Young Athletes Need their Sleep to Achieve Top Performance
DETROIT (February 9, 2021) – As Michigan high school student athletes get back to sports competition this week, most are not getting the sleep they need to perform at their best, said Meeta Singh, M.D., a nationally recognized sleep medicine specialist at Henry Ford Health System.
Many young athletes simply don’t focus on getting the sleep they need to recover from training and the energy they expend playing their sport, which ultimately affects performance on game day. In fact, according to a survey from the American College Health Association, most student athletes reported four nights of insufficient sleep each week. Another study from the NCAA reported that one-third of student athletes got fewer than seven hours of sleep each night.
“Since sleep can modulate reaction time and accuracy, it’s important to ensure an athlete gets his or her appropriate amount of sleep,” said Dr. Singh who agrees with the recommendation from the National Sleep Foundation and the American Academy of Sleep that younger adults need between 8 and 10 hours of sleep each night.
Dr. Singh is the Medical Director for the Sleep Disorders Center at Henry Ford Medical Center – Columbus in Novi and Henry Ford Medical Center – New Center One in Detroit. She is also part of Henry Ford’s Sports Medicine team and advises teams in the four professional sports leagues: Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association, National Football League and National Hockey League. She led a study titled “Urgent Wake Up Call for the NBA” published this month in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine that focuses on sleep-related issues and the detrimental effects on athletic performance and health of players, coaches and management caused by the NBA season travel.
In addition, Dr. Singh treats student athletes with sleep disorders and provides sleep health education that helps develop positive sleep behaviors and empowers athletes to reach their desired performance levels. “Sleep and recovery are integral parts of being an athlete that are often ignored,” said Dr. Singh. She also believes that restorative sleep is a cornerstone for athletes' successful recovery and performance.
Nick Parkinson, Supervisor of Athletic Training at the Henry Ford Center for Athletic Medicine, also understands the connection between proper sleep and performance. “The importance of athletes getting sleep cannot be understated. Our athletic trainers and sports performance specialists discuss proper sleep hygiene with the athletes we care for and emphasize its role in their recovery,” said Parkinson.
Dr. Singh said that overlooking the importance of sleep and allowing the body to recover parallels the discussion in the 1960s about the importance of hydration for athletes. “People back then wondered why drinking enough water was important for athletic performance,” said Dr. Singh. Sleep and recovery are similar as an essential part of reaching peak performance, and in preventing and recovering from injuries. “It’s important to improving reaction time, speed, hand-eye coordination, judgement, and adjusting to tactics during competition,” said Dr. Singh.
Research also shows that 65% of student athletes who get less than 8 hours of sleep suffered sports-related injuries, a rate that this is more than 50% higher than for those teen athletes getting more than 8 hours of sleep.
These helpful tips from Dr. Singh can guide student athletes toward building healthier sleep habits and getting the right amount of sleep:
- Limit caffeine. Caffeine is a popular ingredient in many pre-workout drinks, and many athletes choose to use it for an energy boost. However, having caffeine late in the day may make falling asleep and staying asleep difficult. Athletes should try logging their intake to determine what time to stop consuming and how much is okay to consume.
- Maintain a regular sleep schedule. The body has an internal clock that’s largely affected by environment. Going to bed and waking up at approximately the same time each day can add a natural rhythm to the body’s internal clock, which can cause people to feel more awake during the day and fall asleep easily at night.
- Workout early. Often, working out later in the day gives people a burst of energy that can keep them up late into the night. For example, exercising after 9 p.m. can boost body temperature, making sleep difficult. However, research shows morning workouts can help achieve deeper sleep, and working out in the afternoon can help reduce insomnia.
- Unplug. Nothing can keep one up at night like a buzzing smartphone. Additionally, the blue light a phone emits may slow the production of melatonin, making sleep difficult. Advise your child to leave electronics out of reach while they’re sleeping. And as an added bonus, if their phone is their alarm, it will force them out of bed in the mornings.
- Focus on breathing. Focusing on breath can help steady heart rate and relax the body. A popular breathing technique is the 4-7-8 exercise, in which one inhales through the nose for four seconds, holds their breath for seven, and exhales for eight.
- Keep it dark, cool and quiet. Having the right environment is an important part of falling asleep…and staying asleep.
About Henry Ford Health System
Founded in 1915 by Henry Ford himself, Henry Ford Health System is a non-profit, integrated health system committed to improving people’s lives through excellence in the science and art of healthcare and healing. Henry Ford Health System includes six hospitals including Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit; Henry Ford Macomb Hospitals; Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital; Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital; Henry Ford Allegiance in Jackson, MI; and Henry Ford Kingswood Hospital – an inpatient psychiatric hospital.
Henry Ford Health System also includes Henry Ford Medical Group: Henry Ford Physician Network; more than 250 outpatient facilities; Henry Ford Pharmacy; Henry Ford OptimEyes; and other healthcare services. Our not-for-profit health plan, Health Alliance Plan – HAP – provides health coverage for more than 540,000 people.
As one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers, Henry Ford Health System trains more than 3,000 medical students, residents, and fellows annually in more than 50 accredited programs, and has trained nearly 40% of the state’s physicians. Our dedication to education and research is supported by nearly $100 million in annual grants from the National Institutes of Health and other public and private foundations.
Henry Ford Health System employs more than 33,000 people, including more than 1,600 physicians, more than 6,600 nurses and 5,000 allied health professionals. For more information, go to henryford.com.
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