By Sarah Westgreen at Tuck Sleep

When you don’t sleep enough, you’re not at the top of your game. Sleep deprivation can make you more susceptible to injuries — and make it more difficult to recover from existing injuries.

Sleep and Injury Prevention

Sleep deprivation makes physical and mental activities more difficult to complete, as your cognitive and motor skills are diminished. When you’re short on sleep, your muscles don’t respond as quickly as they would if you were well-rested, and your concentration and attention suffer. Sleep deprivation can affect your balance and motor skills. A lack of sleep can lead to injuries, as you aren’t physically or mentally prepared to perform at your best.

According to a recent study of adolescent athletes, when athletes slept enough each night (eight or more hours), they had a 68 percent lower risk of injury than sleep-deprived athletes. The decreased likelihood of injury was significantly associated with the number of hours of sleep per night. Rest was a greater factor than how many sports the athletes played, whether the athletes played year-round, and the trend toward athletes specializing in a particular sport.

💤💤💤 and Injury Recovery

Skeletal muscles can regenerate after a muscular injury, but your body needs support to do so. Sleep is an integral part of the process of regeneration, and when you’re sleep-deprived, your ability to repair and regenerate muscle tissue is weakened.

A recent study suggests that sleep has a permissive role in damaged muscle tissue regeneration and that sleep loss impairs recovery from muscular injuries. Subjects who were sleep-deprived showed lower indications of muscle repair and indicated deficits during recovery.

Injury Rehabilitation and Prevention

Sleep is one of the most effective tools for supporting athletic wellness. When you get enough sleep, you’re less likely to become injured during athletic activity, and you support better recovery from existing injuries. Athletes should always get the recommended amount of sleep each night: generally, adults need about seven hours of sleep. However, during intense training or recovery periods, up to 10 hours of shuteye may be beneficial. Adolescents typically need about nine to 10 hours of rest every night.

Use these tips to maximize your recovery and reduce the likelihood of sports injuries with sleep:

  • Prioritize Your Rest – Sleep is a more significant factor in preventing injuries than the number of practice hours. Don’t sacrifice sleep for training. Plan ahead and make sure you have enough time each night to get the sleep you need. Figure out what time you need to wake up in the morning, and count backward to determine your bedtime.

  • Mattress Meeting Your Needs – Choosing a mattress that supports your preferred sleeping position can help you sleep better and feel better when you wake up. With the right bed, you’ll be well supported and take the pressure off of pain points on your body. Some mattresses offer features that may reduce inflammation and aid muscle recovery.

  • Avoid Late Night Exercise – Exercise is generally beneficial for sleep, but when you exercise late at night, you may feel too energized to get to sleep. It’s best if you finish activities at least a few hours before bedtime.

  • Practice Healthy Habits – Good sleep hygiene can help you make the most of your sleep hours. Maintain a regular sleep schedule and bedtime routine, and make your bedroom a healthy sleep environment that’s cool, dark, quiet, and comfortable. Avoid pitfalls that can interfere with quality sleep, such as late-night caffeine, eating heavy meals before bed, and using electronic screens in bed.

Tuck Sleep is a community devoted to improving sleep hygiene, health, and wellness through the creation and dissemination of comprehensive, unbiased, free web-based resources. Tuck has been featured on NPR, Lifehacker, Radiolab and is referenced by many colleges/universities and organizations across the web.