Sleep is not just “for the weak”

Students+often+find+it+hard+to+balance+school+and+their+sports+when+they+have+busy+schedules.+Photo+Credit%3A+Tara+Goff

Students often find it hard to balance school and their sports when they have busy schedules. Photo Credit: Tara Goff

Tara Goff, Staff Writer

When asked about recovery tips, professional Nike runner of the Bowerman Track Club Sinclaire Johnson noted how in her experience, sleep was priority. Guest starring on a podcast, her 9 to 10 hours every night “sounds super excessive,” she says, but “the next day I feel ready… [and] I don’t feel so lethargic that I can’t even get through an easy run.” Similarly, idols such as Lebron James and Tom Brady reportedly aim for 8 to 10 hours, especially on game days. 

As a high school athlete, these numbers seem unattainable. Between school, practice, homework, and the desire for downtime, our lives are extremely fast-paced and busy; when are we supposed to find time to slow down? 

In reality, the pro-athletes have it right (they are the pros, after all). Increased sleep allows for physical recovery and helps curb exhaustion. According to the Life of an Athlete-Human Performance Project, REM sleep, a period of deep sleep in which our blood more readily flows throughout our body, is when our bodies repair the microtears created during a workout. Thus, without proper REM sleep, our bodies still experience physical stress, which we will feel the next day when we are sore. Sleep also helps reduce inflammation, another contributor to sore muscles and eventual injuries. REM sleep is also when our brains process information, so if an athlete learns new skills, sleep is the time to retain the information. 

Additionally, sleep provides a mental reset. Throughout the day, student athletes may get exhausted from school and practice, and need time to relax. Without this, anyone could get irritable or may not be able to perform to full potential, whether due to physical or mental limitations. According to the Sleep Foundation, lack of sleep “inhibits ability, decreases accuracy, [causes] quicker exhaustion, decreases reaction time, and increases risk for injury.” 

Jenna Keiser, senior, who is on the wrestling, cross-country, and track teams, mentions how she always prioritizes sleep. “Especially during wrestling season,” she says, “if I am not getting enough sleep it makes cutting weight a lot harder when I don’t have enough energy.” Getting enough sleep helps an athlete prepare in all ways possible for what their body must endure. For Keiser, this means aiming for at least 8 hours every night. 

One way student athletes can maximize sleep time is by getting ahead on schoolwork. If they know they have a game, meet, or match, they can do homework a couple days in advance so that there is less to do after their event, thus they can go to bed earlier. This will also help them recover from the hard exertion, therefore reducing risk of injury. They could also start taking naps, which Keiser says she does when she can. A 15-20 minute “power nap” after practice and before homework could be a way to recharge. Although this should not replace regular sleep, it is a way to get enough energy to accomplish what needs to get done.  

For more information on athlete injury and recovery, read David’s article here.