We all need it. Some more than others and if you are a young athlete it may easily be a very important ingredient in your recipe for success.
“Sleep can provide some aspects of the recovery process that would be important to aspiring athletes,” said clinical research coordinator Brent Alexander who works out of the Centre for Sleep and Human Performance in Calgary.
The Alberta Sport Development Centre is bringing Alexander to Red Deer March 19th to present a seminar on the subject of sleep which may include the science of sleep, what fatigue is and why an athlete should even care about sleep and how it’s connected to an athlete’s training regimen, he said.
Alexander is also the co-author of a new psychometric sleep screening questionnaire for athletes which is still in the process of being finalized.
“Traditionally it’s been the training regime that’s been seen as the primary mode of achieving better performance but sleep provides the physical and cognitive recovery that is essential to being able to push to that next level,” said Alexander who has worked with members of the Calgary Flames and some of our Olympic athletes in the past.
He says sleep is very important for those young athletes who are in their early teens and just into their 20s because they are still developing.
One of the common experiences for this age group is the increasing amount of what he terms ‘sleep debt’ and Alexander says they work with these young adults to reduce that debt and then get them educated to have good sleep hygiene and sleep habits.
Alexander said while most of us get by on six or seven hours of sleep these athletes could benefit greatly from eight, nine or even 10 hours of sleep due to the demands being placed on their bodies but it does vary from individual to individual.
Other factors which can contribute to the sleep debt issue are that student athletes go to class all day, then have to get to practice, do some study work and maybe even head to part-time jobs.
“That is an aspect of our society which is making things a little harder for them to get the sleep that they need and to perform as efficiently as they could,” he said.
“It’s one of those paradoxes that tend to happen.”
Alexander said the problem each athlete may be experiencing when it comes to sleep differs from person to person but one of the first steps taken is always to stress a change in behaviour to start with.
“That seems to be one of the most crucial factors to addressing sleep problems in the athlete population which is specialized but also within the general population.”
Alexander admits he’d be fooling himself if more than half the people in attendance at his seminar buy into his message about the importance of sleep but he hopes some of it sinks in.
It is an easy thing to do, get more sleep, but it takes some character to change your patterns as you grow older so it might be easier to make a start on the changes for those who are younger, he said.
“It has been shown by doing absolutely nothing but just getting an extra hour or two of sleep you can increase performance metrics significantly.”
Brent Alexander will be hosting the free sleep seminar March 19th at Notre Dame High School from 7 to 8:30 p.m.
Those interested in attending can register with the ASDC before March 15th.