Teen Athletes Need Zzz’s, Too

Neurocognitive functioning declined among high school athletes with fewer hours of sleep

(RxWiki News) There are many reasons it's important for young people to get enough shut-eye. For one, sleep fuels the brain. A good night's rest can prepare young athletes for the day ahead.

Teen athletes who got less than seven hours of sleep had poorer reaction times and verbal and visual memory than those who got more sleep, a study presented at a conference found.

Though the findings have not yet been peer-reviewed, the researchers of this study said this illustrated how sleep affects different branches of performance in athletes.

"Get at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night."

A team of researchers led by Jake McClure, BS, from the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, aimed to see how sleep affected brain function and performance in high school and college athletes.

This study looked at 3,704 athletes who did not have any concussions. About two-thirds of the athletes were male and the vast majority were in high school. Only 383 were college-aged.

The athletes reported how many hours of sleep they got on average each night and were categorized into one of three groups based their answers.

Those who were in the short group had less than seven hours of sleep each night. The intermediate group consisted of athletes who slept seven to nine hours each night, and those who slept longer than nine hours a night were in the long group.

The researchers measured each athlete's neurocognitive scores and any concussion symptoms at the start of the study.

After taking gender, age and type of sport into account, the researchers found that sleeping less than seven hours was significantly linked to poorer verbal memory and visual memory scores.

Athletes who slept less than seven hours also had poorer reaction time scores. 

Fewer hours of sleep did not seem to affect visual motor scores.

"Because concussion management and return-to-play decisions hinge on the comparison to a reliable baseline evaluation, sports medicine physicians should strongly consider amount of sleep prior to neurocognitive testing in the assessment of athletes' recovery," the authors wrote in their report.

Fewer hours of sleep was also significantly tied to an increasing number of reported symptoms similar to that of a concussion.

This study was presented July 13 at the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine Annual Meeting in Chicago. All findings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Review Date: 
July 13, 2013