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How Sleep, or Lack of, Affects Teen Athletes

Performance Problems in Morning Events Tied to Teen Sleep Cycle

Teen Sleep and Teen Athletics continued...

Before puberty, kids who don't get enough sleep get most tired in the afternoon and evening. Teens who don't get enough sleep have a different problem -- one familiar to almost every parent.

Teens who don't get enough sleep "are extremely impaired in the morning." That's because they've had little restorative sleep to buffer the effects of waking just as their internal clocks make them least alert. But later in the day -- despite too little sleep -- teens get a jolt of energy as their internal clocks make them most alert. And, of course, teens try to make up for their sleep deprivation by sleeping late on weekends. This may help in the short term, but it is a disaster in terms of finding a healthy, regular sleep schedule.

All this has a profound effect on athletic performance. Carskadon concludes that:

  • Before puberty, children and young teens function better early in the day than in the afternoon and evening.
  • During and after puberty, teens perform worst in the morning.
  • All kids' performance benefits from routine, adequate sleep on a regular schedule.
  • Teen teams that travel west across time zones have an advantage early in the day.
  • High school or college teams that take long training trips are likely to have schedule problems when they come home. This is especially true for teams on the East Coast that travel west.

Many adults take melatonin supplements to help them adjust to jet lag or as a sleeping aid. Carskadon warns that melatonin may be dangerous for teens as it may delay normal development during puberty.

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