As her alarm goes off at 6:30 in the morning, Georgie Nicholes rushes off to another three-hour track practice. She is then off to attend her six classes and an hour long weight-lifting workout. She then goes to work on campus and finally goes back to her dorm to complete her homework.
After looking over all of her assignments, she chooses the assignment that needs the most attention and focuses on that one. She sacrifices the other assignments in order to get at least two to four hours of sleep. The next morning, her alarm goes off again to continue the cycle.
For senior and track runner Georgie Nicholes, juggling sports and school is extremely tiring, yet rewarding.
“Track and cross country make me exhausted all the time. I am constantly struggling to make it through the school and work day. The hardest part of dealing with this exhaustion is sacrificing much-needed sleep to accommodate the need to do school work,” said Nicholes.
Many student athletes at Saint Peter's University say that they are physically and emotionally exhausted due to their school and athletic schedules. However, the strain sports have on the human body is evidentially worth it because these same athletes say the sport brings them joy and benefits.
On average, most student-athletes report four nights of insufficient sleep per week, according to a sleep study published on the NCAA website. However, insomnia diagnoses were very low at 3 percent in athletes.
The author of this study, Michael Grandner, a member of the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology, explained how poor sleep can result in poor performances in school work and in the sport and can affect athletes physically and mentally. This is what is commonly referred to as a “burn-out.”
For Nicholes, she doesn’t believe in burning out. She feels that if one wants something bad enough and one works hard enough for it, then one will obtain their goal. The lack of sleep and stressful nights are worth the reward of playing the game.
“I have personally never burnt out during a track season and feel this harsh schedule is worth it because I want a good education and the ability to compete in the sport I love, despite the obvious losses I must endure,” said Nicholes.
Sophomore and baseball player Brian Turton said that despite balancing school work and sports, he still manages to get at least six hours of sleep a night. However, he does feel that student-athletes are susceptible to burning out because balancing school work and games can become overwhelming and stressful.
A typical baseball game is about two hours for Turton. He is so dedicated to being the best athlete he could possibly be that he also practices independently. He is currently injured with a broken ankle after practicing on his own during the summer of 2017.
“Being an athlete has affected my mental health and sleep time because being a student athlete requires a lot of time and dedication to both school work and baseball. I do find myself to be physically exhausted at times. I balance my classes, games, practices and social life by trying to plan out my days to make time for the things I have to get done,” said Turton.
Grandner wrote in his NCAA article that making rest and sleep an important priority and a part of more general work-life balance may help student-athletes better manage their time, their stress and their sleep.
Amir Hicks, sophomore and basketball player feels that burning out is a real issue with athletes. He explained how the key to avoiding burn-out is to find a balance and learn to sacrifice certain things in order to excel in school and sports.
“Yes, playing a sport in college does take a mental toll on you if not more than physical. Although, at the end of the day, we all know what we signed up for and it is our responsibility to do our best at balancing it all with the resources the school provides,” said Hicks.
Hicks practices approximately 15 hours a week, four to five times a week depending on games. After learning how to balance his school life and his sports life, he gets an average of six to seven hours of sleep a night.
Barbara Paiva, junior and soccer player said that balancing her soccer games and practices with her school work and classes is exhausting and challenging. She practices and has lift drills three times a week during off season and six days a week during the actual season.
However, she does recognize that feeling mentally and physically exhausted is just part of being a student athlete.
“ There’s days where you don’t want to do anything but you have no choice. I just go day by day with it. I’m used to it now but it’s very tiring,” said Paiva.
Sleep needs vary across ages and are impacted by lifestyle and health, according to the National Sleep Organization. The amount of sleep a person needs depends on different factors such as the quality of life the individual has and the quality of one’s sleep.
On average, young adults should get between seven to eight hours of sleep per night.
The organization also explained the human body needs long periods of sleep in order to restore, rejuvenate, grow muscle, repair tissue, and synthesize hormones.
Grandner also says in his article that athletic departments can help athletes with mental health, exhaustion and sleep by having a comprehensive sleep disorder screening and treatment program available for their student-athletes.
“The NCAA has policies in place for how often a team or student-athlete can practice,” said Hamilton Cook, the Associate Director of Athletics for Communications at Saint Peter’s. “We follow those policies and are always cognizant of a student-athlete's mental health...We all work together to assure our student-athletes are provided resources and outlets to assist with any mental health or physical concerns they may have.”
Cook added how mental health, specifically, is an area of great concern that he and his team continue to monitor and educate their student-athletes on so that they can feel comfortable in speaking with their coach or administrators should they ever feel the need.