While many teens enjoy sleeping, the increase they experience in academic, social, and extracurricular responsibilities forces many to put sleep low on their priority list. The average teen needs eight to ten hours of sleep for their bodies to rest and recover. Anything less and teens enter a state of sleep deprivation. For runners and other student-athletes, adequate sleep helps prevent injury, illness, and improves school performance.
A study conducted at the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles found that student-athletes who slept eight or more hours per night were 68 percent less likely to experience a sport-related injury.
Without adequate rest, neurons in the brain begin to slow down the rate at which they send messages. The slowdown in the brain affects decision-making skills, reasoning abilities, and reaction times, all of which contribute to injury prevention. The change in reaction times alone could mean the difference between safe participation and injury.
Sleep deprivation also increases recovery times after injuries. Muscle recovery takes place during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. However, teens might not spend enough time in this deep sleep stage without a full night’s rest. That leaves more time for non-threatening injuries to turn into serious injuries.
Sleep also affects the functioning of the immune system. The immune system needs time to distribute antibodies and anti-inflammatory proteins during the night. Without that time, the immune system isn’t as efficient at protecting the body from illness. A depressed immune system takes longer to fight off sicknesses as well.
Inadequate sleep affects academic performance too. A study published in Sleep Medicine reported students who got adequate sleep performed better in math and language skills. They also showed improved planning, concentration, and multitasking skills. Sleep also impacts a child’s ability to regulate their emotions and impulses. Teens who don’t get enough sleep may be more likely to experience discipline problems at school.
Teen runners face more challenges to getting enough sleep than many adults. During adolescence, the body goes through a shift in their sleep-wake cycle called sleep phase delay. During this period, the time at which teens start to feel tired shifts back a couple of hours. Couple that with high schools that have the earliest start times in a school district, and you’ve got teens who are chronically sleep deprived.
For many teens, that means they need to make a concentrated effort to get enough sleep. A consistent bedtime and wake up time can not only assure that your teen spends enough time in bed to get adequate sleep but helps strengthen and support their circadian rhythms. Teens may need a travel pillow so they can catch a quick nap on bus rides or in between activities to counteract the effects of sleep deprivation. Another factor for teens is shutting off screens two to three hours before bed. The bright light from televisions, computers, laptops, and smartphones suppresses the release of sleep hormones, delaying the onset of sleep.
As teens work to develop these healthy sleep habits, they can stay healthy, active, and injury free.
Guest Blog from Tuck Sleep