Andrew Watson, MD, MS, presented a research abstract looking at the connection between poor sleep habits and injury rates in some college athletes at the 28th Annual Meeting of the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine in Houston.

Getting a good night’s sleep is an issue for many college athletes, who can suffer from insufficient sleep duration and poor sleep quality. Watson and his team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison wanted to evaluate the effects of poor sleep on in-season injury in male and female college athletes.

“While this is the first prospective study to evaluate the relationship between sleep and injury in collegiate athletes, it agrees with prior research in youth athletes that sleep is an important risk factor for injury,” Watson says in a release. “It also adds to the considerable body of evidence that proper sleep is vital for overall health and athletic performance.”

Over three seasons, 19 male Division I basketball players and 14 Division I female volleyball reported their sleep duration and quality every morning, while an athletic trainer kept track of injuries in that span.

We found that the athletes suffered injuries more frequently after nights with less sleep, and that the quality and duration of sleep were significant predictors of injury the next day.

Among both basketball and volleyball players, the study found that increased sleep duration and sleep quality were tied to a dramatic reduction in in-season injury risk, such that one additional hour of sleep was associated with a 32% to 42% decreased risk of injury the following day.

“We and others also continue to find that athletes do not obtain sufficient sleep and may not accurately assess their own sleep needs,” Watson says. “Monitoring sleep duration and quality may help identify individuals at risk of injury and facilitate interventions to improve sleep and enhance the health of our athletes.”