homework are only a few factors reducing kids quality of sleep. A bad night’s sleep could cause serious damage, affecting every aspect of their academic, athletic and social life.

What does a bad night’s sleep look like and what’s the culprit?

A bad night’s sleep could result in crankiness and daytime sleepiness. Repeatedly having nights of poor rest could result in sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation is the condition of not having enough sleep. It causes serious fatigue, which in developing youth could cause lasting damage to the brain. Fatigue affects cognitive functions, manifesting in decreased academic and athletic performance. There are several things that could cause sleep deprivation or decrease the quality of sleep a student is getting.

Screen time and sleep

Mobile smart phones, entertainment systems and TV time have become a part of kids down time when they aren’t doing their homework or playing at practice.

Bedtime may not be the best time for exposure to bright screens and moving images.A recent study published in the AAP Pediatric Medical Journal found that “Of more than five dozen studies looking at youths ages 5 to 17 from around the world, 90% have found that more screen time is associated with delayed bedtimes, fewer hours of sleep, and poorer sleep quality.” Staying up past their bedtimes with easier access to mobile devices is the least of the worries with screens at night. Stimulating content and bright lighting has shocking effects on the brain and body. It reduces melatonin, causing confusion to the natural circadian rhythm. The effects on lighted animation are also disturbing for the REM process, remaining in a shallow state of sleep (as opposed to ‘deep sleep’), effectively decreasing the quality of sleep.

“Screen-based media devices are present in the bedrooms of 75% of children, and 60% of adolescents report viewing or interacting with screens in the hour before bedtime,” the same article reports. With kids keeping their phones by their beds or using them as an alarm, the kids find it more and more normal to have screen time be available at any time.

Limit screen time to help improve sleep

Experts recommend that screen time be limited when evening comes around. Specifically, getting used to cutting off access after dinner. Kids should not be exposed to bright screens and flashing images up to two hours before bed. Especially with the vulnerability of their developing brains, their quality of sleep is based on many factors. Giving the brain less stimulation will allow it to go into deep sleep and get the rest it needs.

Stress and sleep deprivation

School age students are overloaded daily: friends, sports, homework and family keep them busy and anxious. Studies show that the majority of students do not get an adequate amount of sleep at night. What are some stressors for student athletes?

Stress to be social

Late nights may not always be homework. The pressure to maintain a social group also takes its toll on a kids life. Friends are important, and it is a priority to any student to maintain them. Late night chats or pizza nights are not uncommon. Poor nutrition and social stimulation before bed could be stressors on the body, damaging the quality of sleep they get in the night.

Stress on schoolwork

Increasing academic demands place great pressure on young students. Honors courses, AP classes and exam preparation are all norms at young ages now. Overloading students could harm them overtime. Stress will not only keep them awake at night. It will also manifest itself in inability for deep sleep due to a restless, stimulated mind before bed. The quality of sleep is as important as the quantity. What are the benefits for student athletes to have a good night’s sleep?

Sleep to repair damage

Sleep is a recovery mechanism our body naturally has. It is the most important thing an athlete can do to aid their body in recovery. The right amount of sleep can aid in repairing damage sustained during practice or a game. While sleeping, the body works hard to repair all of the minor wear and tear that comes from running and exercising. A young athlete’s body is pushed hard during sports practices; sleep helps the muscles and joints recharge for practice the next day.

Sleep to reduce stress

Pressure to perform in academics and athletically is a lot of stress for any student athlete. Sleep can help reduce levels of stress by lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Energy and focus also come from being well rested. The brain is able to refocus and relax while the body heals and rejuvenates. Eating well before bed is important to the recovery process. It gives the body access to the nutrients and vitamins it needs to fully rest for the next day. Eating poorly before bed leads to bad sleep and weight gain in growing bodies.

Sleep to reduce injuries

Sleep deprivation cause fatigue, which slows an athlete’s reaction and response time in their activities. This could lead to serious injury, leaving student athletes at great risk. Rest is necessary to give the brain and body the chance to re-energize. It is also a natural way for the body to repair existing injuries that may have been sustained.

Young athletes are always active. Both in school and on the field, there is constant stimulation and pressure to perform. Without the proper rest, your student athlete could be at major risk. Sleep is the body’s own way of looking out for itself, getting ready to take on the next day and feel healthy long term! At Athletic Performance Inc. we understand student health and wellness and we pride ourselves on taking care of all of our student athletes.

The National Sleep Foundation has found that school age students need more sleep than the average adult. Where we need only six hours, students need nine hours of solid sleep at night. Most kids, however, are not finding those nine hours of rest. Distractions such as TV, mobile phones and stress from homework are only a few factors reducing kids quality of sleep. A bad night’s sleep could cause serious damage, affecting every aspect of their academic, athletic and social life.