First thing first, why more sleep may improve, in general, sports performance?
Deep sleep, researchers say, helps improve athletic performance because this is the time when growth hormone is released. Growth hormone stimulates muscle growth and repair, bone building and fat burning, and helps athletes recover. Studies show that sleep deprivation slows the release of growth hormone. Sleep is also necessary for learning a new skill, so this phase of sleep may be critical for some athletes.
Should we trust them entirely? YES, for sure. There are many, many studies sustaining the same results.
Studies show that good sleep can improve speed, accuracy, and reaction time in athletes.
"Getting enough sleep is crucial for athletic performance," says David Geier, MD, an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist in Charleston, SC.
Also, Cheri Mah of the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Laboratory has been following the sleep patterns and athletic performance of Stanford athletes for years. Her research continues to show that getting more sleep leads to better sports performance for all types of athletes. One study she authored, published in 2009, followed the Stanford University women's tennis team for five weeks as they attempted to get 10 hours of sleep each night. Those who increased their sleep time ran faster sprints and hit more accurate tennis shots than while getting their usual amount of sleep.
In earlier studies, Mah found that getting extra sleep over several weeks improved performance, mood, and alertness for athletes on the Stanford men's and women's swim teams and men's basketball team.
Mah's research is some of the first to specifically look at the impact of extra hours of sleep on athletic performance and suggests that sleep is a significant factor in achieving peak athletic performance.
Athletes work hard to win, from training to diet. There's a simple thing they might overlook: going to bed an hour early. Such an easy thing to do!
How much sleep does adolescents need?
From the literature available, it appears that adolescents require a minimum of 9 hrs. per night of sleep.
Despite the recommendation that 12–18-year-old obtain a minimum of 9 hrs. of sleep per night, research shows that adolescents sleep between 7.5 and 8.5 hrs. per night. It is clear that many adolescents are not meeting the minimum requirements for the recommended hours of sleep.
How much sleep do athletes need?
Most people need about 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night. If you're an athlete in training, you may need more, just like athletes need more calories when they’re in training.
If you’re pushing your body in more effort, you also need more time to recover.
Athletes in training should sleep about an hour extra. To meet the need sleep hours, you have to convince your young athlete to go to sleep earlier, or take an afternoon nap. Napping can be an effective tool for sleep deprived individuals. Short naps averaging 30 minutes can improve mood, reaction time, and alertness. This is a particularly effective method, if frequent early morning or late-night practices repeatedly interrupt sleep patterns or prevent adequate quantity of sleep.
Athletes commonly get even less than 8 hours of sleep per night, thought to be due to multiple factors, such as late or early morning training sessions, excitement or anxiety about competitions, or frequent travel.
The quality of sleep is important as well as the quantity of sleep.
Factors that interfere with good sleep hygiene can negatively affect the sleep quality for athletes, so young athletes may need to spend longer time in bed than non-athletes, in order to experience the same amount of quality sleep.
Did you know that sleep also substantially improves the recovery after a contusion? Pediatricians and health care providers who take care of athletes and concussions should evaluate and assess sleep quality. It will help them predict those athletes who may at risk for prolonged recovery by identifying those athletes with poor sleep quality.
Sleep is not only good for physical and cognitive well-being, but it may play an important role in the brain’s recovery following a concussion.
So, good night, dear young athletes! And good luck in competitions!