Time to hit snooze – the impacts of poor sleep

Ky Wynne, physiotherapist at Lifecare Prahran Sports Medicine.

Sleep is known to be important for learning, memory and cognition.

The function of sleep is still not completely understood, however it appears sleep assists with recovery from the previous day and helps prepare for the upcoming day [1].

Sleep has been shown to be a vital component of recovery from sport and activity [2], along with having a consistent association to lower risk of illness and even death [3].

The recommendation is that adults obtain eight hours of sleep per night [1], as periods of sleep deprivation or poor-quality sleep can impact negatively on cognitive and physiological function.

The causes of poor sleep quality

The cause of poor sleep can be multifactorial and with the pressures of daily life leaving most people poor of time, it has become more common for people to be lacking in vital sleep.

Some contributing factors that impact sleep quality include personal choice, work, illness/injury, young children, medication, medical conditions, stress/anxiety, caffeine, alcohol, and the environment (e.g. noise levels) [4].

Studies [25] show athletes are often at risk of having poor sleep.

The reasons affecting sleep quality in athletes are thought to include the timing of competition (e.g. night games), environmental conditions (e.g. light exposure from stadiums), caffeine ingestion, travel schedules, and heavy training schedules.

Concussions have also been reported to cause increased symptoms of sleep disturbance [3].

Adolescent athletes are particularly at risk of poor sleep, with sport and school both factors impacting sleep quality, subsequently increasing their risk of injury [6].

The impact of poor sleep

Poor sleep (sleep loss, deprivation, insomnia etc) affects a multitude of different body functions and systems.

Neurocognitive function (e.g. memory, attention), athletic performance, and physical health are all adversely affected [5].

The adverse impacts of poor sleep are displayed visually in figure 1, and include [12357]:

Figure 1. Impact of poor sleep (sourced from @kywynnephysio[8]

Improving your sleep quality

Need to improve your sleep and want to know how a physiotherapist can help? Get in touch with your local Lifecare clinic today.