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The Shocking Sleep Problems Affecting Athletes


You know that amazing feeling when you collapse into bed after a long day and a really tough workout, and then proceed to get an unbelievable night of sleep? You're not alone; the average exerciser reports getting better sleep than those who don't exercise, according to a poll by the National Sleep Foundation.

Considering that professional athletes work out for a living and are really in-tune with taking care of their bodies, it seems logical that they get stellar sleep all the time, right? Wrong.

A new study conducted by the University of Eastern Finland and Oivauni Sleep Clinic analyzed 107 professional athletes' sleep through a survey. They found that one in four athletes suffered from significant sleeping disorders (such as trouble falling asleep, snoring or sleep-disordered breathing) and that one in six used sleeping pills (either to fall asleep or stay asleep) on the reg during their in-season. And, surprisingly, most of them slept too little.

Even though the athletes studied weren't getting great sleep, they all acknowledged that it's an important part of their overall health. After all, sleep is a huge piece of recovery for both your muscles and brain. Not to mention, skimping on sleep (or only getting lousy sleep), can cause a myriad of health problems like messing with your appetite, skin, and sex life, and may increase your risk for type 2 diabetes and cancer. That's why the CDC proclaimed the nation's lack of sleep as a public health emergency in 2009 when they found that more than 35 percent of Americans reported getting less than seven hours of sleep per night.

But while sleep-deprivation is a huge issue for both the pro-athletes in the study and the American public alike, the rate of chronic sleep disorders is much higher for the athletes. According to the 2013-2014 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, only about 10 percent of people surveyed had been diagnosed with a chronic sleep disorder, while nearly one-quarter of the athletes studied in the survey were recorded as having a "significant sleep disorder."

If you're trying to hit the hay for enough hours, but something more serious is getting in the way, you might be one of an estimated 40 million Americans who have one of those disorders, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

The good news? Researchers found that the athletes' sleep issues were easy fixed with an individualized examination, counseling, and treatment. If your sleep is sub-par, try these 10 Steps for Better Sleep or nomming on or nixing these foods before bed.


Lauren Mazzo

Lauren Mazzo is a digital assistant editor for Shape and Fitness. She's an Ithaca College alumna, a Rochester, NY, native and an NYC transplant.  More →

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