The greatest athletes live for their sport. They are what they play, and they do everything in their power to be the best. Eating right, training hard, and getting enough sleep all play a major role in athletic performance. The amount and quality of sleep young athletes get are often crucial to their success because REM sleep allows both the mind and the body to replenish their energies. In sports, players often need to make split-second decisions, and their ability to do that declines with poor sleep.

Consequences of Sleep Deprivation

The right fuel and hydration are the most important parts of recovery and training. Exercising depletes fluids, energy, and breaks down muscle. What athletes do before, during, and after exercise or competition determines how quickly their bodies will replenish nutrients and rebuild muscle. It helps them maintain accuracy, endurance, and speed. Research has also shown that stress hormones go up if we don’t get enough sleep, while the production of glycogen decreases. That’s why lack of sleep causes poor focus, low energy, and fatigue at game time, and it may slow the recovery afterward.

Physical Health

Sleep is essential for maintaining physical health. There’s a link between obesity and sleep deprivation, for example, because a lack of sleep will cause an imbalance in the hormones that control appetite. Sleep deprivation can also have metabolic effects, such as an increase in insulin resistance and blood sugar – factors that lead to type II diabetes. Proper sleep also affects the body’s ability to fight off illness and is required for a healthy immune system.

Mental Health

When it comes to children’s mental and emotional health, sleep is required for avoiding many negative mental effects. For example, exaggerated emotional responses to both negative and positive stimuli are associated with a lack of sleep. People typically become more irritable, and their ability to cope with stress gets decreased, which may result in more confrontational behavior. Sleep-deprived people are also less likely to engage in exercise and pursue other activities that they would usually enjoy. In some cases, lack of sleep may predispose people to anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders.

Athletic Performance

For peak athletic performance, adequate sleep is crucial. Otherwise, young athletes won’t be able to replenish their energy, keep their minds sharp, causing them to perform sub-optimally. Besides accuracy and speed, sleep also influences reaction time, which are all necessary components to be successful in sports. Athletes may get less than eight hours of sleep per night due to several factors, such as frequent travel, pregame anxiety or excitement, and early morning training sessions.

Ways to Get More Sleep

When demands are high, due to academic responsibilities, practice, competition schedules, and travel, young athletes are exposed to a higher risk of sleep deprivation. Therefore, getting enough sleep becomes a priority.

  • Children and young athletes should know the positive effects of short naps (20-30 minutes) to supplement their inadequate sleep cycle.
  • Creating a relaxing routine before bed will support good-quality sleep by helping them to decompress and manage stress.
  • Help your child create a sleep schedule and stick to it.

Besides improving mental stamina and physical energy during practices and competitions, regular and quality sleep can improve skills that are specific to various sports. For example, it can improve shooting accuracy among basketball players or increase speed among football players. On the other hand, if your child athlete is experiencing decreased reaction time and a quicker onset of exhaustion, it may be due to poor sleeping habits or lack of a good night’s sleep.