How a Lack of Sleep Can Make Nagging Injuries Worse

Getting a healthy dose of sleep each night is essential to making sure that your body recovers from the day's activities, but did you know it can also help you reduce the likelihood of future injuries? You've probably heard in the past that you need to get enough sleep to give your body time to heal, but research not only suggests that it can help you recover from existing injuries, it can also reduce the likelihood of sustaining future injuries as well.

If you're burning the candle at both ends and putting sleep on the back burner, you could be increasing your risk for future injuries and making recovery from nagging injuries more difficult. Unfortunately, persistent pain can also contribute to you getting even worse sleep, which can perpetuate the vicious cycle of sleep deprivation. We've highlighted some of the key benefits of getting the suggested amount of sleep each night, the kind of effects good and bad sleep habits have on your health, and signs to watch out for which might indicate you're lacking sleep.

How a Lack of Sleep Can Affect You

Arguably the most important thing to staying healthy while being physically active is to make sure that you prioritize the rest and recovery phase of any workout or exercise routine. Your body needs time to heal from all the stress you're putting on it, both mental and physical, which is why you need to prioritize sleep so your body can recover.

You don't need to be an athlete to make sleep a priority, as it's one of the growing health crises across the globe. The CDC found that roughly one out of every 3 adults doesn't get enough sleep. According to a report, nearly 40% of Americans are getting less than seven hours of sleep per night! The Center for Disease Control has also put together a helpful set of guidelines and recommended hours of sleep so you can avoid some of the following harmful effects that can result from a lack of sleep.

Increased Risk of Injury

When you go to sleep, you're giving your body time to repair and recover from the day's activities. In a study with a focus on younger athletes, research has shown that individuals need the recommended amounts of sleep to fully recover. The study's findings concluded that there was a connection between the amount of sleep young athletes had and their propensity for a potential injury.

The study found that young athletes who slept less than eight hours per night were nearly 1.7 times more likely to have an injury.

Even a few hours here and there can have drastic effects on the potential risk for injury, as the same study reported that 65% of athletes who got less than 8 hours of sleep were more injury-prone than the 31% of athletes who reported they got more than 8 hours per night.

In other words, every hour counts when you're trying to reduce your risk for injury and recover properly. Sleep deprivation can make you more sensitive to acute and chronic pain as well. A few hours here and there might not seem like much in the grand scheme of things, but they can quickly add up over time. Make sleep a priority in your normal routine so you can reduce your likelihood of injury in the future.

Slower Recovery Times

Your body needs all the help it can get when it comes to recovering from the day's workout or any prior injuries you may have sustained. Think of your body like a car that needs its fuel to go about your daily routine. As you go throughout the day, you're constantly burning that fuel and getting low on energy. When you go to sleep, you're giving your body a chance to recharge that energy and recover from all of the day's activities. If you're staying up all hours of the night and continually draining your body's energy, it won't have enough time to dedicate to important tasks like injury recovery.

When you give your body less time to focus on the actual injury recovery process, the length of time it takes to recover from a simple injury extends and what was once a little pain can now become a chronic or nagging injury.

Sleep is crucial for making sure that your body is doing all that it can to get back into its proper form. As you work out or perform any kind of physical activity throughout the day, your muscles can become inflamed and broken down through micro tears that need to be repaired. The recovery process to heal those micro tears and reduce the inflammation works best when your body is sleeping and can devote more energy to the healing process as opposed to trying to split that focus throughout the day if you're awake.

While you're asleep, your body uses growth hormones and improved blood flow to restore itself. If you're not giving your body enough time to focus on the recovery process, then you're going to lengthen the time it takes to recover from those injuries.

Increased Risk for Other Health Conditions

Not getting enough sleep can also significantly increase your risk for other health conditions and diseases. Some of the most common health conditions that can develop over time from a lack of sleep include type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, mental health declines, and more.

Sleep can have a wide array of effects on our body and our mental state. Have you ever woken up tired and realized that you were less patient and grouchy when in conversations with your peers? This can often be attributed to a lack of sleep as there is a link between a lack of sleep and your mood.

Symptoms You Lack Sleep

Now that you understand some of the drawbacks that can occur when you skip out on sleep, we've identified some of the most common symptoms you might experience when you lack sleep.

Some of the most common signs that you're experiencing a lack of sleep include an inability to think quickly, memory loss, poor decision-making, reduced attention span, and mood changes.

Generally, you might find that you're going throughout the day and a bout of fatigue or exhaustion can hit you randomly. This is quite common for those who are sleep deprived as they can get a jolt of energy after waking up, and then a few hours later the exhaustion hits them like a tidal wave. If you find that a wave of exhaustion hits you randomly throughout the day, chances are that you're not getting enough sleep.

Some symptoms from lack of sleep are crystal clear like feeling exhausted at random points throughout the day, and others are more abstract like mood changes or poor decision-making which you might not catch until someone else points them out. Research has also shown that sleep deprivation can impair your memory and make it harder for you to concentrate on certain tasks or recall important details.

Another symptom that you could be lacking sleep is those nagging injuries. If you find that you're struggling to recover from injuries for extended periods of time, it could be a sign that you're lacking sleep or something else is going on that needs attention. Schedule an appointment with a physical therapist today to see if a lack of sleep is causing your injury recovery to be slow.

Two of the more common symptoms that can develop as a result from a lack of sleep is having an increased appetite and gaining weight. One of the ways in which our body tries to accommodate for it's lack of energy from reduced sleep is that it tries to get energy elsewhere. One of the ways in which your body tries to do this is by making you think that you need to eat more. As you begin to stuff your mouth with food and beverages to try and get some energy, you might find that you've gained a little bit of weight from the increased appetite.

If you find that you have one or a few of the symptoms we've outlined above, chances are that you're lacking enough sleep and you need to make it a priority in your personal routine to ensure ample recovery time after a workout.

Benefits of Getting Ample Sleep

When you make sleep a priority in your routine, you're setting yourself up for success in your exercise routine and injury recovery. Some of the key benefits that can be gained by making sleep a priority include faster injury recovery times, improved athletic performance, reduced injury risk, and greater mental acuity.

Tips for a Good Night's Rest

Part of making sure that you reduce your risk for injury and recover properly is to first set yourself up for success by getting enough sleep each night. We've identified some of the best ways you can get a good night's rest when you lay your head down on the pillow each night.

One of the first things that you can do to get a good night's rest is to make sure that your room or sleep environment isn't going to hamper your ability to fall asleep properly. In our technological age, we've grown accustomed to common background noise like a tv we forgot to turn off, computer fans that are still running in the background, and night lights that add a bit of flair to our rooms.

Take the time to make sure that your sleep environment isn't causing you to be distracted. In addition to making sure that there are no distractions while you're trying to sleep, you should try to alleviate distractions before you go to bed. This includes avoiding watching television, talking on the phone, scrolling through your favorite websites, or playing any applications and games. In the same way that you need to cool down after a workout, you want to cool down on your brain's activities before bed time so you can ease into a good night's rest.

The next tip is to try to establish a routine. One of the biggest barriers that you could be setting for yourself is by going to sleep at different hours each night. Try to set up a routine in which you can go to bed around the same time. Over time, your body will mentally prepare itself and become accustomed to going to bed around the same time and you'll fall asleep faster.

Avoid drinking caffeine or eating right before you try and fall asleep. While it might seem harmless at first to squeeze in a quick snack before you attempt to go to bed, you could be making it harder to fall asleep. These are just a few of the things you can do to try and get a better night's sleep and ensure that you can set yourself up for success in future workouts and recover properly.

Connect With a Physical Therapist For Those Nagging Injuries

If you have found that you're dealing with a chronic or nagging injury, one of the best things you can do is to connect and schedule an appointment with a physical therapist. At Results Physiotherapy, our licensed physical therapists are here to help you get on the pathway to recovery, and the first step to doing so is scheduling an appointment. Our physical therapists will work with you to identify, educate, and begin treatment on some of those nagging injuries. Schedule an appointment today to connect with a physical therapist at one of our in-person clinics or virtually.

  1. Milewski, Matthew D, et al. “Chronic Lack of Sleep Is Associated with Increased Sports Injuries in Adolescent Athletes.” Journal of Pediatric Orthopedics, U.S. National Library of Medicine,
  2. Tudor, Jennifer C., et al. “Sleep Deprivation Impairs Memory by Attenuating mTORC1-Dependent Protein Synthesis.” Science Signaling, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 26 Apr. 2016,
Posted by Ryan Bucci at 07:00
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