Athletes and sleep disorders
Piotr Stola, M.D., is board certified in sleep medicine. He is a physician at Pulmonary Consultants and is on staff at Banner Baywood Medical Center in Mesa.
Question: Is it common for athletes to suffer from sleep disorders?
Answer: Certain athletes do suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. Adolescent male athletes, despite being physically fit, may often be classified as overweight or obese based on height and weight (body mass index, or BMI). A recent study of high school football players found that one in five linemen were morbidly obese and only 8 percent of linemen were at a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese is a significant risk factor for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Loud and frequent snoring is a common warning sign for OSA. Also, the demanding lifestyles of athletes may cause sleep deprivation.
The primary treatment option for sleep apnea is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy. CPAP provides a steady stream of air through a mask to keep your airway open. Another treatment option, especially for mild or moderate sleep apnea, is oral appliance therapy. This type of therapy uses a custom-fit device that is similar to a mouth guard. It is worn in the mouth during sleep to prevent the soft tissues of the throat from collapsing and obstructing the airway.
Treatment of OSA can be beneficial for the athlete. Treatment improves vigilance and decreases fatigue, tiredness and pain threshold. The successful treatment of sleep apnea results in a significant improvement in health and quality of life.
Some athletes might simply suffer from insomnia. For this, forming appropriate sleep habits helps. This means getting 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night, avoid stimulants such as caffeine or late-night television watching and avoid napping during the day. Eating an appropriate diet along with avoiding late meals and strenuous exercise shortly prior to bedtime will also help.