Everyone is looking for an advantage. Some athletes are willing to experiment with drugs, supplements, diets and esoteric training to get an edge. What if I told you that the gains achieved for athletes by sleeping more were equal to the gains of many performance-enhancing drugs? Would you believe me? Well you should.
There are a couple of types of sleep deprivation: Short-term lack of sleep has different effects than long-term lack of sleep but combined their effects are significant. Lack of sleep, both short and long term, will effect the cognitive ability to think and learn, mood and motor abilities. The effects will compound when trying to recover from hard physical activities like wrestling; there is no better recovery than a lot of sleep. Sleep deficiency has detrimental effects on all sports performance, but certain types of athletes see a particularly marked drop in performance if they skimp on sleep. Sports requiring quick reaction times and reflexes see big drop offs in performance when the participants needs more sleep. If you see your wrestler seeming sluggish and slow, it’s probably easier to solve than you think: sleep.
When wrestling at a high level, travel can be something that you have to train for. Complex travel, especially when time zones change can make it hard for a competitor to get good sleep. If you are sleeping at a hotel for regionals, states or a national tournament make changes to your room to help with sleep. Make the room totally dark, cover LED or any lights that can’t be turned off with towels. Blue light from screen technology and sleep don’t mix. Exposure to blue light has been shown to block the production of melatonin, one of the most important hormones needed for the onset of sleep. Don’t use a screen before bedtime. Build a pillow wall if the window coverings bleed city light into your room. If you’re going to Fargo from Eastern Time zones this summer, 2 hours might not seem like much but it is when you’re competing at the highest level. Prepare for this time differential by adjusting to the time a couple days before you go. Drink plenty of water and try not to eat on the plane – it just sits there and causes fatigue when the blood rushes to your digestive system to deal with the food.
- Taking naps between rounds can help with energy and mental recovery.
- Sleeping pills are not a good helper. They can make it hard to fully wake up and leave you with a mental hangover.
- Having trouble falling asleep? Take a warm to hot bath or shower before bedtime. This can also help you make weight for morning weigh-ins.
I’ve seen a few wrestlers lose big matches due to lack of rest, but I’ve seen hundreds of kids miss practices and/or be uncoachable because of fatigue. Try it out. Your kid will do better in school and sports with more sleep. Chronic exhaustion is the number one trend in kids underperformance in youth sports and school. Most kids that have a hard time learning during a practice are experiencing chronic tiredness.
Rule of the Road:
- Teenage athletes need at least 9 hours a night. Deep undisturbed sleep.
- If your 12 year old and under athlete is getting less than 11 hours of sleep they need more.
- Bedtimes after 10 on a school or competition night are ensuring exhaustion that can be hard to catch up on.
- If you have to wake your kids from a dead sleep every morning and drag them out of bed, they’re not getting enough rest.
I see so many parents being resistant to the idea that their young athlete needs more sleep, it’s practically an epidemic. Kids that have a hard time learning at practice or miss extended periods with illness that they can’t shake are also short on z’s. Get to bed! You hear me?