As a 16-year-old, sport was my life.
I was running track at the national level, playing football for my school’s first XI and region, and training a lot.
While I had plenty going on, one thing I clearly remember was how much I loved to sleep.
It was something I’d staunchly protect.
Not that anyone was enforcing it (bedtime was largely my decision), but to get the most from my sporting experiences, I needed sleep.
I know now that what I did intuitively, is backed up by science.
Sleep is crucial for development.
It’s when all your hard work in training it capitalised on.
It’s the time when your brain lays down new memories – something that learning depends on.
It’s also the time when your body and mind actually adapt.
You can practice your skills as much or go as hard as you want during the day, but your efforts are limited when you lack sleep.
Here’s the thing.
When I was growing up, my environment was set up for sleep.
There were no early morning training, no late-night competition games, no internet, and definitely no social media on a device that lived in my pocket.
Now, 85% of teenagers get an average of 6 and a half hours of sleep a night.
They need 9.
Environments we live in have changed.
Schedules start before the sun gets up and don’t wrap up until well after dark.
Technology is everywhere, hyping our brains up with a constant stream of dopamine secretion.
Despite its importance, we neglect sleep.
And so the question is, what is being left on the table?
How much potential is being left untapped?
Research shows that sleep significantly increases feelings of wellbeing in adolescent athletes, especially during times of high stress.
And we know when you feel good, everything changes.
Research also shows that we need to carefully consider an athlete’s recovery, not just their training stress
Because with a focus on proper recovery, performance goes up.
Sleep is everything.