~2 minute read
It’s common for athletes to run low on sleep and to prioritize activities like homework, practice, and socializing over a couple more hours of rest each night. Unfortunately, compromising a few hours of sleep for school, sport, or socializing can actually have an adverse effect.
Quality sleep plays a critical role in helping you feel and play your best by giving your mind, muscles, tissues, and cells a chance to repair. Sleep also helps your immune system fight off infections and recover from illness. For athletes, getting enough rest is even important for skill development since that’s when pathways in your brain that tell your body what to do form. Sleep also contributes to higher cognitive performance. Since sport requires decision-making skills and adapting to changing environments, a lack of sleep can take a big toll on an athlete’s ability to keep up during practices or games.
Research shows that elite athletes should aim for at least 9-10 hours of quality sleep each night. Check out the following suggestions to improve your sleep habits and feel more refreshed throughout the day.
Sleep Hygiene Tips for Athletes
- Create a healthy sleep environment. Your sleeping space should be dark and cool with little to no noise.
- Avoid caffeine ~6 hours before bedtime. Caffeine can interrupt sleep or lead to more disturbed sleep.
- Try to put down your phone, laptop, and TV 30 minutes before you go to bed. The blue light that these devices emit can affect your circadian rhythm, or the system responsible for telling you when you should sleep.
- Create a wind-down routine. Activities such as reading, journaling, taking a bath, or meditating are great ways to let your body know it’s time to relax.
- If you can’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed. Walk around, do some light yoga, read, write, or drink some tea until you feel sleepy.
Athlete-Specific Sleep Tips
For athletes, it’s also important to keep the following tips in mind:
Be aware of overtraining.
Keep a consistent training schedule and work with your coach to make sure you aren’t burning yourself out by exercising too much. Your body needs rest!
Nap smart, if you nap at all.
10-20 minute naps are prime, and naps shouldn’t extend more than an hour. Also, try to avoid napping after 3 p.m.
Go easy on yourself.
The more you stress, the more difficult it is to establish healthy sleep habits. Try out as many of these tips as you’d like, but don’t worry if you don’t feel like your sleep is improving right away.
Developing a sleep routine that works for you might take some trial and error, so don’t worry if you don’t magically start sleeping incredibly well after reading this resource. Give as many of the suggestions as you would like a try, and see what works best for you. Some athletes might sleep better at night by taking a warm shower and immediately going to bed while others might need more time to unwind by reading or journaling about the day. And just because you sleep poorly one or two nights, that doesn’t mean you should entirely ditch your routine. While it’s best to be as consistent as possible, your body is resilient enough to make up for less or more sleep when you’re having trouble sticking to your routine.