Why sleep needs to be a serious part of your recruiting routine

USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the college recruiting process. Here, you’ll find practical tips and real-world advice on becoming a better recruit to maximize your opportunities to play at the college level. Jason Smith is a former NCAA DIII athlete and college coach at all three division levels. Jason is just one of many former college and professional players, college coaches, and parents who are part of the Next College Student Athlete team. Their knowledge, experience, and dedication along with NCSA’s history of digital innovation, and long-standing relationship with the college coaching community have made NCSA the largest and most successful athletic recruiting network in the country.

Student-athletes always seem willing to go the extra mile except when going the extra mile means going to bed. Sleep is arguably one of the easiest things to do but the hardest to get. Why? The life of a student-athlete almost by definition is a jam-packed affair. The days often stretch into the night with sleep almost always getting the short end of the stick. Partly to blame, student-athlete’s perception that sleep is a sign of weakness, or there’s a certain lack of dedication if you’re not routinely putting in 14-hour days. Our 24/7/365 media devices (smartphones) can also rob us of much needed rest. And, establishing a routine and sticking to it is a challenge for not only student-athletes but many sleep-deprived adults.

There are very real reasons why sleep needs to be part every student-athlete’s recruiting routine. Study after study has shown the positive impact a little more shut-eye can have on one’s mind, body, grades, athletic performance and surprisingly, even injury prevention.

Sleep to Play Another Day

A 2014 study of adolescent athletes by the National Institute of Health showed that athletes who slept on average less than 8 hours a night were 1.7 times more likely to have had an injury compared to athletes who slept 8 hours or more. While sleep is no guarantee you’ll go injury-free, it can certainly help better your odds. Another study of major league baseball players showed a direct relationship between sleep and career longevity. Simply put, the more sleep the player got, the more years he could count on playing in the big leagues.

More Sleep, More Game

Imagine you’re in a close basketball game with just a second or two left on the clock.Your team is behind by a bucket.Then, the in-bound pass comes to you as you stand surprisingly open at the three-point line. What you wouldn’t give right now to increase your chances of making that shot. All that it would take is some more sleep. A study of collegiate basketball players showed that by extending their sleep time they not only significantly improved speed but also the accuracy of their free throws and three-point field goals.

Recruiting is About Performance. Make Sleep Your Secret Weapon.

For student-athletes looking to play and compete at the college level, performance is the name of the game. And virtually all the key measures from athletic performance, GPA, test scores, mental toughness, even being sharp and attentive at school visits (rather than yawning or dozing during a tour) can a be improved not with more work but with more sleep.

Fatigue is the Factor You Can Fix

Better sleep habits are not only a challenge for student-athletes but for a lot of time-crunched adults. However, student-athletes can leverage their discipline and drive to create a sleep routine that adds more power to their performance. Here are a few quick tips to help you get more of the sleep you need.

Make Sleep Mandatory Not Optional

Set a schedule and stick to it. You wouldn’t make excuses for missing leg day, don’t make excuses for missing sleeping at night. The American Association of Sleep Medicine recommends 8-10 hours of sleep per night for teens. That should be your goal. Need more motivation? A group Stanford Cardinals football players who added two more hours of sleep to their training regimen soon discovered they were sprinting faster and reacting quicker in game situations.

Make Your Bedroom Technology-Free

According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleeping with your devices can have some scary effects on your sleep including reducing melatonin, keeping your brain alert, and just plain waking you up in the middle of the night. The foundation recommends powering down and staying gadget-free for 30 minutes prior to going to bed. The bonus to keeping your phone out of your room is you now have a built-in incentive to get up and out of bed in the morning.

Make It Cool It If You Can

Your body wants to cool down at night to push itself toward sleep. The temperature of your room can help that along if you can keep it within the 60-67-degree range. Any warmer or any cooler could lead to some restless sleep.

Make Your Bed and Clean Your Room

Not only will you score points with your mom and dad but you will also get more rest.

A National Sleep Foundation survey showed 62 percent of respondents said they slept better in a clean room and that 19 percent got a better night’s rest when they routinely made their bed in the morning.

Make it Out of Bed on the First Alarm

Those extra five minutes of snooze you keep tapping out could actually be setting you up for a groggy, draggy day. Those fragmented bits of less than stellar sleep can interfere with your natural sleep cycle and leave you feeling tired all day.

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