We’ve all been told to “get enough sleep”, but what does this mean, particularly when it comes to middle school aged athletes with injuries, and to aid in recovery? It is recommended that adolescent athletes sleep at least 10-12 hours per night for injury prevention and healing due in large part to the increase in HGH (Human Growth Hormone) that is released during sleep which is essential in healing damaged tissues.1

Along with HGH, Prolactin is also released during sleep which contains anti-inflammatory qualities resulting in continued healing.2 Additionally the body also creates more WBC’s (White Blood Cells) while sleeping than while awake to lend in the healing process.3

Not only does the amount of sleep an injured person gets matter, but the position in which they sleep can aid in healing as well. Below are some common injuries and optimal sleeping positions for faster healing:2

Optimal Sleeping Positions for Various Injuries

  • Lower extremity injuries – athletes should sleep on their back with a pillow under the affected area with it slightly elevated.

  • Upper extremity injuries – laying on their back or unaffected side is best as to avoid restricting blood flow to that area.

  • Shoulder injuries – it is best to lay on their back with a pillow propped under the affected side for an increase in comfort.

  • Neck injuries – the athlete wants to keep the head in line with the body, so a lower pillow may be needed while sleeping on their back.

  • Back injuries – head, neck, back, and hip alignment is key. As a general rule, sleeping on their back is best, or on their side with a pillow between their knees.

Overtired athletes often perform at a lower level, are less focused, and have a higher rate of injury than their fully rested counterparts. Adequate sleep is essential to injury prevention, as well as the healing process when an injury does occur.

  1. National Sleep Foundation Website. 2019
  2. Dreams.co.uk Website. 2019
  3. Science Daily. “Study Explores How Immune System Functions During Sleep”. Nov 15, 2016.