Sleep Helps us Play Hard and Feel More Energetic
J. Roxanne Prichard, PhD
Do you ever get the low-energy blahs? You know, when you don’t feel very motivated to try new things, to be creative, or to play? Or maybe you feel fidgety and find it hard to concentrate. Both feelings are symptoms of not getting enough good quality sleep. Simply put, it’s exhausting not getting the sleep you need. It’s like trying to go through your day while dragging a concrete block behind you. You can go through the motions of the day, but the block slows you down and makes everything take more effort.
When I talk to high school and college athletes about their sleep, often they’ll say “There’s not enough time in the day to sleep! I have too much to do!” But sleep actually helps you get things done better and faster, so you have more time for yourself. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Let’s hear from an Olympic champion.
Jessie Diggins is a gold-medal winning cross-country skier from Afton, MN. She loves to sleep. She carries her favorite pillow with her wherever she travels. She sleeps about 9 hours a night and naps too! Why? Because she knows: “You can only train as hard as you recover.” In fact, of all the advice she would give to her teenage self, sleep is the most important. “Honestly, if I could go back and tell my 15-year-old self one thing to make me a better athlete, it’d be this: Sleep more. Everything else can wait, because you’ll do a better job if you’re rested.”
Getting the sleep you need (at least 8 hours for high schoolers, 10 hours for school-age kids, 11 hours for pre-schoolers) allows your brain and other parts of your body a chance to recover from the efforts of the day. It also fuels you for another full day of activity. Sleep is what gives you the energy, both physical and mental, to be present and enjoy your waking day. Even though getting the sleep we need might mean putting away the electronics and going to bed a bit earlier, the energy boost we get from it makes all the difference.
To hear more about Olympian Jessie Diggins training and sleep, read:
For more information about sleep and energy levels, read:
J. Roxanne Prichard, PhD (University of Wisconsin-Madison, Neuroscience, 2004) is a Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of St. Thomas. An award-winning researcher, speaker, and author, Dr. Prichard has spent the last thirteen years studying how college students sleep. She has designed popular courses on sleep and dreaming, led workshops for college health professionals on sleep, has published multiple peer-reviewed articles on sleep, and has presented numerous papers at national and international professional meetings. Her TEDx talk “Addressing our Children’s Sleep Debt” was featured in the lecture series: Transforming Education. Her research has been summarized in a variety of national media outlets including TIME, US News and World Report, PBS News Hour, Huffington Post, ABC News, and USA Today, among others.