Sports vs. sleep

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High school students are very busy. Obligations must be fulfilled and many extracurricular activities must be attended to not only have an enjoyable high school experience, but also to have a reasonable chance of admission to a post high school program of the student’s choice.

Unfortunately, high school sports increasingly encroach on students’ social engagements, schoolwork, and–most importantly–sleep. Students who wish to stay involved at school frequently must forgo sleep to the detriment of their health. Most medical professionals agree that teenagers need a minimum of eight, usually nine, hours of sleep per night. Students already put themselves into rigorous course loads to gain a competitive edge for college admission. With their academic commitments alone, adequate sleep is already less than likely to happen. But with 20 or more hours per week of sports, there is absolutely not a chance that students can sleep enough.

According to Harvard Medical School, sleep helps memory and learning, which are of prime importance for academic success in high school. Sleep deprivation also creates a higher risk of automobile accidents, which are already the leading cause of death for American teens, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Research has also shown connections between insufficient sleep and obesity, diabetes, immune system and mood disorders, and lower life expectancy.

In light of the profound effect sleep has on health and performance, both academic and athletic, it is no wonder that California’s governing body for high school athletics (CIF) has already taken action to limit the amount of time sports can practice to 18 hours a week (competitions count as three hours and no practice may be held after competitions). The regulation included any time outside of school “implicitly or explicitly” required by the coach. Such regulation would be a dramatic improvement for LT sports, some of which have well over 20 hours of commitments per week. The IHSA and LT should follow suit in order to promote the health and safety of student athletes.

Most student athletes will not continue their sports in college. High school athletics should be a positive experience, not one that harms students’ health and academic performance.

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