A slide presented at a recent Nike-sponsored Boulder Running Camp included the subhead: “Sleep – The most powerful, legal, performance enhancer ever known.”
The slide itself featured a bar graph that connected poor sleep with the likelihood of injuries (injury rates nearly double when athletes get six hours of sleep as opposed to eight).
“Was I surprised?” asked Eden Prairie cross-country coach Jeff Lindlief, who was out in Colorado attending camp. “No, but it confirmed what I had been reading.
“I've always said that the 22 hours our kids spend away from practice are just as important as the two hours they spend at practice,” he added. “That's easier to understand when you see the science behind it.”
So, don't sleep on sleep?
In 2017, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) hosted a sleep summit. Topics discussed included: sleep patterns and disorders among college athletes, sleep and optimal functioning, sleep screening and tracking and sleep interventions.
While there hasn't been a lot of research involving student-athlete sleep patterns, it's generally accepted that athletic and academic performances improve with improved sleep habits.
For example, studies involving collegiate tennis and basketball players showed that serving accuracy, shooting accuracy and reaction times improved when sleep times were extended beyond eight hours per day for several weeks.
The NCAA's Growth, Opportunities, Aspirations and Learning of Students survey shows that less 25% of its college athletes report getting more than eight hours of sleep in a typical night.
The problem, in a nutshell, is that college life, generally, is not conducive to obtaining restorative sleep.
“When you go on an 8- to 12-mile workout,” said Lindlief, “you're tearing your body down. The only way to recover is rest.
“If you're not getting adequate rest,” he added, “you're just tearing your body down.”
Following the NCAA sleep summit, the NCAA Interassociation Task Force on Sleep and Wellness restated the obvious by saying, “Sleep is an important determinant of collegiate athlete health, well-being and performance.”
They'd follow by adding, “Collegiate athletes often neglect sleep because of academic, athletic and social demands.”
Again, restating the obvious.
To address the situation, they've said college athletic departments can promote college athlete well-being and performance through sleep by:
- Conducting an annual time demands survey.
- Ensure that consumer sleep technology, if used, is complaint with HIPAA and FERPA laws.
- Incorporating sleep screening into the pre-participation exam.
- Provide collegiate athletes with evidence-based sleep education that includes: information on sleep best practices, information about the role of sleep in optimizing athletic and academic performance and overall well-being, strategies for addressing sleep barriers.
- Provide coaches with evidence-based sleep education that includes: information on sleep best practices, information about the role of sleep in optimizing athletic and academic performance and overall well-being, strategies to help optimize collegiate athlete sleep.
There's your wake-up call.
Acknowledge or hit snooze?