Sleep and Injuries
When it comes to injury rehabilitation and prevention many people will put a lot of effort into analyzing their technique, strength, muscular endurance, cardio and nutrition – but what about sleep?
Optimal sleep quantity and quality has been touted by leading sports science academics Brukner and Khan as "the single best recovery strategy available to athletes". A recent study on the effects of sleep deprivation showed that adolescent athletes sleeping more than 8 hours of sleep during weekdays reduced the odds of injury by 61% (1). Another study supported this finding by showing that athletes who slept less 8 hours per night were 1.7 times more likely to have an injury than those who slept for more than 8 hours (2).
Adequate sleep is crucial for injury prevention and recovery for a few reasons:
1. It improves cognition
2. Improves reaction time
3. Improves the regeneration of muscle tissues *note: animal study (3)
4. Regulates immune and endocrine function
What is adequate sleep?
The general consensus is that most individuals probably need somewhere between 7-9 hours of sleep. Strength and conditioning coaches argue that athletes have different requirements, it has been suggested that adolescent athletes undertaking heavy training may require up to 10 hours of sleep per night while adult elite athletes who train 4-6 hours a day may require between 10 and 12 hours of sleep per night (4)(5). With all of this in mind, I think it makes sense to listen to your body - if you listen to your body well enough it can often tell you more than some dude in a lab coat.
How can you improve your sleep?
Reducing exposure to blue light for 3 hours prior to going to bed has been shown to improve sleep and mood (7). There are applications you can download to your electronic devices to reduce the amount of blue light exposure during these periods. You can download it from here: https://justgetflux.com/. Another interesting idea to potentially look into is Dr Andrew Weil's 478 breathing technique, however it doesn't appear to be substantiated by evidence and there's some controversy to it.
Other more classical strategies for improving sleep include:
1. Avoid Alcohol, Caffeine, Chocolate, Nicotine, and Other Chemicals that Interfere with Sleep
2. Turn Your Bedroom into a Sleep-Inducing Environment (cool temperature, curtains, no computers)
3. Establish a Soothing Pre-Sleep Routine (read a book, take a bath etc.)
4. Go to sleep when you are actually tired. (if you can't fall asleep after 20 minutes, sit up for a little bit)
5. Don't watch that clock
6. Go to bed with a consistent schedule
7. Nap early or not at all
8. Lighten up on evening meals.
9. Appropriate fluid intake. (not too much so that you have to get up for the toilet or get thirsty)
10. Exercise earlier in the evening/afternoon.
1. Rosen P, Frohm A, Kottorp A, Friden C, Heijne A. Too little sleep and an unhealthy diet could increase the risk of sustaining a new injury in adolescent elite athletes. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports. 2017 Nov 1;27(11):1364-71.
2. Milewski MD, Skaggs DL, Bishop GA, Pace JL, Ibrahim DA, Wren TA, Barzdukas A. Chronic lack of sleep is associated with increased sports injuries in adolescent athletes. Journal of Pediatric Orthopaedics. 2014 Mar 1;34(2):129-33.
3. Schwarz P, Graham W, Li F, Locke M, Peever J. Sleep deprivation impairs functional muscle recovery following injury. Sleep Medicine. 2013 Dec 1;14:e262.
4. Scott WA. Maximizing performance and the prevention of injuries in competitive athletes. Curr Sports Med Rep 1: 184– 190, 2002.
5. Bird SP. Sleep, recovery, and athletic performance: a brief review and recommendations. Strength & Conditioning Journal. 2013 Oct 1;35(5):43-7.
6. Fullagar, H.H.K., Skorski, S., Duffield, R. et al. Sports Med (2015) 45: 161. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-014-0260-0
7. Kimberly B, James R P. Amber lenses to block blue light and improve sleep: a randomized trial. Chronobiology international. 2009 Dec 1;26(8):1602-12.
8. Brukner, P. (2016). Brukner & Khan's clinical sports medicine. North Ryde: McGraw-Hill.