Home Health & Fitness Sleep: Essential for Mental and Physical Health

Sleep: Essential for Mental and Physical Health


Some people believe sleep allows the body to become dormant and inactive. To the contrary, researchers have determined that sleep is a dynamic process, which generates physiological changes in the body’s organs (5). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explained, “insufficient sleep has been linked to the development and management of a number of chronic diseases and conditions, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression” (2).

Sleep is a natural daily experience (1). Hence, individuals must permit the body to sleep in order to enhance mental and physical health and ultimately survive. However, some individuals’ lifestyle will not allow them to accumulate sufficient amounts of sleep on a daily basis. When a person does not obtain the daily-required amount of sleep time, a “sleep debt” develops (5). Once the “sleep debt” is too great, the human body will experience “problem sleepiness” and eventually sleep will occur. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) indicated “problem sleepiness” might cause individuals to experience a loss of concentration, memory lapses, fatigue, or death (5). Specifically, an estimated 100,000 automobile accidents occur annually due to drivers being asleep at the wheel (5). Therefore, sleep is a primary factor for individuals attempting to improve skills and accomplish optimal performance (Rosekind, 2005; as cited in 4).

Without question, sport coaches and athletes exert vast amounts of energy in order to produce elite performances. For example, coaches work demanding schedules, which include teaching sports skills to their athletes and conducting several administrative duties. Athletes can experience similar workloads, which consist of developing sport skills and completing physical and mental conditioning. Thus, incorporating appropriate amounts of sleep within one’s daily regimen is essential.

It is important to realize that sleep patterns vary during an individual’s lifetime. Hence, the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) developed the following sleep guidelines (6):

  • Preschoolers (3-5 years): 11-13 hours per day
  • School-age children (5-10 years): 10-11 hours per day
  • Teens (10-17 years): 8.5-9.25 hours per day
  • Adults: 7-9 hours per day

Presently, researchers are attempting to discover “the exact mechanism of how sleep works and how sleep rejuvenates the body and mind” (7). Nonetheless, the CDC described “sleep hygiene” as the promotion of regular sleep and has created “sleep hygiene tips” (3):


  • Go to bed at the same time each night and rise at the same time each morning.
  • Make sure your bedroom is a quiet, dark, and relaxing environment, which is neither too hot nor too cold.
  • Make sure your bed is comfortable and use it only for sleeping and not for other activities, such as reading, watching TV, or listening to music. Remove all TVs, computers, and other “gadgets” from the bedroom.
  • Physical activity may help promote sleep, but not within a few hours of bedtime.
  • Avoid large meals before bedtime.

Adolescents / Young Adults

  • Avoid caffeinated drinks after lunch.
  • Avoid bright light in the evening.
  • Avoid arousing activities around bedtime (e.g., heavy study, text messaging, getting into prolonged conversations).
  • Expose yourself to bright light upon awakening in the morning.
  • While sleeping in on weekends is permissible, it should not be more than 2–3 hours past your usual wake time, to avoid disrupting your circadian rhythm governing sleepiness and wakefulness.
  • Avoid pulling an “all-nighter” to study.

Be aware you must achieve sufficient amounts of sleep to maintain your health. Hence, if you are experiencing sleep difficulties, consult with a physician.


Carron, A.V., Hausenblaus, H.A., & Estabrooks, P.A. (2003). The Psychology of Physical Activity. New York: NY: McGraw-Hill.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (n.d.). Sleep and Sleep Disorders: Sleep and Chronic Disease. Retrieved October 16, 2010, from http://www.cdc.gov/sleep/chronic_disease.htm

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (n.d.). Sleep Hygiene Tips. Retrieved October 16, 2010, from http://www.cdc.gov/sleep/hygiene.htm

Davenne, D. (2009). Sleep of athletes – problems and possible solutions. Biological Rhythm Research, 40, 45-52.

National Institutes of Health. (n.d.). Sleep, Sleep Disorders, and Biological Rhythms: Teacher’s Guide – Information about sleep. Retrieved October 17, 2010, from http://science.education.nih.gov/supplements/nih3/sleep/guide/info-sleep.htm

National Sleep Foundation. (n.d.). How much sleep do we really need? Retrieved October 10, 2010, from http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need

National Sleep Foundation. (n.d.). Diet, Exercise, and Sleep. Retrieved October 10, 2010, from http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/sleep-topics/diet-exercise-and-sleep

Dr. Johnson is the Chair of Sports Coaching at the United States Sports Academy. He has a doctorate in sports psychology and master’s degrees in business administration, sports business administration, athletic coaching education, counseling, and sport behavior.


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