If Athletic Departments Want to Get Serious about Sleep, They Must Change Hours Policies

September 11th, 2017 | by Francis Giknis
If Athletic Departments Want to Get Serious about Sleep, They Must Change Hours Policies


Yahoo! Sports columnist Pete Thamel posted an entertaining write-up of a visit to Clemson’s “nap room,” a spot in the football program’s new facility designated for catching some quick shuteye. Aside from the important details of the space (eight bunks, overstuffed recliners, blackout curtains), Thamel also included a few quotes from head coach Dabo Swinney regarding the importance of solid rest.

“The mental health of these athletes, the stress they’re under and the pressure they’re under is enormous, and then you factor in they’re not sleeping, and it’s just toxic,” Swinney said.

As a connoisseur of midday snoozing, I can fully appreciate where Swinney is coming from, and it doesn’t take an expert to know operating with little sleep can profoundly affect productivity and stress levels. It seems like Clemson has taken serious strides towards helping with this particular issue; Thamel’s article mentions a daily report that tracks Tiger football players’ sleep habits via strips under their pillows. Understanding sleep is a health matter akin to nutrition is an important step in ensuring student-athletes are protected and balanced.

However, I can’t help but wonder if the “nap room” is simply a band-aid that is masking a more significant problem: tired, overworked student-athletes. While it is good that players have a place to catch some quick sleep, perhaps the greater issue is the time demanded of them by their respective sports that preclude full nights of rest.

Officially, the NCAA limits in-season practice to 20 hours per week. However, as has been explored at length by a number of publications, those hours can run to nearly twice that many. In fact, lawsuits have been brought regarding the flouting of the 20 hour rule, including this case against UNC brought by two former student-athletes.

Doing the quick math on how a player’s day breaks down, it is easy to see where sleep becomes expendable amidst all the commitments required of student-athletes. Attendance tracking and a rising awareness and disapproval of no-show classes for student-athletes have made skipping academics less of an option than it (sadly) was in the past. Combine that with greater time requirements for athletics as big-time programs become big business for universities, and something must give.

Clemson’s “nap room” is a nice idea that doesn’t remedy the core problem: exhausted student-athletes. If athletic departments want to truly help with the real issue that is sleep deprivation, they will not only invest in places where that sleep can occur, but also give student-athletes the time to actually balance all they have on their loaded schedules.

About Francis Giknis
Francis Giknis joins College AD as a contributor after seven years of teaching and coaching throughout the east coast. Prior to writing for College AD, Francis earned an English degree from the College of William and Mary and his masters at Columbia University. Raised in a cable television-free household, he remembers binge-watching ESPN while on vacations away from home, much to the chagrin of his parents.

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