The Health Benefits of Sleep
Far too little importance is given to sleep in youth players development and as a result the overall performance cannot be maximised. Even one less hour of sleep reduces the capacity to perform at a highest level and increases the risk of injury by a high percentage. None only that, the lack of sleep leaves a negative impact on the health of an individual which can affect persons ability to focus, decrease motivation and even leave an impact on immunity and optimal functioning of the body.
One of the world`s most renowened sleep experts and author of the bestselling book “Why We Sleep” Matthew Walker said the following: “We have not been able to find one single system of the body that is not affected by sleep, either positively when we get it or negatively when we don’t”.
As it can be seen in the above graphic, the correlation between less sleep and higher risk of injury is undeniable. In fact, sleep hours are higher predictor of injury than the hours of training and affects the performance on the pitch in the following ways:
- Reduced reaction time
- Reduced precision of passing and shooting
- Reduced sprinting speed
- Worse decision making
How Much Should I Sleep?
National Sleep Foundation guidelines advise that healthy adults need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep. The average number is higher for teens and adolescents to whom its recommended to get between 9 to 10 hours of sleep per night. Naturally, each persons need for sleep should be considered individually depending on overall health, daily activities and sleep patterns. In order to achieve the best results it is important to be self-aware and the following questions can help to better assess this:
- Are I productive, healthy, and happy on seven hours of sleep? Or have I noticed that I require more hours of sleep to get into high gear?
- Does my performance in training sessions decline when I haven`t gone to bed early or have struggled with my sleep?
- Can I wake up naturally without the alarm or am I cutting my sleep short with it?
Tale of Two Goalkeepers
Player A, a youth football goalkeeper, averages close to nine hours of quality sleep each night, with good consistency and quality. At the start of an evening game, his effectiveness score is 98. His decision-making, in-play responsiveness, strength and speed, and physiological sharpness are at their peak.
Player B, also a youth keeper, averages seven hours of sleep at best with commonly disrupted or interrupted periods. The night before the game, he slept for less than six hours. His pattern of inadequate and low-quality rest and the cognitive fatigue that results slows his reaction time at game time by 20%.
Who would you put in the goal?