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Playing your sport and training this summer are good things, but sleeping in can be just as important.  Behind the Clipboard: Clay Kallam  ...

Playing your sport and training this summer are good things, but sleeping in can be just as important. 

Behind the Clipboard: Clay Kallam

   I play two sports in high school, and I’m going to try to do both during the summer — and I definitely should do some general physical training as well. What should be the highest priority?

           —A.S., Modesto

   Different people will give you different answers, but I’m pretty sure no one else will tell you this. Your highest priority for your busy summer should be something that’s easy to do: Sleep.

   Yes, sleep. At least 10 hours a night. And if your body says you need 11 hours because you can’t drag yourself up after 10, roll over and sleep some more. Yes, your parents will go nuts, but we’ll get to them later. First, though, some science. 

   In 2011, a group of sleep researchers did a study at Stanford and discovered that varsity athletes there significantly increased their performance (regardless of sport) by sleeping 10 hours a day. Those who slept six to nine hours were measurably less effective.

   More science: Adolescents need lots of sleep because their bodies and brains are growing. The latter is the most important to remember, because even though some young people don’t get any taller after age 16 (many girls stop growing at 14), human brains keep maturing until the mid-20s — and that maturity is not only hastened, but improved, by more sleep.

   Back to the parents. When kids sleep in until 11 a.m. or noon, most parents go crazy. After all, they’re up at seven or so, going off to work, taking care of business and being productive. The sleeping teenager is not only unproductive, he or she also makes the adult feel put-upon. “Why am I working so hard when my lazy teenager is sleeping? And I just got a ton of attitude yesterday when he finally did wake up.”

   An aspect of this problem is that adolescents are programmed to stay up later than adults. Studies have clearly shown that teenagers naturally want to stay up until midnight or later, and then naturally want to sleep 10 or 11 hours after they finally go to bed. If teenagers went to bed at 9 p.m. and woke up at 9 a.m., parents would be a lot more forgiving — but that’s not the way human beings function.

   So for you, and any teenager, to get the most out of a busy summer, the best thing to do is let nature take its course. Go to bed when you’re sleepy and wake up when you’re ready. To make this happen, though, you have to schedule your time well, and give up some things you like to do, because if you’re playing two sports and doing other training, you’re going to run out of time if you’re sleeping 11 hours a night (as you probably should).

   As for your parents, try to have a calm and rational discussion about how much, and how late, you sleep, which means don’t get into it right after your mom woke you up at 10:30 and said something along the lines “Get your lazy butt out of bed and empty the dishwasher.” Maybe even show your parents this column, and see if you can all agree about the best way for you to get all the sleep you need.

   Remind them, though, that you going to bed at 9 p.m. is just as hard for you as it is for them to stay up until 2 a.m. The human body works differently at different stages of life, so there needs to be some compromise – and it wouldn’t hurt if the teenager tried really hard to cut down on the attitude as part of the bargain.

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