Improving Sleep and Recovery in High School Athletes

Improving Sleep and Recovery in High School Athletes



These days, high school athletes are constantly finding themselves “in-season.” This could be the combination of school and club seasons for one sport athletes, the year-round rotating seasons of multiple sport athletes, or even rotating school sports alongside club seasons. So what strategies can we utilize to minimize burn-out, prevent injuries, and keep athletes at peak performance year-round? In addition to a proper strength and conditioning base, we can implement proper soft tissue care, nutrition, and proper rest.

Motivating high school athletes to be compliant with regular Myofascial release can be difficult (to say the least). And while we would like our high school athletes to be responsible for their own nutrition, it often falls on family routines and habits. So what can we most universally hold our athletes to? Sleep.

The most common response I get from athletes when asking how they’re feeling is: “I’m tired” — understandable! Young adults physiologically need more sleep. Waking up early for school combined with late practices (or often early morning practices for those in-water sports) and heaps of homework that are all too often left for the last minute… It makes it hard to get the full-recommended 7-9 hours.

So let’s focus on quality of sleep instead. If they can only get 7 hours, let’s make sure they get a good quality 7 hours. There are multiple proven strategies to increase quality of sleep without major sacrifice. The hardest strategy for high school athletes? Putting down their phones before bed. A 2009 study by the Surrey Sleep Research Centre confirmed that the blue light emitted by electronics such as phones, televisions, and computers decreases the feeling of sleepiness and improves cognitive performance. That’s all great, unless you want to go to sleep. Through inhibition of the production of a retinal protein, exposure to blue light before bed decreases sleep duration as well as quality of sleep.

If reducing blue light exposure seems out of reach to the athlete (and often, sadly, it may), there are other strategies. As the body prepares for and enters sleep, internal body temperature drops. To prevent interference with this natural change, it is best to keep the room cool (somewhere around 65 F).

Lastly, and perhaps the most intuitive strategy: complete darkness. Again with the light – the darker the room is, the less possibility there is for interference with optimal sleep patterns.

So let’s let our athletes not only sleep, but also sleep well. And who knows, you might sleep better too!

aliAli Barbeau – Prevail Trainer

Bachelor of Science – Biopsychology (UCSB)

Certified Personal Trainer (National Academy of Sports Medicine)

Ali grew up in Salinas, CA, where she developed a passion for volleyball at a young age. She competed year-round through middle and high school, and then signed on to play four years at UC Santa Barbara. In 2012, she started at UCSB and earned First Team All-Conference accolade, as well as serving as team captain for two years. After her athletic career came to a close, she turned to fitness and personal training as a way to stay active and healthy. She loves to help people improve and excel in their own heath journey and hopes to instill her passion for fitness and sports performance in others.


Should You Run?


Current trends in Fitness and Health (e.g. CVD risk factors, increases in BMI, Blood Pressure, Diabetes, Orthopedic injury in knees and backs, etc.) are not exactly following an upward trajectory, though some of them are beginning to taper off. Perhaps this is a turn towards the positive?

Present methods to combat these negative trends are, in my opinion, generally erroneous and may lead to poor outcomes, such as the following:
• Doing Long Slow Distance Cardio as the main source of Energy System Development.
• Jumping on the Gluten Free (or Dairy Free, or Vegan, or Juicing) bandwagon.
• Going all in on High Intensity, Orthopedically Risky Training protocols as the Gold Standard (i.e. Tabatas, Crossfit, Bootcamps).
• Taking on the P90X “Muscle Confusion” and “Do a Different Workout Everyday” Mantras as your own.
• Doing Nothing.

While none of these are inherently negative, we often have the wonderful response to these ‘new’ trends to embrace the novel and jump in without thought. Taking on the mantra of “more is better” as one’s own without proper evaluation on whether or not the chosen method is the right one results in improper care and recovery.

Case in point: Not everyone needs Steady State Cardio training (as was heavily promoted in the 1970’s). It’s not necessary for everyone nor even advisable for many. It is important to choose a training method that fits you and works for you.

The Journal of the American College of Cardiology’s explored the idea of dosage as related to health benefit in the study “Leisure-Time Running Reduces All-Cause and Cardiovascular Mortality Risk.” Specifically, it looked at the associations of running with all-cause and cardiovascular mortality risks in 55,137 adults, 18 to 100 years of age (mean age 44 years)” to explore the “long-term effects of running on mortality.”

The conclusion?

…5-10 minutes a day is great and will improve most health measures.

For those wondering, “Is more actually better?” take a look at the study by the American College of Cardiology, titled “1197-358 / 358 – Are Cardiovascular Risk Factors Responsible for the U-Shaped Relationship between Running and Longevity? The MASTERS Athletic Study”.

The synopsis of the study is this: those who ran more than 20 miles/week actually decreased life longevity compared to those who ran less that 20 miles.

Ask yourself:

“What is my goal? Why do I train? How much do I actually need? What is the minimum effective dose?”

Assess your needs, research your options, and make an educated decision.

Prevail Conditioning