Sleep habits of high school student-athletes and nonathletes during a semester



September 2022

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Study objectives: Lack of sleep has been shown to be harmful to athletic and academic performance as well as health and well-being. The primary purpose of this study was to analyze the sleep and physical activity differences between US high school student-athletes and nonathletes during a semester of school and competition.

Methods: Participants included 34 student-athletes (18 males and 16 females), age 15.8 ± 0.8 years, and 38 nonathletes (10 males and 28 females), age 16.3 ± 0.7 years. Objective sleep and physical activity outcomes were collected using Fitbit wrist-worn activity trackers for 8-14 consecutive days and nights, measuring total sleep time, sleep efficiency, bedtimes, wake times, and steps counted.

Results: Student-athletes and nonathletes did not differ in total sleep time (440.4 ± 46.4 vs 438.1 ± 41.7 min, P = .82) and sleep efficiency (93.6 ± 2.3 vs 92.9 ± 2.3%, P = .20). Fitbit data revealed that 79% of student-athletes and 87% of nonathletes failed to get greater than the minimally recommended 8 hours of total sleep time per night. Student-athletes had significantly more steps per day (10,163 ± 2,035 vs 8,418 ± 2,489, P < .01). Student-athletes had earlier bedtimes and wake times. Earlier bedtimes were significantly correlated with increased total sleep time (P < .01). Earlier wake times were significantly correlated to increased steps per day (P < .01).

Conclusions: Participation in high school sports may not have a detrimental effect on a student's sleep habits. High school students are not meeting the recommended 8-10 hours of sleep per night. Going to bed and waking up early were linked to healthier outcomes. Consistent and earlier sleep/wake schedules may optimize students sleep and health.

J Clin Sleep Med. 2022 18(9): 2189–2196

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