How Many Hours of Sleep Do Teens Need?

Teen athletes often get insufficient sleep, despite its well-established risks to health and performance. Read on to find how much sleep teen athletes need and what they can do to sleep better. 

Highlights

  • Teens between 13 and 18 should get 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night, recommends the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM).1American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Sleep is key to help teens recharge for success this school year. Accessed 25 August 2021.
  • Getting enough sleep is crucial to recovery, academic performance, injury/disease prevention, and psychological well-being.  
  • Student athletes sleep 2 hours/night less than their non-athlete counterparts, reports a 2015 study.2Fullagar, Hugh H K et al. “Sleep and athletic performance: the effects of sleep loss on exercise performance, and physiological and cognitive responses to exercise.” Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.) vol. 45,2 (2015): 161-86. doi:10.1007/s40279-014-0260-0.
  • Sleep deprivation can make young athletes prone to acute illness, traumatic sports injuries, and chronic diseases.3Copenhaver, Elizabeth A, and Alex B Diamond. “The Value of Sleep on Athletic Performance, Injury, and Recovery in the Young Athlete.” Pediatric annals vol. 46,3 (2017): e106-e111. doi:10.3928/19382359-20170221-01.
  • Individualized support can help ensure teen athletes consistently get the required amount of sleep. 
  • In general, teen athletes should aim for 8 to 12 hours of sleep a day. Besides, they should work their way to improve sleep quality. 

 

Did you know top performers like Usain Bolt, Roger Federer, LeBron James, and Venus Williams sleep 10 to 12 hours each day?4ESPN. Sleep tracking brings new info to athletes. Accessed 25 August 2021.

Besides training, the other three contributors to peak performance are sleep, rest, and nutrition. Unfortunately, while rest and nutrition are prioritized, sleep is often sacrificed to meet the demands of busy lives. 

The same is true for teen athletes who have to balance their sports and academic activities. Moreover, the pressure to perform at their best further worsens their sleep cycles, possibly leading to insomnia. Insomnia is a sleep disorder that makes you unable to fall or stay asleep. 

For example, more than 1 in 2 American collegiate athletes report getting insufficient sleep regularly, with sleep disturbances more common the night before a competition.5Reardon, Claudia L et al. “Infographic. Sleep disorders in athletes.” British journal of sports medicine vol. 54,3 (2020): 188-189. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2019-101107.

4 Ways Sleep Improves Athletic Performance, According to Science

Sleep is a fundamental requirement for most (if not all) living organisms. Though scientists are yet to discover all its functions, they unequivocally agree that sleep is essential for:

  • Growth and development
  • Energy conservation
  • Brain waste clearance
  • Regulation of immune responses
  • Learning, memory, judgment, and decision-making
  • Psychological well-being

Below we discuss the 4 science-backed ways sleep aids teen athletes’ performance. 

1. Sleep improves athletic performance, reaction time, and mood 

American researchers investigated the effects of sleep extension on collegiate basketball players aged 19 years on average.6Mah, Cheri D et al. “The effects of sleep extension on the athletic performance of collegiate basketball players.” Sleep vol. 34,7 943-50. 1 Jul. 2011, doi:10.5665/SLEEP.1132.

They found that increasing their daily sleep time to 10 hours each night for 6 weeks resulted in increased shooting accuracy, faster reaction time, increased vigor, and decreased fatigue. A 2021 study – which found elite athletes need about 8 hours of sleep each night to feel rested – supports these findings.7Sargent, Charli et al. “How Much Sleep Does an Elite Athlete Need?.” International journal of sports physiology and performance, 1-12. 21 May. 2021, doi:10.1123/ijspp.2020-0896.

2. It helps reduce injury risk

Sports injuries affect 3.5 million children and teens each year in the U.S.8Stanford Children’s Health. Sports Injury Statistics. Accessed 25 August 2021.  Most notably, sports and recreational activities contribute to over 1 in 5 cases of all childhood traumatic brain injuriesYoung athletes who sleep six or fewer hours each night are more likely to sustain fatigue-related injuries.9Luke, Anthony et al. “Sports-related injuries in youth athletes: is overscheduling a risk factor?.” Clinical journal of sport medicine : official journal of the Canadian Academy of Sport Medicine vol. 21,4 (2011): 307-14. doi:10.1097/JSM.0b013e3182218f71.

Looking for a natural way to prevent injuries? Perhaps, you should sleep more. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP),10American Academy of Pediatrics. “Lack of sleep tied to teen sports injuries.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 October 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121021102814.htm>.Adolescent athletes could slash injury risk by more than half by getting at least 8 hours of sleep each night.” 

The researcher found that longer sleep hours significantly reduced injury risk, while higher grades in school led to an increased risk.  

3. It can help you learn new sports skills

Learning new skills is crucial to athletic performance, and sleep is essential to consolidating memories. As teen athletes have to balance sports and academic activities, a sharp memory is vital to their success in both departments.

Adolescent athletes can learn new sport-related tasks more rapidly after their usual sleep hours than after a period of insufficient sleep.11Watson, Andrew M. MD, MS Sleep and Athletic Performance, Current Sports Medicine Reports: 11/12 2017 – Volume 16 – Issue 6 – p 413-418 doi: 10.1249/JSR.0000000000000418.  Contrarily, even a single night of poor sleep can significantly impair an athlete’s decision-making during a competition. 

4. It may help you win a tournament

There is no recipe for victory. That said, several factors – genetics, training, discipline, and nutrition – contribute to your chances of winning. In the quest for success, many athletes, especially teens, underestimate the power of quality sleep.

Australian researchers investigated the relationship between sleep duration and competitive success among netball athletes aged 19 years on average.12Juliff, Laura E et al. “Longer Sleep Durations Are Positively Associated With Finishing Place During a National Multiday Netball Competition.” Journal of strength and conditioning research vol. 32,1 (2018): 189-194. doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000001793. They determined that members of the top two teams slept longer and spent more time in bed than those in the bottom two teams. 

Most notably, the top team members slept at least one hour longer (8 hours vs. 7 hours) than the bottom team members during the competition. 

Top 5 Ways to Sleep Like A Pro Athlete

You have now probably known how many hours of sleep you need daily. If you struggle with falling or staying asleep regularly, consider the following expert-recommended tips.13Tarokh, Leila et al. “Sleep in adolescence: Physiology, cognition and mental health.” Neuroscience and biobehavioral reviews vol. 70 (2016): 182-188. doi:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2016.08.008. 

1. Say “Yes” to bright light in the morning 

Bright light exposure before bedtime can suppress melatonin- a hormone that controls the sleep-wake cycle. As a result, you will be more likely to fall asleep late in the night.  

But getting bright light immediately after you wake up helps push your sleep-wake cycle to an earlier time, allowing you to slumber earlier. 

2. Say “NO” to caffeine and napping after 4

Caffeine is a CNS stimulant that increases your brain activity. Many teens consume caffeine to enhance their performance, which is not a problem. But caffeine use later in the day can interfere with sleep and impair performance the next day. How Many Hours of Sleep Do Teens Need

Short naps are not a problem. But long and frequent naps can make your symptoms worse. Thus, avoid napping for longer than 20 minutes. Moreover, longer naps may cause problems if you already have some sleep issues.  

3. Avoid ‘arousing’ activities in the evening

Certain activities that stimulate your brain activity can interfere with sleep, especially when you do them before bedtime or later in the day. Examples include watching television, playing mobile games, and intense physical activity. 

Instead, give yourself about 30 minutes before bedtime to wind down and relax. Consider reading a book or engaging in light activities, such as walking, stretching, or breathing exercises. 

4. Keep your sleep environment clean

Avoid anything that distracts you from falling asleep. It could be your cell phone, bright light, noise, or uncomfortable room temperature. The ideal bedroom temperature for sleep is 60 to 70 F. 

5. Make a sleep schedule and stick to it

Most people tend to have different sleep schedules on weekdays and weekends. However, it is not a good practice. Doing so can make your internal clock go haywire, resulting in sleep loss or deprivation. Thus, it is best to keep your sleep schedule constant regardless of the day. 

References

  1. American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Sleep is key to help teens recharge for success this school year. Accessed 25 August 2021.
  2. Fullagar, Hugh H K et al. “Sleep and athletic performance: the effects of sleep loss on exercise performance, and physiological and cognitive responses to exercise.” Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.) vol. 45,2 (2015): 161-86. doi:10.1007/s40279-014-0260-0.
  3. Copenhaver, Elizabeth A, and Alex B Diamond. “The Value of Sleep on Athletic Performance, Injury, and Recovery in the Young Athlete.” Pediatric annals vol. 46,3 (2017): e106-e111. doi:10.3928/19382359-20170221-01.
  4. ESPN. Sleep tracking brings new info to athletes. Accessed 25 August 2021.
  5. Reardon, Claudia L et al. “Infographic. Sleep disorders in athletes.” British journal of sports medicine vol. 54,3 (2020): 188-189. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2019-101107.
  6. Mah, Cheri D et al. “The effects of sleep extension on the athletic performance of collegiate basketball players.” Sleep vol. 34,7 943-50. 1 Jul. 2011, doi:10.5665/SLEEP.1132.
  7. Sargent, Charli et al. “How Much Sleep Does an Elite Athlete Need?.” International journal of sports physiology and performance, 1-12. 21 May. 2021, doi:10.1123/ijspp.2020-0896.
  8. Stanford Children’s Health. Sports Injury Statistics. Accessed 25 August 2021.
  9. Luke, Anthony et al. “Sports-related injuries in youth athletes: is overscheduling a risk factor?.” Clinical journal of sport medicine : official journal of the Canadian Academy of Sport Medicine vol. 21,4 (2011): 307-14. doi:10.1097/JSM.0b013e3182218f71.
  10. American Academy of Pediatrics. “Lack of sleep tied to teen sports injuries.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 October 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121021102814.htm>.
  11. Watson, Andrew M. MD, MS Sleep and Athletic Performance, Current Sports Medicine Reports: 11/12 2017 – Volume 16 – Issue 6 – p 413-418 doi: 10.1249/JSR.0000000000000418.
  12. Juliff, Laura E et al. “Longer Sleep Durations Are Positively Associated With Finishing Place During a National Multiday Netball Competition.” Journal of strength and conditioning research vol. 32,1 (2018): 189-194. doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000001793.
  13. Tarokh, Leila et al. “Sleep in adolescence: Physiology, cognition and mental health.” Neuroscience and biobehavioral reviews vol. 70 (2016): 182-188. doi:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2016.08.008. 
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