girls basketballLast week we posted about time management as teens headed back to school. You and your teen are getting back into the swing of things with squeezing in breakfast, scheduling time for homework, family time, and friends. In this post we’ll talk a bit about sports and sleep. We’ve had great guest posts on preventing sports injuries, like concussion, and we’ve posted about sleep tips before. Here are some highlights to take with you as the school year begins:School Sports: School sports are a great way for teens to fit in physical activity that is fun, meet new people, and learn how to work on a team. Sports teach discipline and camaraderie, they also provide many teens with positive adult role models who can encourage them not just in athletics, but in school work and achieving goals. Though there are many benefits to participating in school sports, there can be consequences as well. Teens can be injured, they may skip out on other events (such as family dinners) to attend athletic events, or there can be pressures to excel that lead to declines in grades, social time with friends, or perfectionism. Here are some of the guidelines on school sports that I share with my patients and families…

Listen to your coach and let them know if you are injured or feeling overwhelmed. Most coaches have experience in athletic performance. They develop workout routines to help student athletes excel, but if a student tries to go above and beyond, such as add extra runs on top of cross country practice, that can actually lead to overuse and injury. Stick with the workout routine that the entire team is doing. If your teen wants to improve their performance, ask to meet with the coach to develop a plan together.

If your teen is having pain, they should rest. Teen musculoskeletal systems are still developing and injuries can happen. Pain is your body’s warning sign that something isn’t right. If your teen is having pain while participating in a sport, they should take a break. Seek the advice from your teen’s health care provider about when it is safe to return to play. I know it’s hard to miss a practice or a game, but playing on an injury will only lead to a worsening of that injury and more time out of the game!

Sports should be fun. If it becomes an obligation that is no longer enjoyable, it’s time to find another hobby. Sometimes teens continue a sport because they feel like they have to. I can recall one soccer player who was only participating because she felt like she’d let her parents down if she stopped. It wasn’t enjoyable for her and the burden of playing was starting to impact her grades and time with friends.

Keep up with homework and academics; don’t let those go on the back burner. In the long run, even a professional athlete has a limited shelf life. You rarely see an NFL or NBA player over the age of 35. Solid grades will help more than being a star athlete 20 years from now. Athletics can be a great opportunity for scholarships to college, but your teen will still need to be able to solve that geometry problem in order to get their high school diploma and be accepted into a college or university. If your teen is not looking towards higher education, they’ll still need a minimum GPA to continue to participate in sports and investing in their academic education is more likely to land them employment after high school.

Now onto the topic of sleep. This is one that most adults struggle with as well! With all of the things we have to pack into a day, it’s really hard to get the recommended 8-12 hours of sleep that teens need. Here are some sleep tips as teens return to school:

Aim for 10 hours a night. If school starts at 7:45am, most teens will wake up at 7am. Getting 10 hours means going to bed around 9pm. I know this isn’t going to happen for most teens, but they can try to at least do non-stimulating activities in the evening.

Avoid napping. In general, taking a long nap in the afternoon can throw off a teen’s sleep/wake cycles and make it even more difficult to sleep at night. If they are very tired, try going to bed a bit earlier or avoid hitting the snooze button and set the alarm for the actual time they typically get out of bed.

Have a routine. Try to have your teen go to bed and get up around the same time each day. Stick with a simple routine like shower, brush teeth, read.

Avoid stimulating activities the hour before heading to bed. Things like cramming for an exam, watching a movie, or surfing the internet can all get our brains thinking and make it very hard to go to sleep.

Hopefully these tips have been helpful for getting started with the school year!  Please let us know if there are other topics you’d like us to cover.