As a child I always resented my 8:00pm bedtime. It wasn’t fair, I thought, that I had to go to bed earlier than any of my friends, who consistently stayed up until 9:00 or 10:00. To make matters worse, it was downright embarrassing to tell my friends that I didn’t see any of the football game the night before because it started after my bedtime. This is why, at the start of 7th grade, I decided that enough was enough and I convinced my parents to let me stay up later. Still, I continued to hear from them all of the clichés about the importance of rest, but, being the rebellious middle school student that I was, I chose to ignore them.
This rebellious phase continued through the start of my high school career, but it came at a heavy price. During my freshman fall, the Red Sox made a late season run and surged to a World Series championship, and I felt obligated to stay awake until the end of each play-off game. Considering that the Red Sox tend to have a flare for the dramatic, this meant staying up close to midnight several times a week. When I awoke at 6:00am the first game, I was already at least 3 hours behind on sleep. By the end of the play-offs, I was probably close to 35 hours in sleep-debt.
Still, it was not until I ran the mile in gym a few days later that I realized what I was doing to myself. After the race (because of my competitiveness I considered it one) I became very delirious and unable to concentrate. About an hour later a migraine came; my head was screaming at me to let it rest. A trip to the nurse ensued, and after asking a series of questions she determined the cause of my ailment to be chronic fatigue. At that point, I realized my mom was right all along, and that I was underestimating the importance of sleep.
At the start of this course I revisited the idea of the importance of sleep. I did a bit of research, and stumbled upon a study conducted by Stanford University about the effects of sleep on collegiate athletes. The results were astonishing: well-rested test subjects were found to swim a 15 meter race 0.51 seconds faster than their sleep deprived counterparts. Further, because the well-rested subjects got off the blocks an average of 0.15 seconds faster, they may have won the race as soon as it started. These results are not exclusive to swimming either. If one considers the effects that sleep has on reaction time, it becomes obvious that it plays a role in all sports.
Here are some interesting links:
Sometimes the best way to improve performance is simple to rest. Eight to nine hours a night can really make a huge difference.