You may be ready to focus on your health, but without adequate sleep, you could be headed towards injury. Injury prevention often includes a efforts to balance muscles groups, increase flexibility, and strength ligaments, but sleep has far more impact on injury prevention than many realize. By getting a solid seven to nine hours of sleep, you can not only prevent injuries but heal faster.
Stay Safe and Heal Faster
While you sleep, the brain removes toxins, prunes unneeded pathways, and strengthens those connections that are most needed. When toxins build and pathways aren’t cleared, everything from critical thinking skills to reaction times slow down, putting you at an increased risk for injury.
A study published in Sleep found that extending the sleep of basketball players improved their reaction times (measured in speed) and free throw percentages. Though the study didn’t compare the amount of sleep with injury rate, the ability to react and think quickly, which it did measure, could also prevent a rolled ankle or knee injury.
Whether you’re healing from a hard workout or a torn muscle, sleep acts as a “permissive” player in the regeneration of muscle. It’s while you’re in stage 3 sleep, the first of the deep sleep stages, that the body goes to work repairing muscle and other body tissues. The body cycles through this stage several times throughout the night. If you don’t spend enough time or cycles in this stage, the body cannot heal at the optimal pace. Not only that, if the body isn’t fully healed, you’re more prone to further injury, making adequate sleep even more essential to injury prevention.
How to Get Better Sleep
We all want a full night’s rest, but sometimes it can be elusive. However, there are some environmental conditions as well as habits and behaviors you can use to improve your ability to fall and stay asleep.
To keep your body on a regular sleep schedule, you’ll need the right conditions in your bedroom. The sleep-wake cycle is heavily influenced by exposure to natural light. Blackout curtains or heavy drapes can help keep light pollution from delaying the onset of sleep and wakefulness during the night. They can also help muffle outside noise and distractions.
Habits and behaviors that can help you get more sleep at night include:
A Consistent Bed and Wake-Up Time: The body uses regular biological cycles to time the release of sleep hormones. Keeping a consistent sleep schedule helps your body follow and strengthen these natural cycles.
Avoiding Screen Time Close to Bed: Televisions, smartphones, and other electronic devices can give off a bright blue light that suppresses sleep hormones. Some devices have a low blue light setting that can be used close to bedtime or turn off your devices about two to three hours before bed.
Daily Exercise: Daily exercise helps both mind and body feel tired at night. However, avoid strenuous exercise for at least four hours before bed as the release of adrenaline and endorphins can keep you awake.
A Calming Bedtime Routine: A bedtime routine does double duty by helping the brain recognize when it’s time to sleep and by releasing tension and stress before bed.
While you can’t avoid all injuries, you can certainly build the healthy habits that will help you react quickly, think clearly, and have the physical stamina to avoid it as much as possible.