Importance of Sleep in Athlete Development

A good night's rest can make all the difference in developing athletes' success both athletically and academically

As summer break winds down across the country, now is the time to get your children back into their school year sleep routines. The all-to-common “late nights and late mornings” are at an end. Getting the proper amount of sleep is essential for growth, allowing your child’s body to recover and repair from the day's activities. The functions of sleep are particularly important for young, developing athletes, who are practicing daily – a good night's rest can make all the difference in their success both athletically and academically.

How does sleep helps optimize sports performance?
Many people understand how sleep affects the developing brain. But for a high-performing young athlete, getting enough sleep is critical for their developing body. The first four hours of sleep are dominated by physical recovery, where more than 50% of your daily growth hormone is released, allowing the body to repair, recover, and optimize training adaptations such as increased muscle growth, strength, and power. The last four hours of sleep are dominated by the mental recovery phase, which is important in the development of short and long-term memory, processing, and cognitive function. This phase keeps the mind sharp. When striving to reach peak performance, sleep is a critical component – just as critical as hydration, conditioning, nutrition and mental preparation.

Can getting enough sleep help reduce the risk of injury in young athletes?

Yes! Making sure young athletes get enough sleep each day reduces their risk of injury from both a mental clarity and physical recovery perspective. For example, adequate sleep improves reaction time and accuracy, and reduces mental errors. Restful sleep also allows the body to recover fully, repair and regenerate cells after workouts, all of which reduces the risk of injury.

How can getting enough sleep benefit a young athlete's development?
In addition to the mental benefits of adequate sleep, athletes getting enough sleep will also see better physical results from training. Lack of sleep, on the other hand, causes fatigue, leading to impairments in cognitive and motor performance, thus slowing reaction time. Sleep loss impairs judgment, motivation, focus, memory and learning. Without sleep, the brain struggles to consolidate memory and absorb new knowledge.

With all the resources spent on training, equipment and physical recovery, it’s interesting to note one of the best ways to help your child prepare for tomorrow begins tonight – and it’s free.

The U.S. Council for Athletes' Health (USCAH) was founded upon the need for trusted, independent athletic health care partners with the experience and expertise to advise and consult with organizations regarding their healthcare delivery system. This is why USCAH is committed to providing independent and unbiased medical expertise to organizations and individuals dedicated to the optimal health and safety for the athletes they serve. You can find out more about USCAH at or by reaching out to [email protected]