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September 23, 2014 · OPINION

Sleep matters in high school athletics and more

Adolescent athletes who slept eight or more hours per night were 68 percent less likely, than those who regularly slept less, to suffer a sports related injury, according to an American Academy of Pediatrics study.
By Judy Olsen

Next year our three Fauquier County high schools will join with two high schools from Loudoun County in a new athletic conference. Loudoun’s high schools run on a roughly 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. schedule, which allows students the opportunity to get at least eight hours of sleep a night.

Given the natural sleep/wake cycle that adolescents have and our much earlier start time, Fauquier students are very hard pressed to get more than seven hours at the most. You might think that’s enough, but it’s not. And if you care about athletics, it’s really not. Here’s why we might not fare so well against our Loudoun County foes next year — or in any year.

On Oct. 21, 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a study showing that adolescent athletes who slept eight or more hours per night were 68 percent less likely, than those who regularly slept less, to suffer a sports related injury. That study also found that the higher the athlete’s grade level, the higher his or her risk for injury — 2.3 times higher for each grade level. The number of sports played, time spent practicing, strength training and private coaching were also not associated with higher risk of injury. The two main factors were sleep and grade level.

On June 9, 2008, The American Academy of Sleep Medicine presented its findings on sleep and athletic performance at the SLEEP 2008 22nd Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies in Baltimore. That study compared Stanford University swimmers’ performances on their regular sleep-wake pattern with their performances after extending their sleep to 10 hours per day for six to seven weeks. The study fund that with more sleep, they swam a 15-meter sprint 0.51 seconds faster, were 0.15 seconds quicker off the blocks, improved turn time by 0.1 seconds and increased kick strokes by five kicks. They also monitored daytime sleepiness and changes in mood — both of which improved significantly.

A previous study of the men’s basketball team at Stanford also showed similar results. Sprint times decreased by 5 percent; free throw percentage increased by 9 percent, and 3-point field goal accuracy increased by 9.5 percent. Coaches at Stanford have adjusted training and travel schedules to accommodate their athletes getting more sleep.

This all makes sense, according to Charles Czeisler, director of the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard. Teams in the NBA and NHL frequently consult Dr. Czeisler. His research shows that getting enough sleep after training helps commit the workout to muscle memory. The same holds true for academic learning. Solidifying this knowledge requires both REM and deep sleep. So, if you don’t sleep enough the night after training, then even if you sleep enough the next night and the next, you never learn, according to Dr. Czeisler.

Studies show that reaction time nearly triples when a person pulls an all-nighter and in males, five hours or less sleep per night for one week causes a drop in testosterone as if the person has aged 11 years. Testosterone fuels muscles and impacts decision-making abilities, so players cannot perform at peak levels when testosterone is depleted.

Kids in Loudoun definitely have the advantage when it comes to sleep. With their 9 a.m. start, it is possible for them to get eight or more hours of sleep with an 11 p.m. bedtime. With our 7:30 a.m. start time, and an 11 p.m. bedtime, our kids are lucky to get 6.5 to 7 hours per night.

If your child plays a sport, and you want him or her to be competitive, you need to be concerned with the amount of sleep he or she gets. If you are a coach in this county, you need to be concerned with how much sleep your players are getting. If they are well rested, they are more focused and able to perform better, meaning practices go smoother and more efficiently, and they are committing their training to muscle memory. It’s time we wake up to the fact that sleep matters.

Follow us on twitter @moresleepFQ and on Facebook at Sleep Matters Fauquier.

The writer chairs the Fauquier School Support Council and has a daughter at Fauquier High. Her email address: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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