Why Athletes Who Get More Sleep Recover From Injuries Faster

No matter your sport or activity, injuries are always a possibility when you’re involved in athletic activity. But if you sleep well, you can reduce your risk of injury and may recover faster.

How Sleep Reduces Your Injury Risk

When you have poor sleep, you may struggle to stay focused and alert. It affects your reaction time and can degrade your performance. And it can put you at a greater risk of injury: a study found that athletes playing a game after a night of less than eight hours of sleep were almost twice as likely to become injured during the game.

Sleep and Injury Recovery

Deep sleep is essential for athletes in training and especially during injury recovery. During deep sleep, your body releases growth hormones, and additional sleep can encourage more hormone production. Human growth hormone production is helpful for recovery from injuries, as it promotes tissue repair. Although human growth hormone supplementation is available, this is a naturally occurring hormone, and you can stimulate greater production simply by sleeping more.

Air Quality and Sleep

Unfortunately, air pollution, such as smoke from wildfires, can interfere with your athletic ability as well as your ability to sleep well and recover. Research indicates air pollution can affect how well you sleep.

In fact, if you live in an area with high levels of air pollution, you’re 60% more likely to sleep poorly.

Low quality sleep can affect your performance and increase the risk of accidents or injuries.

What You Can Do To Sleep and Recover Better

  • Commit to sleeping well. Give yourself enough time each night to get the sleep you need. During injury recovery or intense training, you may need up to 10 hours of sleep each night -- possibly more. It can be tough to find enough time each day to sleep, especially if you’re training for upcoming events. Plan ahead so you can fit sleep into your schedule, and consider supplementing nighttime sleep with small naps throughout the day if needed. 
  • Focus on sleep quality. Deep sleep is when your body experiences the most restorative sleep that can help you recover. Avoid caffeine and alcohol use at night, as these substances can cause you to have a lower quality of sleep, sleeping more shallowly and missing out on the deep sleep you need for recovery.
  • Manage air quality. It can be difficult to sleep when you’re struggling with air quality. Invest in an air purifier that can clear the air in your bedroom and make it easier to sleep. It’s also a good idea to bring in plants that are known to remove toxins from the air, such as ferns and green vines.
  • Create a healthy sleep environment. In addition to air quality, focus on other elements of your sleep environment. Make sure you’re sleeping on a comfortable mattress and pillow with soft sheets. Your bedroom should be painted in a light, relaxing color, and you should bring in elements of nature for a more calming vibe that can help you drift off to sleep at night.

Injuries happen, but sleep can be your secret weapon for injury prevention and recovery if you get the deep, restorative sleep you need. Give yourself the time you need to sleep at night and focus on getting the best quality sleep you can so you can avoid and recover from injuries as quickly as possible.

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Sara Westgreen is a researcher for the sleep science hub Tuck.com. She sleeps on a king size bed in Texas, where she defends her territory against cats all night. A mother of three, she enjoys beer, board games, and getting as much sleep as she can get her hands on.


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