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We know that getting enough sleep is essential for growth and allows our body to recover from the daily stresses of life. Sleep is no less critical for young, developing athletes who challenge themselves physically and mentally on a daily basis. To say that a good night's rest can make a difference in their well-being and performance is hardly an understatement.

What are some factors that affect a young athlete’s sleep?

  • Type of sport played
  • Intensity of training
  • Ability to manage both academic and sport training schedules
  • Jet lag, for those who frequently travel to countries with different time zones for training or competitions

How does sleep deprivation affect young athletes?

  • Decreased mental performance
  • Increased stress and anxiety
  • Reduced reaction time
  • Higher risk of injury

How then does quality sleep help optimise the performance of these young athletes?

  • In the first four hours of sleep, more than 50% of daily growth hormone is released, enabling better physical recovery and allowing their body to go back to an optimal condition.
  • The latter four hours of sleep aid mental recovery, which is important for their short and long-term memory development, processing and cognitive function.
  • Improved endurance, muscle and motor memory, as a good nine to 10 hours of sleep help improve glucose metabolism, resulting in increased energy and better mood.
  • Enhanced overall immunity to help the body cope with physical stress.
  • Reduced risk of injuries and strain.

What are some ways for young athletes to develop better sleep habits?

  • Keep practice times consistent as much as possible.
  • Exercise not later than four hours before bedtime, to allow time for winding down.
  • Maintain a regular sleep and wake routine, even on weekends and during school holidays.
  • Cater for time zone difference training if travel is needed, such as adjusting practice times prior to travelling.
  • Get exposed to natural light for a good 30 minutes immediately upon waking up to realign circadian rhythm.

As parents, we can do our part for our athletic children by keeping an eye on their daily schedules, ensuring proper nutrition not only for their growth but also to keep them in an optimal condition to cope with challenges as they pursue the sport they love, and also to be there to support them emotionally.


Related reads:

Sleep and Its Importance to Children

Making Sport More Appealing for Our Kids

Sport Risks & Injuries – What to Take Note of & Preventing Them