Go. To. Bed. No wonder your mom’s always nagging you: A typical high school-aged athlete gets somewhere around 6.9 hours of shut-eye a night.
“But she needs closer to nine,” says Mary A. Carskadon, Ph.D., an adolescent sleep expert at Brown University. “Eight to eight-and-a-half is the minimum,” she adds.
What’s the big whoop?
As any coach will tell you, getting a good night’s rest is as important as eating right and training hard. While you’re dreaming about the hot guy in chem class, your body is hard at work, healing all the microscopic muscle tears you incur during practice. This recovery period also helps your body process carbs more efficiently, giving you energy the following day.
If you opt to skimp on sleep, you’ll pay the price on the field with slower reaction times. You simply won’t be as alert and responsive as your well-rested teammates and opponents.
Truth is, getting consistent and adequate sleep can be a game changer. In a recent study published in the journal "Sleep," 11 members of the Stanford University men’s basketball team — who averaged fewer than seven hours of sleep per night — added an average of 110.9 minutes of sleep per night for several weeks. The athletes were then asked to perform a series of tasks. Their sprint speed improved by 0.7 seconds, their shooting accuracy on free throws and 3-point field goals increased by 9 percent, and they reported higher overall ratings for both physical and mental well-being.
“There is no reason to think gender makes a difference in this instance,” says Dr. Carskadon, who believes female athletes would see the same benefits. She also says that similar results would likely translate to a variety of sports.
While your parents know better than to give you a curfew, you should consider giving yourself one. If you usually roll out of bed at 6 a.m., aim to hit the hay no later than 10 p.m. — and don’t bring your laptop or cell with you.
Try it for two weeks and chances are you’ll notice that you’ve stepped up your game, both at practice and in the classroom.
So close your eyes, step into the dark side and reap the rewards.
Now, seriously, get to bed.