Sleep And Your Child Athlete

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If your child athlete is serious about her sport, a sure way to increase performance is to encourage her to get serious about sleep.  The document Sleep, Recovery and Human Performance, published by Canadian Sport for Life states that in order to increase athletic performance, post-exercise recovery and regeneration, sleep is just as important as your child’s specific athletic training.  Sleep is the very foundation of post-exercise recovery and regeneration.

Sleep And Your Child Athlete

There are three main factors to look at when evaluating your child athlete’s sleep:

  1. Sleep length– Is she getting the optimal number of hours per night?
  2. Sleep quality– Is she dealing with sleep fragmentation, disturbances in the environment or sleep disorders?
  3. Sleep phase– Is the timing of her sleep in line with circadian rhythm, leading to the most restorative sleep.

Ensuring optimal sleep length, quality and phase will affect your child athlete’s ability to train, increasing performance results and overall recovery. These three components of your child’s sleep will change over time as her body grows and training demands intensify. Through each new stage of an athlete’s career and increased levels of training intensity, a new evaluation of sleep needs is required. Not only does sleep support athletes in reaching their training goals, it also increases resistance to illness and improves recovery from injury.

The following guidelines from Canadian Sport for Life will help your child athlete maximize her athletic potential through optimal sleep:

0-6 Years Old (males and females)

Sleep Length:

Sleep Quality:

Avoid screen time

Sleep Phase

Females 6-8, Males 6-9

Sleep Length:

Sleep Quality:

Sleep Phase:

Females 8-11, Males 9-12

Sleep Length:

Sleep Quality:

Sleep Phase

As a parent, you can discuss the importance of sleep and athletic performance, post-exercise recovery and regeneration with both your child athlete and your child’s coaches.  Overscheduling athletes at the expense of sleep will not increase a child’s performance, instead it will have the opposite affect.  If your child is serious about her sport, you can support her training goals by helping her get serious about her sleep.

Samuels, Charles H. & Alexander, Brent N. (2013) Sleep, Recovery, and Human Performance: A Comprehensive Strategy for Long-Term Athlete Development. Canadian Sport for Life.

Alysa Dobson is a Certified Child Sleep Consultant with SleepWell Consulting. She works with families to help them get the sleep they need. Alysa offers support to parents with children ages 4 months- 8 years old through both in home and remote consultations. SleepWell Performance offers both group and individual consultations to maximize athletic performance through better sleep. For more information, contact Alysa at [email protected]

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2 Comments

As a sleep consultant I can’t agree more with the importance of sleep. This is the one time of day that your athlete will be rebuilding the muscle fibers from the training that day. One of the best things you can do to make sure sleep is staying on par is to set an alarm for when it’s time to go to bed and not just when it’s time to get out of bed.