The effects that sleep duration and quality have on athletic performance have been extensively studied. Acute sleep deprivation likely has a negative impact on certain performance qualities such as reaction time. However, chronic sleep deprivation most certainly has negative consequences on performance potential. Perceptions of effort and fatigue will be higher, strength will be impaired, endurance diminished and accuracy reduced. The importance of sleep for athletes is so well understood that coaches and sports scientists are objectively and subjectively monitoring sleep quality in their athletes as a training status metric. Athletes involved with considerable travel schedules that constantly sleep in hotels or on the bus are particularly at risk of poor sleep both acutely and chronically. Just as concerning as the negative effects that sleep loss has on performance is its potential impact on injury potential.
A new study published in the Journal of Pediatric Orthopaedics investigated the effects of sleep duration on injury risk in adolescent athletes. Milewski et al (2014) surveyed 112 high school/middle school athletes (54 male, 58 female, mean age of 15 years). The survey was conducted online and questioned the athletes about their training practices and sleep habits. The survey questions from the study are listed below;
- How many weeks a year do you participate in organized sports?
- During the average week, how many hours are spent in sports including training, practice, and competition? (Excluding time spent reviewing films, playbooks, and team meetings.)
- Have you had a private coach outside of normal school or club teams?
- If so, how many hours per week, on average, are spent in private coaching?
- During the season how many hours of sleep, on average, do you get per night?
- Do you participate in strength training on a regular basis?
- How many times per week do you participate in strength training?
- How long is each strength training session?
- How many sports do you participate in per year on a school or club level?
- How much fun are you having in sports right now on a scale of 1 to 10? (1 would be having no fun and 10 being the most fun possible.)
The student’s responses were collected and then correlated to injury records that were obtained and reviewed retrospectively. The results showed that athletes who slept on average less than 8 hours per night were 1.7 times more likely to have experienced injury verses those who slept for greater than 8 hours per night. Additionally, older athletes were 1.4 times more likely to have been injured compared to younger athletes (not surprisingly).
The current study demonstrates that lack of sleep (less than 8 hours per night) not only adversely effects performance, but likely increases injury risk as well. In a time where adolescent athletes have smartphones, tablets, televisions and computers in their bedrooms competing for their attention at night, it is important that coaches and parents educate our young athletes on the consequences of insufficient sleep.
Milewski, M. D., Skaggs, D. L., Bishop, G. A., Pace, J. L., Ibrahim, D. A., Wren, T. A., & Barzdukas, A. (2014). Chronic Lack of Sleep is Associated With Increased Sports Injuries in Adolescent Athletes. Journal of Pediatric Orthopaedics.34(2): 129-133.