Athletes often search for the newest invention, technique, or ‘secret’ to give them an edge in performance, injury recovery, and injury prevention. While not actually a ‘secret’, there are ways to get an edge that you have direct control over every day. Sleep is one of those elements. In fact, the benefits of sleep for health and performance are powerful, but often overlooked and ignored.
Benefits of Sleep
Getting a good night’s sleep is one of the most important things you can do to improve your physical and mental performance. In addition, sleep helps you recover from injuries faster, and improves your overall health and resistance to illness. The benefits to getting a good night’s sleep include:
Improved mental health
- Getting enough sleep supports the body’s ability to manage stress and anxiety. Lack of sleep is directly associated with depression.
Improved physical health and immune function
- Cell and muscle growth and repair occur during sleep. Therefore, without sleep your body won’t recover fully from the previous day’s workout.
- Poor quality sleep is associated with weight gain and obesity in adolescents and young adults.
Improved cognitive performance
- Lack of sleep reduces your ability to focus and maintain attention, and impairs decision-making and memory.
Lack of Sleep
Studies show that sleep directly affects immune function, and that lack of sleep is associated with increased injuries in adolescent athletes. A study on the effects of sleep deprivation on adolescent athletes found that athletes who got less than 8 hours of sleep a night were 1.7 times more likely to be injured than athletes who slept 8 or more hours a night.
Getting Better Sleep
As you can see, there are many benefits to getting a good night’s sleep. Although, knowing this and doing it are two different things! First, it’s important to understand how much sleep to aim for. Teenagers should get 8-9 hours of sleep a night. Adults should shoot for 6-8 hours of sleep a night.
Second, it is good to have some strategies to make falling asleep as easy as possible. Try some of the following tips to find what works best for you.
- Use blackout curtains and reduce excess light to make your bedroom as dark as possible.
- Avoid spending time on your phone, computer, or watching TV at least 30 minutes before going to bed.
- Create a bedtime routine to start winding down at least 30 minutes before going to bed. For example, your routine might include reading, listening to relaxing music, journaling, or taking a bath.
- Get the recommended amount of exercise throughout the day. However, avoid intense exercise close to bedtime as it can make it difficult to relax and fall asleep.
- Avoid caffeinated beverages late in the day.
- Establish a consistent bedtime. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. By sticking to a routine your body can count on, you are more likely to get the recommended amount of sleep.
Sleep for Health
The most important factors associated with health and performance tend to be things that we do every day. As you can see, sleep is one of those things. By working towards our best possible sleep on a daily basis, we improve our health and perform better, both physically and mentally. So, what are you waiting for? Go to bed!
Written by: Stuart Schmidt, MS, ATC, CSCS athletic trainer supervisor for The Center Foundation in Bend, OR. Learn more about Stuart HERE.
The Center Foundation provides sports medicine services to young athletes at no charge to the students or their families. We do this by placing certified athletic trainers in local high schools to keep kids safe. Learn more about our work HERE.