How To Convince Your Athletes To Get More Sleep

Coaches and athletes look for every legal edge over their competition. However, you may be putting too much emphasis on new innovations. Sleep is a foundation of human performance. It has the potential to fuel or wreck an athlete’s performance. It may not be flashy, but your athletes may not be getting the sleep they need to have an edge on and off the field.

Counting Sheep Is An Athletic Advantage

Why do the Boston Red  Sox have a “sleep room” in their club house at Fenway Park? Why do the Seattle Seahawks wear Readibands to monitor player’s sleep? And why do MLB starting pitchers travel ahead of the rest of the team on road trips?

“Sleep is probably the most important thing we talk to [players] about,” said Brad Pearson, head athletic trainer for the Boston Red Sox. “It’s critical to their recovery. You pick the low-hanging fruit first, the simple things. You create a stable base and build on that.”

If your athletes aren’t getting the right amount of sleep, it will dilute every other aspect of practice, preparation, and recovery.

Proper Sleep Gives Your Players an Edge

Sports science is clear that an athlete’s performance is impacted by the quantity, quality, and timing of their sleep. As a coach, it’s important to understand the impact that sleep (or lack thereof) is having on your players.

1. Risk of Injury

A recent study found that adolescent athletes who get less than 8 hours of sleep per night increase their risk of injury 1.7x compared to those who get at least 8 hours.

Injuries can decimate your roster and your shot at a winning season. If you can’t keep players on the field, you begin every game at a disadvantage.

2. Physical Effects

Studies reveal that inadequate sleep is linked to a reduction in a player’s natural growth hormone, slowed reaction times, and a weakened immune system.

This means that athletes who don’t get good sleep don’t get the full benefits from your strength and conditioning program. They won’t be as big, fast, or strong as competitors who sleep well.

3. Cognitive Effects

Sleep impacts your athlete’s brains, specifically the executive functions of the brain. These functions include decision making, concentration, memory, information processing, planning, and emotion regulation.

This carries a wide variety of on and off-field consequences. For example, athletes who don’t get adequate sleep make more mental mistakes and lose their composure more readily. They are at a greater risk for depression and don’t perform as well in the classroom.

A great example of an elite athlete who understands the cognitive (and physiological) benefits sleep offers, and benefits greatly from it, is five-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Tom Brady. He seeks every advantage to keep his mind and body operating at peak form, including going to bed at 8:30 PM every night.

4. Performance Effects

By increasing the amount of sleep they were getting, basketball players improved shooting percentages by 9%. The same was true of serve percentages in tennis players.

Athletes who don’t get adequate sleep are more likely to miss shots, drop catches, strike out, and get out hustled by opponents.

According to Sam Ramsden, the Seahawks’ Director of Player Health and Performance, “Some of the best players on the team are the best sleepers.”

How much sleep do your athletes need?

According to the National Sleep Foundation, the assumed 8 hours per night may not be enough for your athletes.

Teenagers 14-17 years
8 to 10 hours
Young Adults 18 – 25 years
7 to 9 hours
Adults 26 – 64 yours
7 to 9 hours

Put a Premium on Athlete’s Sleep

Coaches, teach your athletes about the importance of sleep. Share the printable poster with them. Hang it in your locker room. Don’t allow a lack of sleep to sabotage the hard work your team is putting in every day in practice. Sleep is just as critical to your athlete’s performance as hydration and good nutrition. Make it a fundamental of your program.

Authored By:

The Excelling Edge