5 Simple Tips to Improve Your Sleep

Lack of Sleep & Sports Injuries

Huw Darnell – Accredited Exercise Physiologist AFR

The importance of sleep for optimal human function and sporting performance has been well established, however it is often an area of performance athletes execute poorly. In a recent study Milewski et al 2014, explored the effects of chronic lack of sleep and it’s effect on sports injuries.

They were able to show over a 21 month period that athletes who experience a chronic lack of sleep, i.e. getting less than 8 hours on average per night have were shown to increase their chance of injury by 1.7 times compared to those who get 8 hours or more.

Lack of sleep also manifests itself into decrease central nervous system and cognitive performance, affecting memory and motor learning, it decreases the immune systems defenses, which increases susceptibility to illness and infection, it decreases muscle glycogen resynthesis and therefore can effect energy stores and finally it can affect muscle recovery by decreasing protein synthesis.

Sleep #1_cr

Whether you are an athlete or not you should aim to get 8 hours of sleep per night. Below is pre-bed checklist that can help to maximize your sleep:

  • Have a bed time routine: warm shower, brush teeth, regular sleep and wake time and don’t view bright computers, phones or TV’s within 30 minutes of going to bed as it can disrupt your sleep.
  • Perform high intensity intense training earlier in the day if possible
  • Get your night time nutrition right: don’t consume stimulants from midday onwards e.g. gym pre-workout, coffee, caffeinated teas, avoid eating heavy meals for dinner and avoid consuming large quantities of fluid or any alcohol in the evening.
  • Have sleep friendly bedroom: have a comfy bed that for sleeping only, this means no phones or computers in bed. Your bedroom should also be as dark, quiet and cool as possible
  • Relax, don’t stress: abdominal breathing, visualisation and progressive muscle relaxation are advanced techniques that can be used to help relax the mind and the body before bed. I also find performing a brain dump, where you write all your thoughts down on a clear sheet of paper can help keep a clear mind for bed.


1. Picture from Yann Le Meur http://ylmsportscience.blogspot.com.au
2. Milewski et al (2014). Chronic Lack of Sleep is Associated with Increased Sports Injuries in Adolescent Athletes. Journal Pediatric Orthopaedics, 34 (2):129-133.