Getting a good night's sleep after a sports-related concussion might lead to a shorter recovery time in adolescents, new research suggests.

Young athletes who have good sleep quality after sustaining a concussion were more likely to recover within two weeks, while those who sleep poorly were more likely to endure symptoms for 30 days or more, according to research findings presented earlier this month at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) conference in Orlando, Florida.

“Pediatricians and healthcare providers taking care of young athletes should assess sleep quality at the initial clinic visit for concussions in an effort to predict those at risk for prolonged recovery,” said Dr. Jane Chung, a pediatric sports medicine physician at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, who served as one of the researchers.

Chung's study included 356 athletes from Texas, age 19 and younger. Researchers asked the participants to complete a questionnaire called the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index. Based on the results, the participants were categorized into two groups: 261 good sleepers and 95 poor sleepers.

At follow-up visits three months later, both groups of patients had improved, but the good sleepers were more likely to have significant recovery within two weeks of the initial concussion.

"The importance of good sleep quality is often underestimated in young athletes," Chung said in a news release issued by the AAP.

US Lacrosse has consistently advocated that adequate rest plays an important role in reducing the risk of injury among youth athletes. Proper sleep is also critically important for athletes who want to maximize performance. Having a consistent sleep routine is recommended.

“It takes about seven days to get into a new sleep pattern," said Dr. Kari Kindschi, primary care sports medicine physician at MedStar Health. "We encourage young athletes to have the same time for going to bed each day, and the same time for getting up.” 

Sleep deprivation can affect mental awareness, memory, reaction time and overall performance level. 

The researchers in the concussion recovery study did indicate the need for further data to determine the effect of sleep quality interventions on concussion recovery.

“Future research should focus on identifying specific interventions to improve sleep quality, so we can get our athletes back to doing what they love,” Chung said.
 

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