Senior freestyle swimmer Nilza Costa walks into the Athletics and Events Center at approximately 6 a.m. It’s a Monday morning, and while most students are still listening to the voices in their dreams, Costa is listening to the voice of her coach. Her ears ring from the sound of barbells dropping loudly on the floor.
While most students are still sleeping, some have already worked up a sweat. Student–athletes start their days even before the sun has risen, which can lead to exhaustion both mentally and physically.
Will Rothermel, associate athletic director for compliance, facilities and events, said that almost every team has early morning practices before class is in session at some point during the year. Rothermel said most of the teams that have early practices are not in season and that during the season, they usually have conditioning in the morning. It can be lift, conditioning or a full practice, but either way, they are up with the sun, whether or not they got enough sleep the night before.
Early morning practices are held because many teams need to use the fields and the weight room. Even though there are 10 athletic facilities and a weight room in the Hill Center and the Athletics and Events Center, there are 27 varsity sports and 40 club sports. It is easier to schedule practices in the morning than at night because some athletes take night classes.
It is recommended that younger adults, including ages 18 to 25, get 8 to 9 hours of sleep per night, according to Michael Grandner, assistant professor of psychiatry and psychology and director of the Sleep and Health Research Center at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson.
Most student–athletes get four nights of insufficient sleep per week on average, according to a study done by the American College Health Association.
A study done by the NCAA found that a third of student–athletes get fewer than seven hours of sleep per night. The study also found that due to the times of practices, travel and competition, and balancing athletics with academics, the athletes have a greater chance of developing sleep difficulties.
“Over-scheduling, early practices, late competitions and frequent travel, all make sleep difficult,” Grandner said.
Poor sleep, he said, can have negative effects both physically and mentally.
“Lack of sleep can lead athletes to be more prone to illness and injury,” he said. “It can also lead them to be physically and mentally slowed down and unable to maintain focus. It can even lead to slower recovery and difficulty managing weight.”
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