I love a good night’s sleep. I need a solid eight hours to feel human and function well.
Experts will tell you, sleep is essential for daily function. When you sleep well, you can function at your best, but when you’re sleep deprived, your performance may suffer. Decreased mental and physical performance can lead to injuries, so sleeping well can help you prevent injuries from happening.
Sleep Deprivation Increases Your Risk of Injury
When you’re sleep deprived, you experience a deterioration in:
This deterioration causes an increased risk of error and injuries.
In fact, fatigue is responsible for between 15 to 20 percent of all transportation accidents. It’s the largest preventable cause of accidents, greater than alcohol or drugs across all types of transportation. Sleep deprivation is associated with occupational injuries and medical errors as well.
Athletes may be at a higher risk of injury when sleep deprived. A study of adolescent athletes found that those who slept for eight hours or more every night had a 68 percent lower risk of injury than those who did not sleep as much. Sleep was a greater risk factor for injury than factors including the number of sports played, year-round play, strength training, and private coaching.
Sleep Can Support Healthy Recovery From Injuries
Sleep can help you reduce your risk of injuries, but if you’re already injured, it can help you recover. Rest is central to the body’s regenerative process.
When you’re sleep deprived, the body is less able to perform muscle repair. A study found that sleep plays a role in regenerating damaged muscle tissue. With eight hours of sleep deprivation, markers of muscle repair were lessened and resulted in recovery deficits.
Another study found sleep deprivation can delay wound healing. Wounds in healthy adults responded better with adequate sleep than sleep deprivation.
Sleeping Well for Injury Prevention and Recovery
With these tips, you can use sleep as a tool for preventing and recovering from injuries.
- Stick to a regular sleep schedule. Make it easier to fall asleep at night by staying on a consistent sleep schedule, even on the weekends and when you’re traveling. A traveling pillow and blanket may help you sleep better in an unfamiliar place. Your body will become accustomed to going to sleep at the same time, and you will start to feel sleepy at bedtime, making falling asleep easier.
- Get regular exercise. Make physical activity a part of your daily life, as it can help you sleep better at night. However, don’t exercise late at night, and don’t train instead of sleeping.
Consider your sleep environment. Your bedroom should be a healthy sleep environment, which is quiet, dark, cool, and comfortable. Block out distractions including snoring, other noises, and light. Use a fan, blackout curtains, eye shades, or earplugs if needed. Make sure you’re sleeping on a mattress that’s well suited to your needs.
- Don’t let naps get in the way. Naps can be helpful for supplementing sleep, but they can make it difficult to sleep well if you nap too much. Naps should be kept to 30 minutes at the most, and you should avoid taking naps after 3 p.m., as you may feel too rested to fall asleep at night.