Why Student Athletes Should Stop Sacrificing Sleep

Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia

By Norah Hunt, Swimming World College Intern. 

Aww, October. For most swim teams, this month is when endurance is built and huge gains are made in training. The days are long and the doubles are rough, and many times the weekends consist of long bus rides and exhausting dual meets. In addition, October is typically when college classes start to pick up, and midterms and papers are sprinkled into what is already a super busy month.

Most athletes feel that in order to accomplish their academic and athletic goals, they need to sacrifice sleep for studying, in the hopes of learning all the information before the big test at the end of the week. However, not getting enough sleep is possibly the worst way to prepare for a test or presentation. Sleep is glorified yet underrated, and student athletes obviously  need more of it than their non-athletic peers. Here is a list of all the ways sleep helps you become a better athlete and a better student:

Sleep helps the body repair the damage it incurred during the day.

Believe it or not, a body does not completely shut down while a person is asleep. Instead, it is hard at work repairing all the minor wear and tear of the day. The body is broken down substantially during  swim practice, and sleep helps the muscles and joints recharge for the next workout. Similarly, during class the mind is stretched to a limit, and sleep allows the brain to absorb all the information it obtained during the day, and store it in long term memory easier.

Freestyle muscle groups

Photo Courtesy: Bri Groves

Sleep can reduce the chance of injury.

Swimmers are more likely to develop injuries from overuse than the average person. That fact is simply a part of the sport. However,  careless falls or trips are easily preventable, yet can ruin a season. Increasing sleep subsequently increases awareness, which makes trips and tumbles less likely to occur.

Sleeping makes a person more creative.

Stressing about a paper? Just sleep. During sleep, the mind takes old memories and reorganizes them in the brain, which allows a person to wake up seeing a situation in a new light. People are able to approach problems differently and view information from a different perspective after sleep.

Sleep can reduce stress.

At times, stress can feel like an unavoidable part of the student-athlete grind; there is always something to worry about. However, sleep does wonders towards stress prevention. On a purely biological basis, it helps to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. In addition, sleep also helps a person think clearer. Any problem seems more manageable when a person is able to approach it with energy and a steady focus, which sleeps supplies.


Sleep prevents cravings.

This benefit is perhaps the most underappreciated plus to getting enough sleep. Trying to eat healthier, but always have a craving for Oreos? Sleep has been proven to reduce cravings, which makes it so easy to say no to the tray of cookies or tub of ice cream. Healthy eating has a positive effect on athletic performance, so getting enough sleep really has a twofold benefit when it comes to fast swimming.

Blonde lying in bed and hitting alarm clock

Photo Courtesy: Huffington Post

Despite all these benefits, athletes still do not make adequate time for sleep. Many times swimmers search for any sort of leg up in training, any sort of advantage they can have over their competitors. Little do they know, an extra hour of sleep could be the final push needed at the end of the season. Sleep is so incredibly underrated, and it is crucial to make adequate time for it.

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.




  1. Davina Farrell

    It is true that student-athletes need sleep. One day, however, does not provide enough time for at least 2 training sessions per day, classes, work, meals, and sleep. I just barely slept in college while doing all of the above.

    • Luìísa Fernanda

      That’s actually pretty sad. That’s why so many quit or get tired. Human bodies need to rest as well

    • Mike McHenry

      Luìísa Fernanda Triathlon Coach here…we LOVE to scoop up burned out swimmers/runners who’ve been overtrained for years because we bring a sense of balance to their training, focus in developing the athletes, and give them their lives back.

    • avatar

      There’s no doubt that treating high blood pressure above a certain level reduces your risk of all these bad things.Thousands of adults may be needlessly taking tablets for high blood pressure. There is a great method to keep the blood pressure under at control given at http://cure-high-bp.blogspot.com, it really helps a lot.

  2. Pallavi Dixit

    Satyajit Dixit ……for Sangamitra Dixit

  3. Walid Amehri

    I do not sacrifice Sleep nor Eat, I sacrifice social life 😜

    • Carole Machol-Atler

      Absolutely. I had no social life when I swam in college!

    • Walid Amehri

      I only see my friends o family saturday night or sunday, I think it’s enough 😉

  4. Brenda Dayton

    Natasha Cesareo – IS THIS YOU??????

  5. Mike McHenry

    More is not better, Better is better…Better training, better nutrition and better sleep all combine to aid in proper recovery. Ridiculous training volumes in search of the eggs that wont break, is a recipe for burnout and injury.

  6. LaLa Toya

    Looks like my daughter. After training…knocked out in the car. And falls asleep on the table after diner.

  7. Kay Campbell

    Alice Campbell – sleep’s better than form class right?

    • Joe Page

      Tell that to coach when I try miss a session so I can sleep a reasonable amount

  8. Lesley Moncrieff

    Interestingly I’m reading this at 4.30am. Can’t sleep! I’m no athlete though!!
    David, interesting?

  9. Heather Malzahn Roff

    Murron don’t know if you do this or not, but if so, stop! 🖐🏻

  10. Rory Neal

    Everyone always stresses the fact that we all need more sleep, the problem is that between classes , training , work , and homework there is only so many hours available lol

  11. Jamie Dodd

    Fliss get those 💤 in!

    • Fliss Dodd

      Why would I do that it takes more time in my day

  12. Jim Bowser

    I learned to take naps in college. I agree with Walid. At the same time, I felt like Divination in my college days. If you want to play you have to pay with the cost of fatigue.

Author: Norah Hunt

Norah Hunt is a sophomore swimmer at the College of William and Mary, and was a member of the 2017 CAA championship team. She grew up swimming for the Shenandoah Marlins Aquatic Club (SMAC), and competed at the 2015 Open Water Nationals.

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