September 25, 2017

How Inadequate Sleep Impacts Your Injury Risk

Sleep – it has become apparent over time that kids, especially teens, are getting less of it. 

Sleep is important for multiple reasons, and now research is showing that a person’s overall injury rate increases as their amount of sleep decreases. 

There has been a trend for increasing injuries in athletes overall, but these injury levels are occurring at higher rates at younger ages. 

Early sports specialization and overuse play a large role in injury risk. However, decreased sleep often looks like overtraining syndrome and puts young athletes at an equal, if not greater risk for injury. 

It has been known that sleep is important for kids and teens to do well in school. Learning requires sleep in order for focus and memory to work best. But sleep also is important for physical activity, including sports. 

Sleep gives the body a chance to repair and regenerate from the day – muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones and growth plates need this time to recover to help prevent overuse injuries. 

Sleep also helps with reaction time, which is integral in most sports. If an athlete’s reaction time is slower, it is more difficult to adjust in sports to help prevent injury. 

Studies have shown that for teens in grades 7-12, sleeping fewer than eight hours a night can almost double their risk of injury. 

Also, if anyone – children, teens or adults – sleeps fewer than six hours a night, their risk of injury is substantially high. 

What can you do if your child or teen has trouble sleeping? 

One easy thing to try at home is to develop a sleep routine. When started at a young age, going to bed early will become habit. Older children can develop a healthy sleep routine, too. Here’s how:

  • About 30-60 minutes prior to when they want to fall asleep, they start whatever routine works for them. For some, it's a shower/bath followed by brushing teeth then reading a book. Others might just want some time to listen to music.

  • The single most helpful trick to shut the brain down is to not use electronics 30-60 minutes prior to bedtime. 

If your child or teen is in a routine for two to four weeks and is still having trouble sleeping, talk to your primary care provider for additional tips.