Don’t bother waking up to read this blog if you are sleeping peacefully.
When parents ask what they may do to help their child improve performance, they are usually looking for technical tips or fitness secrets.
I usually surprise them with one word: “Sleep.”
Not a very stimulating response as wisdom should be more esoteric, I suppose. Perhaps I should design a complex performance matrix that no parent will ever read and no youngster could possibly understand. However, the reality is that sleeping your way to success is so simple and yet so hard to achieve. It is amazing how many gurus of sport and philosophy set us on a clear path of simple virtues. Even perhaps more amazing is the number of times we ignore that sage advice.
You need to sleep.
Your child needs to sleep more.
That’s the simple wisdom you need.
The little athlete in your bedroom between six and thirteen years of age should be sleeping between 9-11 hours per night.
That crazy teenager that you love so dearly despite the exasperation that puberty affords will need between 8-10 hours.
Oh, and you, the caregiving Mom or Dad will need about 8-9 hours on average, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
Take note that this offer does not come with TV in the bedroom, twitter alerts, or midnight snacks. A cool, electronic free, dark sanctuary will restore us fully. Anything less is robbing your children of peak performance and condemning them to an unhealthy tomorrow.
A colleague of ours, Brain Johnson, reminded me today of an interesting fact. Before Edison’s invention of the light bulb, we would sleep on average 10 hours per night. Our great-great grandparents just needed to make sure they blew out the candle before drifting off into a deep slumber. Aahhh, I can see a quilt in this image and it is comforting just thinking about it. A cozy patchwork preferred.
As we progressed in many ways during the 20th century we certainly regressed in one. We now sleep on average 6.7 hours per night. Yes, we have diminished ourselves to stressed out underachievers one night to the next. Our general health continues to plummet as a result.
To further complicate matters, stimulants like coffee and energy drinks, alarm clocks, and external lights—including those from electronic devices—interferes with our “circadian rhythm” or natural sleep/wake cycle.” – National Sleep Foundation
If you want your child to learn, let them sleep. "If you are trying to learn something, whether it’s physical or mental, you learn it to a certain point with practice," says Dr. Rapoport, "But something happens while you sleep that makes you learn it better."
If you want your child to maximize their performance in sport, let them sleep. “A Stanford University study found that college football players who tried to sleep at least 10 hours a night for seven to eight weeks improved their average sprint time and had less daytime fatigue and more stamina,” details Health.com.
There is a reason why many elite teams are now tracking sleep behaviors and bringing in specialists to set the proper sleep conditions for their top athletes. But you do not need a consultant at home. An ounce of discipline will do.
When you are unsure as to what might be best for your child and their total development, sleep on it.
And better yet, let your children sleep on it as they snooze their way to success.
Five Performance Benefits of Sleep (by Fatiguescience)
- Improved Reaction Times
- Reduced Injury Rates
- Longer Playing Careers
- Better Accuracy, Faster Sprint Times
- Fewer Mental Errors
Follow Todd Beane on Twitter: @_ToddBeane