Sleep Your Way To Injury Prevention and Enhanced Athletic Performance

March 9th, 2020

Sleep is the world’s most natural performance-enhancer. Without it, we are sluggish and slowed down. But with it, athletes have a secret weapon to beat their opponent.

Sleep is a frequently over-looked strategy to improve performance and assist in both prevention of injury and recovery from injury. There have been many research studies confirming these theories; however, it is all too often that athletes lack a healthy amount of quality sleep.

What does the research say about sleep?

A recent study found that teenage athletes who get less than 8 hours of sleep each night, increase their injury risk by 1.7x, compared to those who get 8 or more hours sleep. Furthermore, another study reported sleeping less than 6 hours or less per night was associated with fatigued-related injuries among young soccer basketball, football, soccer and running athletes.

A study of the Stanford’s women’s tennis team found that 10 hours of sleep per night over 5 weeks resulted in improved sprint times and a 42% boost in hitting accuracy.

In an NFL study, findings reported at the 26th Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, showed that players with the highest degree of sleepiness had less than a 40% chance of remaining on their original team while rested counterparts had over a 55% chance of making it.

Another football study focused on the internal body clock showed startling results when the Monday Night Football results were reviewed. West coast teams won almost twice as often as, and by more points, than the east coast teams. Because the west coast teams had their biological clocks advanced 3 hours, this seemed to be prime time for them to take advantage of daily peaks in strength and endurance. The east coast teams were already on a downward slope when these games were played at around 11 p.m. eastern standard time.

And finally, a truly compelling reason for athletes to pay attention to their sleep schedule and habits is this startling finding…Research in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 1998 showed that 90% of over-training injuries were caused by sleep deprivation. It is important that injured athletes allow proper recovery rest times to avoid re-injury.

Sleep Recommendations

The American National Sleep Foundation recommends that the optimal sleep duration is 7-9 hours per night.  Are you or your young athlete getting enough sleep?  Many negative effects can happen with lack of sleep, but these two important issues will be detrimental on athlete’s sports performance:

– Impairment of growth hormone release and muscle protein synthesis: This means the ability for skeletal muscle to adapt and repair, which also has a direct impact on training adaptations such as speed, endurance, strength and power.  This reduction in skeletal muscle adaptation and repair will also negatively impact recovery from an injury.

-Impairment of the learning of new skills and memory: Sleep is crucial for memory consolidation and motor learning.  Sport is a constantly evolving process, where not only do you need highly developed physical attributes, but sport also requires high levels of motor learning, skill acquisition, strategy, decision-making, cognition and memory to carry out tasks which ultimately influence performance.  Without proper amount of sleep your athletic skills will suffer.

If you are serious about your sport and want to perform optimally and reduce your likelihood of injury, you need to make sure you are using your time asleep to your advantage.

Here are a few simple strategies for athletes to optimize their sleep patterns:

1) Aim for 7-9 hours per night and consider naps during the day if less than 7 hours sleep per night

2) Sleep in cool (but not cold), dark room

3) Avoid using electronics in your bedroom

4) Limit technology use 1 hour before bed

5) Reduce caffeine after lunch and eating 1 hour prior to sleep

Hopefully this information helps you understand the importance of getting your ZZZ’s. If you want to get better at your sport, get better at sleeping. It’s really a no-brainer. By simply increasing your depth and hours of sleep, you will absolutely perform better on the court, in the gym, or on the field. If it sounds simple, that’s because it is.

Let us know if you notice a difference in your performance once you employ these strategies. Now get out there and crush your season!


Milewski MD, Skaggs DL, Bishop GA, Pace JL, Ibrahim DA, Wren TA, et al. Chronic lack of sleep is associated with increased sports injuries in adolescent athletes. Journal of pediatric orthopedics. 2014 Mar;34(2):129-33. PubMed PMID: 25028798. Epub 2014/07/17. eng.

Luke A, Lazaro RM, Bergeron MF, Keyser L, Benjamin H, Brenner J, et al. Sports-related injuries in youth athletes: is overscheduling a risk factor? Clinical journal of sport medicine : official journal of the Canadian Academy of Sport Medicine. 2011 Jul;21(4):307-14. PubMed PMID: 21694586. Epub 2011/06/23. eng.

Fullagar HH, Duffield R, Skorski S, Coutts AJ, Julian R, Meyer T. Sleep and Recovery in Team Sport: Current Sleep-Related Issues Facing Professional Team-Sport Athletes. International journal of sports physiology and performance. 2015 Nov;10(8):950-7. PubMed PMID: 25756787. Epub 2015/03/11. eng.

Simpson NS, Gibbs EL, Matheson GO. Optimizing sleep to maximize performance: implications and recommendations for elite athletes. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports. 2016 Jul 1. PubMed PMID: 27367265. Epub 2016/07/02. Eng.

Nedelec M, Halson S, Abaidia AE, Ahmaidi S, Dupont G. Stress, Sleep and Recovery in Elite Soccer: A Critical Review of the Literature. Sports medicine (Auckland, NZ). 2015 Oct;45(10):1387-400. PubMed PMID: 26206724. Epub 2015/07/25. eng.