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.
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.
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.