Welcome to Stay in the Game, a monthly blog where the team from the Queen's Center for Sports Medicine shares the latest tips on the treatment and prevention of sports injuries. We want to help you play hard and be well - a winning combination that will keep you in the game all season long.

Sleep: The all-natural performance enhancer

Did you know that injury rates in high school athletes is related to the average number of hours an athlete sleeps per night? Dr. Rachel A. Coel, Medical Director at the Queen's Center for Sports Medicine, explains the hazards for young athletes not getting enough sleep.

The Research

In 2014, a study published in the Journal of Pediatric Orthopedics found that 7th through 12th graders who slept less than eight hours per night had TWICE the injury rate as their peers who slept eight or more hours per night.  

Similarly, other studies have shown that youth athletes who sleep less than six hours a night had higher rates of fatigue-related injuries, such as sprains and strains, and sleep-deprived teens are more likely to have an accidental injury at school or home.  

High school and collegiate athletes who suffer from concussion injuries also consistently report a greater number of symptoms when sleep deprived. Researchers believe that lack of sleep reduces the body's ability to perform well, causing delayed reaction time, poor judgement, incorrect reasoning, increased fatigue, and lack of balance and coordination.
Question 1: What is sleep deprivation and how common is it?  

Rachel A. Coel, MD, PhD: Sleep deprivation is not getting enough sleep to restore and repair the brain and body after a day's activities. In active children, it prevents the body from fully resting and recovering between practices or games.

Sleep deprivation is caused by many factors, such as:
• Not getting enough total hours of sleep
• Fragmented or interrupted sleep
• Having an inconsistent sleep schedule
• Not settling into a deep, restful sleep

Question 2: How common is sleep deprivation?

Rachel A. Coel, MD, PhD: In the United States, 30-40% of youth experience inadequate sleep and 60% of adolescents suffer from daytime sleepiness. Youth athletes are particularly at risk of sleep deprivation due to busy school and sports schedules, or travel commitments, along with academic and athletic stress. Not getting enough sleep or getting poor quality sleep has been shown to decrease athletic performance, increase the risk of injury, and affect mental health.

Question 3: How much sleep should my child get each night?

Rachel A. Coel, MD, PhD: Research shows that adolescents should aim to sleep eight to nine hours per night, while younger children should get 10 or more hours of sleep nightly. Busy teenagers should be allowed to catch up on sleep on the weekends, sleeping in later as needed to feel rested.

Question 4: What can I do to improve my child's sleep?

Rachel A. Coel, MD, PhD: Here are some things you can do to improve your child or adolescent's sleep:
• Eliminate late-afternoon naps; they have been shown to interfere with a restful night's sleep
• Set a consistent nighttime routine with an age-appropriate bedtime
• Turn off all televisions, computers, tablets, and smartphones well before bedtime
• Ensure the sleep environment is cool, comfortable, quiet, and dark

Studies also show that exercise improves the quality and duration of sleep.

Question 5: How can I use sleep to improve my athlete's performance?

Rachel A. Coel, MD, PhD: Getting enough sleep can elevate mood, improve performance, and enhance recovery. College basketball players who increased their amount of sleep each night showed significant improvements in sport-specific tasks, such as shooting accuracy and sprint times.  While younger children perform better in the morning, teenagers perform better in the afternoon or early evening.  

To account for these natural rhythms:
• Plan for morning practices and competitions for younger athletes, and afternoon or early evening activity for adolescent athletes
• Give athletes an ample opportunity for sleep time in between training and competitions
• Make sure your athlete is well rested prior to travel for competitions
• When traveling, allow one day in advance at your destination for every time zone travelled-- For example, if your team is traveling to a location with a three-hour time difference, arrive at least three days in advance of the start of the tournament

For care and treatment for sport injuries related to sleep deprivation, contact the Queen's Center for Sports Medicine to get more information or schedule an appointment by calling 808-691-4449 or click the link below.

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