The Importance of Sleep for Injury Recovery and Prevention

Are you getting enough sleep? Without uninterrupted sleep on a regular basis, your body will suffer. If you are active, lacking sleep puts you at a higher risk for a sports injury. Here are the reasons sleep is important for athletes and what you can do to sleep better at night.

Inadequate Sleep Harms Athletes

Sleep is important for your health and your body’s ability to rejuvenate. When you don’t get enough sleep, you will struggle to play your best and could face an easier injury.

Lack of Sleep Slows Performance

Your body is able to perform better after getting enough sleep. A lack of sleep can increase fatigue and sluggishness. One study looked at employees in the army and transportation industry to examine sleep impact on performance. This study showed that a lack of sleep for even just one night can create a response in the body similar to being intoxicated. Study participants that went just 17-19 hours without sleep, tested equivalent to a blood alcohol content of .05% and response speeds were up to 50% slower.

Sleep Prevents Athletic Injury

This impact on performance may explain why studies on reduced sleep with adolescent athletes has connected inadequate sleep to higher injury rates. Multiple studies have shown that a chronic lack of sleep (less than 8 hours a night for adolescents) leads to a higher rate of musculoskeletal injuries.

Sleep Impacts the Immune System

When the body is sick, it cannot heal as quickly and it can cause downtime from activities. Sleep is responsible for allowing your immune system to function at full power. One study reported “Over the last 15 years, research following a systems approach of neuroimmunology has accumulated surprisingly strong evidence that sleep enhances immune defense, in agreement with the popular wisdom that ‘sleep helps healing.’”

Sleep Improves Athletic Recovery

Your body needs sleep to repair and regenerate muscle tissues, skin cells and bone. A study that examined the impacts of sleep on injuries found sleep deprivation caused a marked difference in molecular markers of muscle repair. This showed that sleep impacted the body’s regeneration functions and can support healing.

Intensive training and exercise requires recovery time just to heal the small muscle tears that are part of the muscle-building process. Without sleep, the recovery periods between workouts are less effective and the body will struggle to keep up.

Improving Sleep for Injury Recovery and Prevention

Getting sleep isn’t always as easy as having time to sleep. Sometimes, you might find you struggle to fall asleep or wake up in the middle of the night. Adults need at least seven hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. Active adults focused on intensive training should get closer to 10 hours of sleep every night. Here are some tips for improving your sleep to reduce the chance of injury and increase the recovery process.

Plan for Rest: Sleep isn’t always as easy as just having the time to lay down, but scheduling your rest periods will be a big step in the right direction. Get into a routine and plan to make sure you have enough time set aside for rest by counting backwards from when you need to wake up each morning.

Wind Down Before Laying Down: Get off your device and turn off the TV if you are struggling to fall asleep at night. By avoiding screens for the last hour or two of your day, you can help your brain relax.

Stretch Before Bed: If you are struggling with tired muscles, tension can lead to restless nights. Do a short yoga routine or stretch out your tightest muscles before bed. Hamstrings, lower back, shoulders and ankles are some of the common areas that will be tight after a long day.

Envision a System Shut Down: Struggling to sleep? Picture turning off every muscle in your body. Start at the toes and end with the brain, relaxing each muscle as you go.

Practice Healthy Habits: Eating well and caring for your body will help you get great sleep. We recommend speaking to one of our physicians for patients that struggle with aching arches, lower back, hips or knees.

Our sports medicine solutions can help you with your training, recovery or physical therapy. Talk to us today if you need help with a sports injury.

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