Why Athletes Need Sleep

Posted on December 4, 2019 at 2:19 PM by McFarland Sports Medicine

Sleep is important for anyone's day-to-day activities, but how important is sleep for an athlete? McFarland Sports Medicine physician Sarah Bancroft, DO teaches us the importance of sleep.

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Benefits of Sleep for Student-Athletes

Sleep mentally prepares you for the task you need to do in school and in your sport. It also helps your body get ready to complete the physical tasks it needs to.

“Specifically with athletes, sleep will actually help prevent injuries and heal injuries overnight while you are resting,” Dr. Bancroft said. “It’s a way for your body to recover and make sure that it’s ready to perform for the level it needs to.”

What Happens to the Body During Sleep?

During sleep the cells in your body are stabilizing. REM (rapid eye movement) sleep helps you to make appropriate memories the next day.

“REM sleep is a lighter set of sleep that happens later in the phases of sleep,” Dr. Bancroft said. “It tells your body you have gone through a full sleep cycle.”

When you don’t get enough sleep, especially REM sleep, it’s hard to make new memories. If a student athlete is trying to remember their plays or what their teacher said, sleep is very important.

Effects of Lack of Sleep

“When you don’t get enough sleep, you see muscle and mental fatigue,” Dr. Bancroft said. “Athletes, because of those things, have poor reaction time or poor memory. They can get injured because of that.”

Sports medicine physicians are more likely to see injuries in athletes later in the season. This happens because the body can be more fatigued, especially because athletes are not getting enough sleep.

Tips For Better Sleep

Dr. Bancroft said there are a few things that can improve your sleep.

Schedule your sleep

  • Schedule an alarm for when you need to go to sleep.

  • Make sure you get at least eight hours of sleep.

Set up your environment

  • Make your room quiet, dark and cool.

  • Listen to white noise while sleeping.

  • Make sure you are not bothered by light or noise.

How Long Until More Sleep Helps an Athlete?

It can take a few weeks to a month to see changes in your mental and physical level with improvement in your sleep habits.

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