Every year, 8.6 million sports and recreation-related injuries are reported. While much of the focus is on post-injury physical rehabilitation programs and eating healthy to support muscle healing or regeneration, it turns out there is another piece of the puzzle that could be impacting your recovery time: your sleep quality. According to a study in the Journal of Pediatric Orthopedics, young athletes who sleep less than 8 hours per night are 1.7 times more likely to experience a sports injury. Whether you are recovering from a knee sprain, a bone injury, or a recurring muscle aggravation, improving your sleeping habits can be the answer to getting back in the game sooner rather than later.
Non-REM Sleep Improves Circulation Of Oxygen And Growth Hormones
The secretion of growth hormones increases during sleep. Human Growth Hormones (HGH) contribute to muscle and bone growth. It is made by the pituitary gland and can rise in secretion levels after exercise, sleep and, some incidences of trauma. Therefore, too little sleep can suppress your rate of recovery after a sports injury.
In addition to aiding tissue regeneration and repair, sleep helps to redirect extra oxygen and energy towards protein and fatty acid production that is essential in the healing of an injury. Finally, sleep can help athletes cope with pain during injury recovery. A recent study published in the Journal of Neuroscience proved that the lack of sleep heightens pain sensitivity and can have you reaching for medication repeatedly. Substance abuse and drug addiction have been a concern in sports in recent years.
Better Sleep Increases Aerobic Endurance
Aerobic training and endurance programs are commonly used to help athletes improve their body’s ability to cope with the increased demand that comes with sports. It can also improve your cardiovascular fitness. While the American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise weekly, athletes should aim for that as their minimum. As participation in training and sporting activities depletes energy, sleep is crucial for replenishing your energy stores and avoiding physical fatigue. While the general perspective of young upcoming medical students and young consumers overall encourages getting involved in exercise and sport, it is also just as important to take the time to get enough sleep to achieve optimal sport/exercise performance.
Poor sleep also increases your chances of experiencing inflammation in your body. This can significantly lengthen your recovery time and leave you vulnerable to further injury once you do return to sports. Recent studies have linked regular aerobic exercise to the reduction of inflammation and it is not uncommon to see athletes using aerobic exercises in their post-injury recovery program. However, to support this and make these programs as effective, optimal sleep quality is needed.
Improves Mood And Mental Health In The Recovery Period
Poor sleep also impacts your mental health. The quality of your sleep is linked to your mental state while recovering from an injury. It is not uncommon for athletes to experience depression and anxiety after being injured. The contemplation of the impact on your sporting career, income, and daily activities can increase your stress levels- which ironically is also linked to your sleep levels.
Multiple studies link sleep deprivation to declining mental health conditions like increased temper, higher risks of depression, and anger. In a University of Pennsylvania study, participants who got only 4.5 hours of sleep per night for a week felt more sad, irritated, and mentally exhausted. After their sleeping patterns returned to normal, their moods improved. There is also a two-way relationship between mood and sleep. Athletes who are worried or anxious about their recovery are more prone to experience sleep struggles. Approximately 15 to 20 percent of people with insomnia go on to experience depression.
With multiple past and emerging research supporting the crucial role of sleep in sports performance and injury recovery, there is now more evidence than ever to make getting quality sleep a key part of your recovery regime.
Contributing Author: Jess Walter