Paralympian Scout Bassett on the importance of rest: 'A lot of mental health struggles I've had are directly tied to sleep'

·4-min read
Scout Bassett on sleep, her love of running and why her defeats have helped her grow as an athlete. (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)
Scout Bassett on sleep, her love of running and why her defeats have helped her grow as an athlete. (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)

The Unwind is Yahoo Life’s well-being series in which experts, influencers and celebrities share their approaches to wellness and mental health, from self-care rituals to setting healthy boundaries to the mantras that keep them afloat.

Paralympian Scout Bassett knows a thing or two about overcoming obstacles.

After losing her right leg in a chemical fire as a baby, she spent the next seven years in a Chinese orphanage, where she used a makeshift prosthetic that was patched together with leather belts and masking tape. Upon moving to Michigan after being adopted as a child, she received her first prosthetic leg, though learning how to function with a prosthetic took time.

"And so at 8 years old, I learned to walk for the first time, really," Bassett, 33, tells Yahoo Life.

Her body was weak in a lot of areas, since she hadn't learned to develop muscle tone or memory. As she learned to navigate the world on her feet, team sports were difficult, as they required a lot of lateral movement. But at 14, Bassett discovered running, "and it changed the whole course of my life."

"I would not say I was somebody who had a lot of self-confidence or self-esteem until I started running," Bassett says. "But they say you find something that moves you, and you just don't let it go, and that’s kind of what it was for me. Running moved me, both in a literal sense and a mental sense. I held onto that because it was the only thing I did that I didn’t feel disabled. I didn’t feel that I was held back."

Bassett at the 2021 U.S. Paralympic Trials last June. (Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Bassett at the 2021 U.S. Paralympic Trials last June. (Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Bassett qualified for her first U.S. Paralympic Team in 2016, and is a two-time World Championship bronze medalist in the 100-meter and long jump. But as an athlete who spends her days working out, learning to slow down has proved to be a challenge of its own.

"In my 20s, I felt like I could not sleep at all and every day I’d be able to put out workouts and I didn't need sleep. And as soon as I hit 30, I realized my body was changing a lot, and I needed to [prioritize] my sleep and recovery even more so," she says.

Bassett is teaming up with Natrol sleep products, whose Natrol Sleep+ Capsules, a new line of melatonin supplements, she uses to wind down at the end of the day. Now, she shoots to get eight to 10 hours of sleep a night, "in order to maximize my best effort every day at training."

"Athletes tend to have this 'oh, I work out hard all day,' mentality, and I truly believe you’re not your best if you haven’t gotten full night’s rest," says Bassett, who deals with anxiety and nervousness if she hasn't slept enough. "Not even just from a physical standpoint, but also mental health. I’ve noticed a lot of mental health struggles that I’ve had are directly tied to sleep. So I think people underestimate how important rest and sleep is to your mental health."

Though she's fresh from victory at last month's National Championships and will compete at this week's World Para Athletics Grand Prix, Bassett credits her failures — such as not qualifying to compete in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games — with helping her grow as an athlete.

"Everybody wants to win all the time and have sustained continued success," she says. "But I can tell you I’ve learned more, grown more and been strengthened more in the defeats and the failures in my life than I have ever from the victories. In every disappointment and failure, there’s good that can come from it if you're willing to embrace it. Every disappointment has built, grown, improved and motivated me. As much as it’s difficult to go through those things, I'm very thankful for everything I’ve learned and gained in the lowest of lows."

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