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How Important is Sleep for Sports Performance and Injury Management?

8 Sep 2014
Andrew Wynd
Exercise and health professionals are motivated to find optimal solutions for athletes of all levels, be it sports performance, injury management, or injury prevention. These skills are of course, transferable to non-athletes, everyday office workers, and Mums and Dads alike. Traditionally, exercise and health professionals talk most about the physical components of exercise and rehabilitation such as stretching, strengthening, rehabilitating, and training. Is it time we started talking more about sleep, nutrition, and stress management?

Do practitioners such as physiotherapists, osteopaths, chiropractors, massage therapists, exercise physiologists, or personal trainers have the training and knowledge to effectively advise clients in these areas? The national body representing Physiotherapy (APA) recently surveyed physiotherapists as to their attitudes on providing healthy lifestyle advice. In this month’s APA Publication InMotion, there is a focus on sleep.

Shona Halson (2013) from the Australian Institute of Sport recently published a fantastic summary of the important role sleep plays in the elite athlete. Of all the interventions attempted at the AIS, improving and increasing sleep made the most difference for performance. Conversely, chronic sleep deprivation leads to decreased athletic performance and may be linked to increased risk of an acute injury, such as a sprained ankle (Luke et al., 2011). Now that is interesting to exercise and health professionals….  How much sleep are you getting? How much sleep are your clients getting?

With two little kids and a busy clinic, I am clearly not getting enough sleep for optimal performance, but my days of elite sporting competition are well behind me. I find myself discussing sleep with more and more clients and am finding this is a great avenue to explore when trying to find solutions for injury management and prevention.

I don’t yet have the answers to all the questions proposed above, but maybe it is time for all of us to be taking a more holistic approach for the athletic and non-athletic population alike.

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