By: Steve Hargis
Take a look at the US Junior Rowing page. It is an excellent resource for those who are looking at being competitive junior rowers or coaches.
The article below is an important oversite by many athletes and coaches who tend to take this for granted. This can be a cause of Unexplained Under Performance Syndrome or over-reaching.
Why is sleep important?
Several studies have shown that individuals who engage in regular bouts of physical activity have an increased need for total sleep time and for slow-wave (Stage 3 & 4) sleep. Repair and growth are maximized during these stages since non-growth-related metabolic activity is reduced while the pituitary releases growth hormones.
What happens if you don’t get enough sleep?
Individuals deprived of 30 hours of sleep show an 11% reduction in cardiovascular function, and those deprived of 50 hours of sleep show a 20% reduction. Unfortunately, sleep deprivation is likely cumulative, so if an athlete needing 8 hours of sleep per night gets only 6 hours, she will see a significant degradation in performance after only 15 days. Sleep deprivation also results in a 20% reduction in the detection/reaction response, and an even greater reduction in cognitive tasks involving learning, memory, logical reasoning and decision-making. Finally, sleep deprivation has been associated with increased levels of depression, stress, anxiety, worry and frustration.
How much sleep do you need?
To determine how much sleep an athlete needs, ideally she would spend a week or two going to bed at a consistent time, waking up naturally without the use of an alarm, and recording how long she slept each night until she reaches a consistent number of hours. Since this test is difficult to complete in practice (especially while in college!), answering “yes” to two or more questions on the following sleep quiz indicates a need for more sleep than you are currently getting:
• Do you frequently fall asleep if given a sleep opportunity (eg. in class, in movies, other quiet, dark environments)
• Do you usually need an alarm clock to wake you?
• Do you tend to “catch up” on sleep on the weekends?
• Once awake do you feel tired most mornings?
• Do you frequently take naps during the day?
How can you increase the quality of your sleep?
Keeping a regular sleep schedule is the most important means of improving sleep quality. Inconsistent sleep patterns cause disruptions to one’s internal clock, and increases the amount of time it takes to fall asleep. Once a regular bedtime has been established, adjustments to earlier or later should be limited to 30 minutes per night. Similarly, athletes should wake up within an hour of their normal wake-up time, even on weekends.
Creating a high-quality sleep environment that is quiet, dark, cool and comfortable is also important. Student athletes might establish a quiet policy in their suite after a certain hour, post a “Do Not Disturb Sign” on their door, or use ear plugs or a fan to mask noise. Turning electronic devices such as clocks and computers away from the bed, using window blinds, and stuffing towels under the door to block hallway light may help create a darker environment. Opening a window or using a fan can help to cool a room, while additional blankets can help if a room is too cold.