For high school students, sleep is often sacrificed in favor of homework, college applications, friends, and extracurriculars. Despite a generally callous attitude towards sleep, it is foundational to mental and physical well-being.
Student-athletes are especially vulnerable to losing sleep. Long practices and late-night games force these students into unhealthy sleeping habits. Berkeley High School junior and Long Beach State volleyball commit Preslie Yates explained that “A good night’s rest makes me more aware of my surroundings and faster to react,” skills essential for success on the court. Despite this, “coaches are not active in helping players prioritize sleep; my club team will hold practices until 10 o’clock at night during finals week,” Yates relayed.
Interviews with 10 BHS student-athletes across a variety of sports showed an average of 7 hours of sleep per night, from a range of 3.5 to 8 hours. Children’s Hospital recommends that teenagers get 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night to maximize overall health. For adolescent student-athletes, the 9 to 10 hours are recommended.
When teams hold practices in the late evenings, the issue of sleep deprivation is exacerbated. BHS senior varsity soccer and volleyball player Amelie Haji raised the point that “Practices from 6 pm to 8 pm don’t leave enough time for work to be done in between school and practice, so I have to do all my homework when I get home at like 9.”
Beyond the mental and physical tax on athletes, it is in the best interest of athletics programs to be involved in ensuring that players are able to have adequate rest, because their own success is dependent on it. Board-certified psychiatrist Dr. Lex Denysenko, MD, asserted, “Poor sleep habits have been shown to increase exhaustion and injury in athletes, in addition to causing cognitive consequences resulting in poor reaction time and accuracy.” Sleep has too heavy an influence on health and well-being to continue to be ignored by coaches.