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Training schedules. Class schedules. Team meetings. Treatment times. Athletes have a lot on their plate. When competition begins, the anxiety increases and schedules overflow with academic demands and travel plans. How do athlete’s balance this demanding schedule and still find time for rest? And what is the best way to maximize rest in the face of so many schedule demands?
Jenn Linton, MPH, ATC
Sleep hygiene is very important for athletes. Sleep hygiene encompasses everything that promotes effective and continual sleep (Lastella, 2012).
Healthy sleep hygiene practices include
- consistent bed and rise times,
- the restriction of alcoholic and caffeinated beverages,
- getting regular exercise,
- proper nutrition practices,
- and other environmental factors (i.e. excess noise) (Lastella, 2012).
Other factors that can affect healthy sleep hygiene for athletes are
- and competition schedules.
Not only do athlete’s need to take personal responsibility for rest, but those that surround the athlete’s creating schedules must also be cognizant of how their sleep is being affected. Creating schedules that promote healthy sleep habits is the first step, and educating athletes on proper sleep hygiene is the second step to maximizing rest.
So, how do we achieve better sleep hygiene and promote sleep in our athlete’s young and old? There have been multiple studies showing positive effects on sleep strategies for athletes.
Stress Reduction Strategies and Decreasing Evening Activities by Adjusting Training Times
Optimizing sleep hygiene begins with stress reduction strategies and decreasing evening activities by adjusting training times (Sargent, 2014). Studies have been done showing the importance of structuring training schedules to facilitate good sleeping habits. Athletes are unable to achieve optimal rest when training in the late night hours (Sargent, 2014).
Limiting blue light exposure (as emitted by cell phones)
Limiting blue light exposure can improve sleep performance in athletes (Jones, 2018). It is important for athlete’s to stay off their phones prior to bed times in order to achieve optimal rest. Not only is blue light shown to have an effect on healthy sleep habits, athletes who are on social media prior to bed may experience increased anxiety which would also disrupt their sleep (Jones, 2018).
Restrict the Consumption of Alcohol and Caffeine
Athletes should restrict the consumption of alcohol and caffeine throughout the day as well as close to bed times. Bed times and rise times are difficult to keep consistent during an athletes competition time, however, athletes should learn to prioritize their time in order to try to keep consistent bed and rise times.
Jones, JJ, Kirschen, Gw, Sindhiya, K, Hale, L. (2018). Association between late night tweeting and next day game performance among professional basketball players. Sleep Health. Retrieved from: doi.org/1016/j.sleh.2018.09.005
Lastella, M, Lovell, GP, Sargent, C. (2012). Athletes’ precompetetive sleep behaviour and its relationship with subsequent precompetetive mood and performance. European Journal of Sport Science. 14(1). Retrieved from: doi.org/10.1080/17461391.2012.660505
Sargent, C, Lastella, M., Halson, SL, Roach GD. (2014). Then impact of training schedules on the sleep and fatigue of elite athletes. The Journal of Biological and Medical Rhythm Research. 31(10). Retrieved from: doi.org/10.3109107420528.2014.957306