One of the main challenges of young players in North America is ensuring that they are getting enough sleep for optimal performance. Academic demands at school can be high, the North American lifestyle of families is typically fast-paced and many young players are training late at night, too often and are not getting sufficient sleep. The ability to scan the field of play, process information quickly and make good decisions are essential attributes for top players. A lack of sleep can severely limit this ability and impair the pace of development. Significant performance gains can be achieved by young players by ensuring they have adequate sleep.
“Asking athletes to play on minimal sleep is the same as asking them to play with one hand tied behind their back …..it making them do something we know degrades their reaction time, their ability to take in their training, to get the most benefit out of it. They spend all this time practicing but never get to sleep” (Dr. Charles Czeisler-Director of the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard University)
A lack of sleep can also negatively impact the physical development of young players by reducing the level of testosterone – which is essential for building muscle and gaining the optimal effects of intensive, deep practice training. A study by Cheri Mah of the Stanford University’s male basketball team confirmed improved performance levels in speed and accuracy after sleep was extended. See study
The Human Performance Project advises Olympic, US college and Professional sports team athletes to get at least 9 hours and 15 minutes every night. It is likely that young players are getting enough sleep if they are falling asleep within 15-20 minutes of going to bed an wake up without an alarm. They are likely not getting enough sleep if they are going to sleep immediately when going to bed and require an alarm t wake up.
Tips for young players to improve sleep
Measure sleep and make it a priority as part of the training schedule
Keep a consistent sleep schedule
Avoid eating a meal within three hours of bedtime
Have a nap during the day, if feeling drowsy but for no more than 30 minutes
Exercise should take place no later than four hours before bedtime
How athlete monitoring can help
If you wish to improve performance in a certain area, it is best to measure it first. Once data is collected we as coaches can then look for correlation between other important performance factors such as mood, health, energy levels and stress.
Tips for Players: Start monitoring your current sleep patterns and follow the tips above on how to improve sleep
Tips for Coaches: Coaches can play a critical role in education their young players on the importance of good sleep and can take advantage of athlete monitoring tools, such as Metrifit, to better manage this
Tips for Parents: Work with your child to monitor current sleep patterns and if wish to take a more pro-effective role in this athlete monitoring tools such as Metrifit can be utilized at the individual player family level