Adolescent Athletes Enjoy Better Sleep

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Teens who exercise vigorously have a better quality of sleep than their couch-potato peers, according to a new Swiss study.

Four hundred thirty-four adolescents participated, including 258 students who were part of the “Swiss Olympic Classes,” a program that offers a high level of athletic training. The other group involved 176 typical high school students who were not in training. The athletes exercised about 17.5 hours a week while the other teens spent a little more than 4.5 hours exercising.

Each group of teens — whose average age was 17 — kept a sleep and daily functioning log for seven consecutive days. The researchers looked at how often the adolescents woke during the night, their level of tiredness and their ability to concentrate during the day.

The study, led by Serge Brand, Ph.D., of the Depression and Sleep Research Unit at the Basel Psychiatric Hospital of the University of Basel, appears online in the Journal of Adolescent Health.


Adolescent athletes functioned better psychologically at home and at school, the study found.

Another comparison looked at whether females had worse sleep patterns than males, but this was not the case. “Our data did not confirm this prediction,” the researchers wrote. They did find that “males with low exercise levels are at risk for increased sleep complaints and poorer psychological functioning.”

“This study shows that, in adolescents, being an athlete is predictive of high sleep quality, low daytime tiredness and high concentration during the day,” said David Rapoport, M.D., director of the Sleep Medicine Program at the NYU School of Medicine. “While it is entirely possible that the good sleep and the favorable daytime profile is caused by exercise, the data do not allow us to conclude this directly.”

Rapoport said that there may be other reasons why athletes sleep well. “As the authors pointed out, several alternate interpretations are possible. There are other factors such having a favorable psychological profile or predisposition, and that there may be something about athletes other than exercise, such as self-discipline, which leads to their ability to sleep well.”

He added, “Nevertheless, an important, but not surprising finding is that good sleep is associated with good daytime performance, and that athletes have this relationship. We cannot — at least from this study — conclude that exercising will improve problems with sleep, although this is certainly possible.”