A new study of Division I collegiate athletes revealed a possible link between a lack of quality sleep and increased concussion risk.
The study, published in the journal Sleep Medicine, found that student-athletes who reported insomnia or excessive sleepiness during the day were 14.6 times more likely to suffer a sports-related concussion, according to Reuters.
Researchers surveyed a population of 190 student-athletes who completed questionnaires which measured their sleep quality. Researchers also gathered injury data for a year following the survey.
In all, 19 or the 190 athletes suffered head injuries during the study period — and when isolated as a possible contributing factor, researchers found that a lack of sleep contributed to concussion risk. Specifically, athletes suffering moderate-to-severe insomnia saw concussion risk increased more than three times, and those suffering from excessive daytime sleepiness more than doubled their risk.
The study, according to its authors, does not prove that poor sleep directly causes increased risk, merely that the two are linked. It’s possible, according to researchers, that a lack of sleep can cause mental fatigue leading to attention lapses and risky on-field decision-making.
It’s no secret that student-athletes at the collegiate level have unique demands on their time. Between study sessions, sports obligations and social lives, sleep can sometimes slip down the priority list. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that young adults (those between the ages of 18 to 25) get between seven and nine hours of sleep daily. Younger teens of high school age need even more.
The new study should be a reminder to student-athletes, parents, coaches and administrators to priortiize sleep — not just for performance, but also potentially for safety.