Many Americans do not get enough sleep. Blame it on their busy lifestyles or anything else, but the fact remains that not sleeping enough can have serious consequences. These include things like increased risk for weight gain and obesity, as well as the diseases that go along with it; decreased immune system performance, and decreased mental and physical performance as well. While these effects can be detrimental to all people, they can be particularly devastating for young hockey athletes, who put many serious demands on their bodies.
In fact, serious athletes need even more sleep than the average person due to the stress they put on their bodies. Unfortunately, though, stress over competition and being “keyed up” after games can contribute to not getting adequate sleep.
The worst thing about all of this is that athletes who do not get enough sleep open themselves up to several serious risks, including:
l Increased risk of sports injuries
l Decreased alertness
l Delayed reaction time
l Poor motor functioning
l Decreased stamina and endurance
The good news, however, is that young athletes can combat these risks by making a concentrated effort, with help from their parents, to get more sleep and more restful sleep. Furthermore, they can also make changes to their diet that could potentially improve their sleep quality.
If you worry that your young athlete is not sleeping enough or not sleeping well, try adding these foods to his diet for a positive difference:
Lean protein might not be your child’s go-to late night snack, but maybe it should be! Research shows that eating protein before bed can lead to improved recovery from strain and physical activity and can also help to increase overall strength and health. Some simple, light protein sources that can be good before bed include cottage cheese and whey protein shakes.
Cherries are a truly delicious fruit, and, in addition to being tasty, they’ve also been shown to help people fall asleep faster and rest more fully. So, adding a serving or two into your athlete’s daily diet definitely isn’t a bad idea.
Nuts are yet another great, healthy snack for sounder sleep. Thanks to their high magnesium content, they ward off insomnia and restless leg syndrome. The magnesium in nuts has also been shown to help with relaxation, which, in turn, can lead to better, sounder sleep.
As you can see, there is a lot you can do, diet-wise, to promote better sleep and, thus, better performance and overall health for the athlete in your life.