7 Sleeping Tips for Student-Athletes

November 5, 2019

Henry Ford Health System

Many athletes seem to believe time spent not training is time wasted. But, on the contrary.

The time athletes spend resting and sleeping is actually just as important. Take the world’s best female skier, Mikaela Shiffrin, for example. Shiffrin reportedly not only sleeps nine hours each night, but naps at least an hour every day.

So, what does sleeping have to do with her success? When asleep, the body not only has time to recover, but the information that was taken in during the day goes from short-term memory and becomes long term.

“Being an elite athlete is a 24-hour profession, and sleep and recovery are integral to optimal performance,” says Meeta Singh, M.D., a sleep medicine specialist at Henry Ford Health System.

Here are seven tips to help your student athlete catch some Zzzs during the season:

1. 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. But, everyone reacts differently to caffeine, so athletes should try logging their intake to determine what time to stop consuming and how much is okay to consume.

2. 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.

3. Workout early. Often times, 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.

4. 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 children 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.

5. Use essential oils. Essential oils have seen growing popularity in recent years, and this is in part because scent helps trigger memory. Oils can be diffused, rubbed on temples or drops can be spread on pillows. Popular oils for promoting sleep are lavender, valerian root and roman chamomile.

6. 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.

7. Keep it dark, cool and quiet. Having the right environment is an important part of falling asleep … and staying asleep.

Ultimately, when it comes to enhancing athletic performance, getting proper sleep, resting and recovering can be just as important as training or hitting the gym.

“Since sleep can modulate reaction time and accuracy, it’s important to ensure an athlete gets his or her Zzzs,” Dr. Singh says.

See also: Is Your Teen Sleep Deprived?

Want to learn more? Henry Ford Health System sports medicine experts are treating the whole athlete, in a whole new way. From nutrition to neurology, and from injury prevention to treatment of sports-related conditions, they can give your athlete a unique game plan.

Visit henryford.com/sports or call (313) 972-4216 for an appointment within 24 business hours.

Coach's Guide to Nutrition: Hydration

Stay hydrated during exercise. Encourage athletes to take at least 2-3 sips (2-3 ounces) of water every 15 minutes.

Milk Means More logoExercising for more than an hour? Sports drinks can help replace fluid, carbs and electrolytes.

Some athletes do not feel thirsty while they are active, so regular water breaks are important. As always, if they feel thirsty, let them grab a drink. If they feel dizzy, confused or nauseated, they should STOP and tell a coach or teammate. This may indicate they are dangerously dehydrated. Access to water should NEVER be used as a punishment.

Athletes should also look for these symptoms in teammates and remind them to hydrate when necessary. For a more individualized recommendation or for athletes with a cramping history, refer them to a Registered Dietician Nutritionist (RDN).

Dehydration Warning Signs:

  • Cramping
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion

Information above is excerpted from UDIM’s A Coach’s Guide to Nutrition.