That time when you can’t fall asleep after a busy day. And you decide to check your phone, just one more time.
That time when you almost fall asleep, but you get a text and it reminds you about all the stuff you have to do tomorrow. Did I finish that homework? Did I set my alarm?
That time when your alarm goes off and you feel like you haven’t slept at all. Just 5 more minutes! Why did I not ever realize how annoying that alarm sound is? Ok, if I just wake up now, maybe I can go to sleep earlier tonight…
Have you ever thought about how sleep (or lack of) can really change your mood, your energy, your motivation, your performance…? Do you feel like you’re not getting enough?
If you answered yes, you’re definitely not alone. Over the last century, young adults have been getting less and less sleep. Why? Because there are a lot more demands on you! Pressure in academics and athletics, pressure from friends and family and you. Is there even time for sleep? Yes! And you have to make it a priority to be the healthiest and strongest version of you.
Why is sleep important?
· Good sleep has been consistently shown to help maximize athletic performance, academic performance, and general well-being.
· And, as if you didn’t have enough to worry about, but poor sleep can lead to depression, decreased mental resilience, poor eating habits, and increased risk of obesity.
· Summary: Anyone who ever said you can sleep when you’re dead was not performing at his or her max. While you push yourself to follow your dreams, don’t forget about sleep!
Does my lack of sleep really change my ability to perform well?
· Yes. A small study of healthy teen athletes found that athletes who reported less sleep did worse on ImPACT testing.
· Oh and don’t worry, it gets a little worse. The same study found girls who reported less sleep performed worse on the psychomotor (read: muscular activity) tasks. But on the good news side, the girls who got the optimal amount of sleep performed better than the boys.
· Summary: Get the right amount of sleep and win like a girl!
Can’t I just catch up on sleep later?
· Good try. Staying up later or sleeping in later can affect your biological clock and make the sleep you are getting, not as good (NSF). Also your body’s chemicals, like melatonin and cortisol, trigger your body when to sleep or wake up, so your body better than you.
· Summary: Don’t mess with nature, try to stick with a schedule!
Why do I have trouble sleeping the night before a big competition?
· You’re probably having trouble falling asleep, like 82% of athletes reported in a study (Juliff); they reported either thinking about the competition or nervousness about it.
· You may not have the tools to help yourself get to sleep. The same study found that over half of team athletes and about a third of individual athletes had no strategy to overcome poor sleep. There’s all of that preparation for the actual competition, but no preparation on how to relax and fall asleep before!
· Summary: Learn what habits help you to relax, so you can get to sleep and stay asleep. Ask your PT or coach for help.
What can I do to improve my sleep habits?
· Keep your bedtime routine. Do the same thing every night to help your body learn it’s time for bed. Read, take a bath, put your clothes out for tomorrow, whatever. Try to keep your bedtime as close to on time as you can and that alarm won’t be quite so annoying.
· Before you go to bed, don’t eat anything too heavy, and in the afternoon, try to avoid caffeine. That caffeine is probably just an effort to catch up from the night before, but it’ll make it harder to fall asleep on time tonight, and the cycle will repeat tomorrow.
· Step away from the electronics!
· Turn off the TV. Falling asleep to the TV may seem like a good idea, but your body can still tell if the sound or light is changing, prevent you from sleeping like a baby.
· Put away the phone, tablet, computer. Not only do they keep your mind busy focusing on a million things, but the lights and sounds can keep your body from thinking it’s time for sleep. It will be there tomorrow. And that just means you need to make sure to like Girl Fit’s most recent post tomorrow!
· Keep your room dark, quiet, and cool. Invest in eyeshades if it’s bright in your room or a noise machine if you have a noisy younger brother. Sleep experts say 65 degrees is the ideal temperature for sleep…so put away that parka!
· Relax your mind and body. If you forgot to do something, right yourself a note and you can do it first thing in the morning. Talk to your PT or your coach about pre-competition strategies…ideas to help you relax so you can rest and be ready to take on the next day.
· And of course, if you are always having trouble going to sleep, staying asleep, or feel too stressed to sleep, please talk to your parents, your doctor, your PT, or your coach.
Don’t forget that rest allows your body a chance to recover, so you can perform your best. So now go and practice! Good night & dream on!
References (we can’t make this up!):
Juliff, L.E., Halson, S.L., Peiffer, J.J. (2014). Understanding sleep disturbance in athletes prior to important competitions. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 18 (2015), 13-18.
Sufrinko A., Johnson E.W., Henry L.C. (2016). The Influence of Sleep Duration and Sleep-Related Symptoms on Baseline Neurocognitive Performance Among Male and Female High School Athletes. Neuropsychology, 30 (4), 484-491.
Taylor, L., et al (2016). The Importance of Monitoring Sleep within Adolescent Athletes: Athletic, Academic, and Health Considerations. Frontiers in Physiology 7 (101). 1-6.
Teens and Sleep. Retrieved September 30, 2016, from https://sleepfoundation.org/.