For the unenlightened coach, sleep hygiene is a serious issue with today’s athletes. While sleep has always been regarded as a key part of the recovery process, only recently have young athletes been given access to the major distraction that is the smartphone device. How many athletes are actually attempting to go to sleep after lights-out? The smartphone affects sleep quality and duration in two important ways: 1) smartphone screens emit blue light which is a known stimulator of sympathetic activity which can delay sleep onset and sleep quality, and 2) smartphones provide access to social media app’s, video games and instant messaging that keep their eye’s and attention on their screens instead of focusing on sleep. Addressing smartphone use after bed time is the first step in improving sleep quality. The second step is to provide the athletes with a pre-bed sleep routine to facilitate the sleeping process.
A new study published ahead of print in the European Journal of Sport Science sought to determine the effectiveness of a warm shower before bed on markers of sleep quality in youth soccer players. A team of 11 youth male soccer players were put through a randomized crossover study design in which they participated in a control condition and an experimental condition. The experimental condition involved a 10-min shower at 40°C right before bed. Each condition involved 3 consecutive days of observation (i.e., 3 control nights and 3 experimental nights). Objective measures of sleep quality were monitored via commercially available bedside sleep monitor and skin thermistors for comparison among conditions and included skin temperature (both proximal and distal), sleep latency and sleep efficiency.
The results showed that on average, the youth athletes fell asleep 7 minutes faster following the warm shower compared with the control condition. In addition, sleep efficiency was significantly greater for the shower condition compared with not showering before bed. Skin temperature responses suggest that showering resulted in more favorable thermoregulatory changes that improved sleep onset and efficiency. Therefore, encouraging athletes to include a 10-min, warm shower before bed as part of a nightly routine may support greater sleep quality and thus enhance recovery from and adaptation to training.
Whitworth-Turner, C., Di Michele, R., Muir, I., Gregson, W., & Drust, B. (2017). A shower before bedtime may improve the sleep onset latency of youth soccer players. European journal of sport science, 1-10.