The Importance of Sleep For Student-Athletes
Overall mental health cannot be achieved without quality sleep. The importance of sleep for student-athletes is vital to mood stabilization, appetite control, and immune system health.
Most athletes understand the importance of recovery and rest days for supporting healthy training and seeing progress.
But, let’s face it, Life, stress, studying, friends, study-groups, and socializing all get top priority over sleep. It’s only after tough events and sheer breakdown of emotions or poor performance that sleep then gets addressed.
You can’t expect strong mental health if you don’t give your body a chance to recover.
Tearing It Down to Build It Back Up
Muscle is built when the body repairs micro tears created during exercise. The mind also repairs itself from stressors and that is how grit and mental toughness is created. However, this process of repairing and re-building isn’t effective at all when you don’t sleep well.
The body cycles through all of the sleep stages several times throughout the night. Sadly, if your sleep cycle is disrupted or shortened, the release of the vital hormone, HGH, gets interrupted and doesn’t take place. Without the correct amount of HGH, muscle recovery slows down. Whether you’re recovering from a workout or an injury, sleep is essential for your body to repair itself at the optimum pace.
Improving Your Sleep Quality
Healthy recovery isn’t just about the amount of slumber.
Although, the hours you sleep before midnight count double.
The importance of sleep for student-athletes is about sleep quality. Frequent waking, difficulty falling asleep, or early waking can all interfere with being rested and recovered.
Good rest also requires healthy sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene includes all the habits and behaviors in your life that contribute to the quality of your sleep. Sleep hygiene habits you’ll want to consider include:
- Devote your bedroom solely to sleep. A home office or gym in your bedroom can make it hard for your brain to shut down at night.
A reasonable bedtime: Go to bed on time, and make sure you’re giving yourself enough time in bed to get a full seven to nine hours of sleep. During intensive training periods, you may need even more, as intensely training athletes can benefit from about 10 hours of sleep each night. A consistent schedule can help your body correctly time the release of sleep hormones and make it easier to get to bed on time each night.
Stress relieving bedtime routine: If you have trouble falling asleep, a bedtime routine can be a good way to relieve stress. Meditation, yoga, or reading a book can help your body relax and trigger the release of sleep hormones. The importance of sleep for student-athletes is that the more consistent you are with your bedtime, the easier it is to wind down and fall asleep.
Turning off screens early: Electronics can give off a bright blue light that suppresses the release of sleep hormones. The light is confusing for your brain and circadian rhythm, sending a signal that it’s daytime (alert time) even when it’s late at night and you should be sleeping. Shut it off when going to bed.
When student-athletes make sleep a priority, you’re giving your body the chance it needs to stay strong and mentally healthy.
Samantha Kent is a researcher for SleepHelp.org. Her favorite writing topic is how getting enough sleep can improve your life. Currently residing in Boise, Idaho, she sleeps in a California King bed, often with a cat on her face.