How More Sleep Will Make Your Child a Better Athlete
The results are backed by science. It’s free and has no negative side effects. So why are so many young athletes not getting enough of this wonder drug? That’s right; sleep – the training secret ELITE athletes have been taking advantage of for quite some time…lots and lots of SLEEP!
In an episode of “Hard Knocks Houston Texans” a few seasons ago, former NFL Defensive Player of the Year, JJ Watt shared that he sleeps ten-plus hours every night! He went on to explain that he rarely goes out at night and is typically in bed at 7:30 pm. It’s hard to argue since Watt’s rapid rise in the NFL had been nothing less than spectacular! A lightly recruited walk-on defensive end at Wisconsin, he became a bonafide superstar.
And Watt isn’t the only elite athlete who knows the value of sleep. Usain Bolt became the first man in history to win six Olympic gold medals for sprinting. According to FatigueScience.com, Bolt claimed sleep to be the most important part of his training regimen. “I need to rest and recover for the training I do to be absorbed by my body.” Michael Phelps and Roger Federer average 10-12 hours a night, and Lebron James attributes much of his success to the 12 hours of Z’s he notches each night.
Scientists have long known about the benefits of sleep for overall health. Now, scientists can measure what it means to athletic performance, and the results have been jaw-dropping.
According to Fatiguescience.com, sleep helps in these five major areas:
- Reaction time – Maybe the single most important skill in sports. Even just one all-nighter can reduce your reaction time by 300%, so imagine what that sleepover birthday party did to your kid at his soccer game.
- Reduce Injury – In a study of young athletes, the single most common predictor of injury was sleep, even more than hours of practice.
- Longer playing careers – In a study of some MLB players, there was a direct link between the length of their career and sleep.
- Better accuracy and faster sprint times – A study using the Stanford men’s basketball team revealed that sleep has a direct correlation to shot accuracy and sprint speed.
- Fewer mental errors – Motivation, focus, and memory are all linked to sleep. The less sleep you have, the more errors occur in all areas of your decision-making on the court or field.
Ok, now that we have your attention, guess what? The REAL value of more sleep isn’t just about performance, but even more importantly, it will keep them mentally and physically healthy. Without good sleep, it’s nearly impossible to have a positive outcome in any other area of life. Researchers from the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston found that teens who don’t get enough sleep are four times as likely to develop major depressive disorders than their peers who do get enough sleep, and current studies show that between 60 and 70% of American teens are mild to severely sleep-deprived.
THE EFFECT OF SLEEP ON INJURY PREVENTION
Whether an adolescent gets enough sleep is the strongest single predictor of whether he or she will get injured playing sports – it has more of an influence than hours of practice, number of sports played, strength training regimens, gender, or coaching styles. The majority of muscle repair and growth occurs during sleep when hormones are released. Athletes who sleep on average less than 8 hours per night experience 68% more sports injuries than students who sleep for eight or more hours. Sleep is all about repair, both mental and physical. The quality and the amount of sleep, to a great extent, determine the effectiveness of recovery. Simply put, when an athlete doesn’t get enough sleep, they are more prone to injury and illness. Testosterone and growth hormone drop so significantly with sleep loss that not only is there a negative effect on tissue healing and recovery, but research indicates that without enough sleep, a day’s training causes muscular atrophy, thereby making an athlete weaker rather than stronger.
Whether your child aims to be the next JJ Watt or just wants to experience success in their sport, helping your child achieve the maximum amount of sleep each night will help them achieve their goals on and off the field.
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