Amount Hockey Players Sleep: Why lack of ZZZs can shorten a player’s career

Too little rest and recovery, what are the signs?

The amount hockey players sleep is always a mystery. But as a coach or hockey parent, if you’re observing some of these behaviors in your player(s), then it’s time to do something about it.

  • Lack of endurance and conditioning
  • Noticeably sluggish and not engaged
  • Complaints about muscle soreness and fatigue
  • Increased amount of injuries and penalties
  • Hot-headed behavior on and off the ice

After a hard-fought game or late-night practice, it’s tough to unwind and put emotions aside. Adrenaline also affects the amount of shut-eye that’s needed for a young player’s body to recover. But did you know, that lack of sleep directly impacts one’s longevity and improvement in the game?

Sleep and Performance

“Sleep should be considered as important as a diet, regular practice and studying the game plan in advance of the game,” says Dr. Erik K. St. Louis, associate professor of neurology and senior associate consultant at the Mayo Center for Sleep Medicine in Rochester, Minn.

“Feelings of tiredness or fatigue, poor energy or motivation levels, reduced exercise tolerance or poorer workout and game performance, feeling sleepy and persisting soreness after a workout, are a few possible symptoms of insufficient sleep.”

We’re not just talking about mere crankiness here, from lack of sleep. It’s about muscle and tissue rebuilding, as well as vital growth hormones getting to work while a player sleeps for adequate stretches of time.

According to head strength coach and nutrition specialist, Dan Garner, at HockeyTraining.com, “Without sleep, it doesn’t matter how many calories, supplements or other fatigue management strategies you use. You will still be tired, you will still be under recovered, you still won’t be prepared for optimal exercise, and you will still have disrupted endocrine and immune homeostasis.

That’s because, he continues, “During the night the bones are building up and remodeling, muscle tissue is being added to the body and various systems in the body are producing hormones such as growth hormone (GH) and testosterone.

Studies have shown comparing 5 hours of sleep to 8 hours that the groups who consistently had less sleep had higher concentrations of catabolic (muscle breakdown) hormones such as cortisol and lower concentrations of anabolic (muscle building) hormones like testosterone and IGF-1.

Additionally, neurotransmitter pools are being restocked contributing to all sorts of different metabolic benefits but most of which being relevant to hockey athletes include increased motivation, drive, focus, speed of thought, speed of muscle contraction, learning, memory, attention span, vasodilation, and reduced time to fatigue. All contributing not only to physical performance, but also mental performance on and off the ice. It’s important to care about mental performance as well because the more in the zone you can be, the better you can read the ice and play the game you want to play.”

Without adequate sleep, the effect can be extremely detrimental to a player’s level of performance, including:

  • Diminished reaction time
  • Diminished concentration
  • Impaired alertness
  • Diminishing good judgment
  • Decrease in learning
  • Prone to injuries
  • Negative thoughts
  • Heightened stress levels

(Source: TheHockeySource.com)

Sleep is no joke and good habits need to start early. For coaches, hockey parents, and players, it’s time we all woke up to the importance of sleep and recovery time to stay in the game this season—and hockey seasons to come.

Reap some sleep!