How Much Sleep Is Needed for A Gymnast

How Much Sleep Does My Daughter Need?

Jessica from New York sent us a question asking how much sleep her 10 year old gymnast needs?

There are a few issues to take into consideration, and they are shared by many gymnastics families:

  1. They don’t get done with gym until 8pm
  2. They have to travel 25 minutes to get home
  3. They have to eat dinner once they get home
  4. There’s still homework to do after dinner

So what does the pediatric and scientific community say about sleep for children? Here are the recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatricians and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine:

  • Children 3 to 5 years of age should sleep 10 to 13 hours per 24 hours (including naps) on a regular basis to promote optimal health.
  • Children 6 to 12 years of age should sleep 9 to 12 hours per 24 hours on a regular basis to promote optimal health.
  • Teenagers 13 to 18 years of age should sleep 8 to 10 hours per 24 hours on a regular basis to promote optimal health.

The key here is regular sleep to promote optimal health of your gymnast. Good sleep should be every night and not just on weekends.

We realize that you pay a lot of money so your gymnast can participate in gymnastics. We also know that working hard (and smart) at gym produces good gymnasts.

But…

The health of your child is the most important thing that you can give to them as they grow, and sleep is a critical part of that equation. If a gym doesn’t realize this, then it’s probably not a gym you want to be a part of.

Sleep Rule for Gymnasts

For Jessica, her gymnast is 10 years old and needs between 9-12 hours of sleep. We’ll give her an hour over the minimum and allow for 10 hours of sleep each night.

If school starts at 8 am, and her daughter needs to get up at 7 am to have breakfast and travel to school, then we need to count backwards 10 hours. This means she needs to be in bed by 9 pm. If you budget 20 minutes for dinner, 20 minutes for homework, and 20 minutes for travel from the gym, the leave time from the gym is exactly 8pm.

In this example, it leaves no time for any breaks and creates a very tight schedule. Realistically, having 1/2 hour cushion would be much better.

Wake Up Time – Sleep Time – Homework Time – Dinner – Travel Time = Leave the Gym Time

Dangers of Not Enough Sleep

So what happens if you don’t get enough sleep. Well the American Academy of Pediatrics says it like this:

The group found that adequate sleep duration for age on a regular basis leads to improved attention, behavior, learning, memory, emotional regulation, quality of life, and mental and physical health. Not getting enough sleep each night is associated with an increase in injuries, hypertension, obesity and depression, especially for teens who may experience increased risk of self-harm or suicidal thoughts.

Not getting enough sleep is linked to a higher risk of injury, and this recommendation is for children that minimally participate in physical activity.

The load on a gymnast is much higher because of the intense physical requirements of working out 3-4 hours each night.

Gymnast Care’s recommendation is to work with your gym and let them know the importance of getting enough sleep for your gymnast. If you notice your gymnast is only getting 6-7 hours a night, it’s time to take action and modify her workout schedule.

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Dr. Joshua Eldridge

About Dr. Joshua Eldridge

Dr. Joshua Eldridge has specialized in protecting gymnasts from injury. He is the inventor of The X Brace, and has developed a treatment protocol for Sever's disease and heel pain that has helped thousands of gymnasts throughout the world. Dr. Eldridge brings practical, easy injury care and prevention that can be done at home.