Sleep and Injury

sleep and injuryWhat’s the connection between sleep and injury?

Are you more likely to have a sport injury if you’re not getting enough shut-eye?

Here’s the scenario, do you recognise any of it?


It’s 6am, you get up, go for a run, grab breakfast, drop the kids at school. Work all morning, grab a sandwich, work all afternoon, drive to the gym for yoga, drive home. Cook dinner, sort the washing, take the bins out, check the homework has been done, get the kids into bed, finish off the report for the meeting tomorrow. Then you reward yourself with an hour of telly, check your messages, check Facebook in bed. 11:30pm you go to sleep. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Every day of the week, 6.5 hours sleep a day.

That’s just an example, but we seem to be very good nowadays at filling our days and turning our lives into a hectic itinerary of activity every waking minute of the day. Sometimes it eat into what is supposed to be our sleep time.

What effect does not enough sleep have on your body?
A review of studies over the last year has found the following; cognitive problems, mood alterations, reduced job performance, reduced motivation, increased safety risks, and physiological changes. A recent study has highlighted an interesting link between sleep and injury rates in adolescent high school pupils.

The study recorded how much sleep 112 student athletes were getting and then cross-checked those athletes against the athletic department’s injury records. The study found that those pupils who had achieved more than 8 hours of sleep per night were 1.7 times less likely to have an injury when compared to athletes who had less than 8 hours of sleep. The other factor in the study was that the older the pupils got the higher their injury rate. Worth noting if you’re a middle-aged runner who doesn’t get enough sleep!

A different study also highlighted the same findings but also looked at what the pupils in this study were eating. They too found that the pupils who had less than 8 hours of sleep were more susceptible to injury but also found that the pupils that had lower than recommended nutritional levels were further susceptible to injury. When you consider the fast-paced lifestyle that so many of us live nowadays and the need to ‘grab’ food that isn’t necessarily as nutritionally beneficial as it should be, it would seem to increase the potential for injury.

Quality of sleep
The quality of sleep that you get can also affect your ability to physically recover from injury, competition or training. It’s recommended that you sleep in a quiet, dark room for the length of your slumber and also, that you don’t consume caffeinated drinks within four hours of your bedtime. Modern day technology doesn’t aid us in our quest for a good night’s sleep either.

The problem is to do with the body’s circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is a 24 hour process that our body undergoes, it is primarily driven by light levels throughout that period. When the sun goes down and our environment dims our bodies begin to produce more melatonin in preparation for sleep.

Melatonin is a hormone that aids the body in entering its sleep cycle but when the body is put into a brighter environment it’s production is reduced and it is harder for us to go to sleep. The blue wavelength light emitted by many of the electronic devices that we use nowadays has also been shown to suppress delta brain waves, which induce sleep, and boost alpha wavelengths, which promote alertness. The knock-on effect is that it then takes longer for us to fall into a deep sleep if we have spent any time on electronic devices in the time immediately before going to bed.

Sleep is something that we can, to a degree, control. You will continue to function without enough sleep, but if you keep picking up niggling injuries, then increasing the amount and quality of sleep that you are getting, could tip the balance in your favour and start your road to recovery.

Enjoy your running and your sleep

Matt Jeffery

Synergy Physical Training @ Advance Performance

About the author; Matt Jeffery is Advance Performance’s strength and conditioning specialist, he’s a certified personal trainer and corrective exercise specialist with the National Academy of Sports Medicine and runs a strength and conditioning company called Synergy Physical Training