The Often Misunderstood Relationship Between Sports, Concussions, & Sleep

The Often Misunderstood Relationship Between Sports, Concussions, & Sleep

As the winter sports season approaches, fun, competition, and camaraderie are top of mind. But so are injuries. 

As athletes push themselves to perform, injuries are inevitable. And one of the scariest and most misunderstood injuries they can suffer, is the concussion. 

A ‘sports concussion’ is a form of traumatic brain injury caused by a bump, blow, fall, or a shake during play. Athletes usually recover within days or weeks, but some athletes can suffer debilitating symptoms for much longer. And for many, sleep disturbance is an issue. The fact is, sleep and concussions are closely intertwined, and disturbances of sleep can occur both acutely and chronically after the initial concussion.

New data shows sleep disturbances may actually increase an athlete’s risk of developing concussions. So, this relationship is bidirectional and it’s important for athletes, trainers, coaches, and parents to understand this better as it affects athlete performance and wellbeing.

Immediately after the concussion, many athletes will complain of excessive sleepiness and will sleep longer.  Research shows that this is a protective mechanism as most of the healing processes in the brain occur during sleep and so concussed athletes require more restorative sleep. Getting proper sleep during the initial recovery stage therefore, is beneficial to the concussed athlete as it restores the electrochemical balance in the brain and decreases the likelihood of the athletes experiencing prolonged symptoms. Thus, allowing athletes to rest and easing the athlete back to their full athletic schedule becomes important.