Athletes to Receive Sleep Masks

August 17, 2018

The offices of the Peach Belt Conference in Augusta, Ga., are located on the second floor with no elevator, so the arrival of 42 heavy boxes of sleep masks was greeted with a collective groan from the staff. But it was not the first time (nor will it be the last) that the conference office has been treated with an impromptu workout in the middle of the day and a short while later the lobby was packed with boxes that will, over the next several weeks, make their way to the league's 12 member schools across four states.

Every student-athlete that competes in Peach Belt championship sports will receive one of the masks. The emphasis on sleep and its importance to the mental health of student-athletes is a growing concern for the NCAA and the PBC has been at the forefront of educating its membership and implementing strategies.

"The NCAA has recognized that the demands on a student-athletes time are high and one thing easily sacrificed is sleep," said PBC commissioner David Brunk.  "Over the past several months, the Peach Belt has undertaken the challenge of addressing this concern first with our athletic administrators and now with our student-athletes with these sleep masks. It is a part of the larger effort to enhance their mental well-being and support our mission of providing a safe and rewarding collegiate experience both on and off the field."

The NCAA founded the Interassociation Task Force on Sleep and Wellness in May of 2017.  The following year, the Peach Belt invited Dr. Roxanne Prichard, Scientific Director of the Center for College Sleep and associate professor of psychology at the University of St. Thomas to speak at the league annual meeting in Hilton Head.  Dr. Prichard addressed all PBC presidents and chancellors, athletic directors, faculty athletic representatives, vice presidents/chancellors for student affairs and senior woman administrators.

PBC associate commissioner Diana Kling participated on the Interassociation Task Force due to her role as vice-chair of the Committee on Women's Athletics. "It is so easy for student-athletes to sacrifice sleep for the sake of keeping up with their studies and their practice and game schedules," she said. "When talking about safety and well-being, sleep is often overlooked as a key component. What we learned is that getting the proper amount of sleep can improve everything from reaction times to resistance of injury and recovery.  Our conference leadership has embraced this concept and we are now moving forward."

In addition to the sleep masks, the PBC will be providing educational materials to each student-athlete regarding the topic of sleep.  Commissioner Brunk will also speak on the subject with each school's athletic department staff in the coming months.  The topic will also be emphasized at the league's SAAC meeting. 

The NCAA Board of Governors, which sets direction for the Association as its top-ranking body, has identified sleep, nutrition and performance among the NCAA's top priorities in health and safety.

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