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Teen athlete about to dunk a ball, photo taken from above the net

Boost Athletic Performance, Make Sleep a Priority

By: Christine Minor, MSEd, ATC

Sleep is a vital part of our day. The exact amount of sleep we need varies by many factors, including our age. The minimum recommended amount of sleep for an adult is 7 hours per night. Children and teenagers need even more. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children get 9-12 hours of sleep each night and teenagers should get 8 to 10 hours. Young athletes who participate in a intense or long training days need a minimum of 10 hours of sleep.

Sleep serves as the primary time for the body to recover from activity and stress. This is a hormone-regulated process. Melatonin is a hormone that acts as an antioxidant and activates other pro-inflammatory hormones to neutralize free radicals that harm the body’s cells. During deep sleep, growth hormone and androgens are released which allow for muscle building and repair, bone growth and the oxidation of fats.

There are many reasons an athlete may not get enough sleep -- sleep apnea, insomnia, jet lag, stress, and not making sleep a priority. Lack of sleep can have a negative effect on an athlete’s performance by reducing cardiovascular function, endurance and respiratory capacity. Sleep deprivation has also been shown to decrease memory, lessen attention span, inhibit learning and affect the decision-making process. These tasks are essential to an athlete in both practice and competition. Not enough sleep has also been shown to affect mental health by increasing an athlete’s perception of how hard he is working and how tired he is feeling, which discourages top performance.

Lack of sleep also increases cortisol secretion and reduces insulin-like growth factor 1, which can cause protein breakdown, resulting in loss of muscle mass and slow muscle recovery after exercise.

Adequate sleep should be a priority for all young athletes as a way of improving performance and furthering progress toward athletic goals. If you are experiencing a significant loss of sleep, or are concerned about a possible underlying condition causing decreased sleep, you should be evaluated by a trained medical professional.

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About CHKD Sports Medicine

About CHKD Sports Medicine  CHKD's sports medicine program offers the most comprehensive care for your young athlete. From diagnosis and treatment to customized rehabilitation plans, we specialize in physical therapy and injury prevention programs for active children and teens. Our team is composed of pediatric orthopedic surgeons, sports medicine specialists, physician assistants, certified athletic trainers and pediatric sports medicine physical therapists.