Sleep Deprived or Concussed? The Acute Impact of Self-Reported Insufficient Sleep in College Athletes

J Int Neuropsychol Soc. 2020 Aug;

Riegler, K. E., Guty, E. T., Thomas, G. A., & Arnett, P. A..



OBJECTIVE: Sleep deprivation is common among both college students and athletes and has been correlated with negative health outcomes, including worse cognition. As such, the current study sought to examine the relationship between sleep difficulties and self-reported symptoms and objective neuropsychological performance at baseline and post-concussion in collegiate athletes. METHOD: Seven hundred seventy-two collegiate athletes completed a comprehensive neuropsychological test battery at baseline and/or post-concussion. Athletes were separated into two groups based on the amount of sleep the night prior to testing. The sleep duration cutoffs for these group were empirically determined by sample mean and standard deviation (M = 7.07, SD = 1.29). RESULTS: Compared with athletes getting sufficient sleep, those getting insufficient sleep the night prior to baseline reported significantly more overall symptoms and more symptoms from each of the five symptom clusters of the Post-Concussion Symptom Scale. However, there were no significant differences on objective performance indices. Secondly, there were no significant differences on any of the outcome measures, except for sleep symptoms and headache, between athletes getting insufficient sleep at baseline and those getting sufficient sleep post-concussion. CONCLUSION: Overall, the effect of insufficient sleep at baseline can make an athlete appear similar to a concussed athlete with sufficient sleep. As such, athletes completing a baseline assessment following insufficient sleep could be underperforming cognitively and reporting elevated symptoms that would skew post-concussion comparisons. Therefore, there may need to be consideration of prior night’s sleep when determining whether a baseline can be used as a valid comparison.

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