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October 15, 2017
The daily routines of professional athletes have a major effect on their sports abilities. So what happens when they have a sleep disorder? How does this relate to playing sports?
In addition to causing aggression, mental fogginess, and lack of attention, lack of sleep can also cause athletes to suffer health problems. Take a look at these top performing sports professionals and their sleep problems to see what we are referring to.
A lack of quality sleep almost benched offensive lineman Ryan Jensen for good. As a pro football player for the Baltimore Ravens, Jensen was suffering from serious health problems. Mood swings, loss of energy, and weight loss were jeopardizing his football career. It wasn’t until his father made a comment that Jensen might have sleep apnea that the footballer got tested. Sure enough, Jensen was suffering from sleep apnea, a sleep disorder in which the airways are cut off. He would wake up more than a dozen times every hour of the night, and his wife noticed he wasn’t breathing more often than not. These are classic sleep apnea symptoms, and thankfully with a CPAP machine, Jensen is in treatment.
However, he is far from alone. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, one in seven pro footballers is suffering from sleep apnea. Among these, 85 percent of cases involved offensive linemen, like Jensen, and defensive linemen. The condition is associated with being a heavier weight and having a thicker neck, which is a common size of this type of player. When this happens, though, the airway in the neck is constricted and causes the individual to stop breathing while sleeping. If left untreated, sleep apnea could lead to heart failure and death due to the lack of oxygen to the heart during sleep.
Next up we have a sleep disorder that is often masked with drugs. In recent news, golf professional Tiger Woods was arrested for driving under the influence. According to a statement in the Washington Post, Woods said, “I’m currently receiving professional help to manage my medications and the ways that I deal with back pain and a sleep disorder.” He has not disclosed his sleep disorder specifically. However, he was arrested previously for taking Ambien, a prescription sleep medication. Past reports have noted that Woods takes sleep medication to deal with anxiety preventing him from getting a good night’s sleep.
Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence among professional athletes whose jobs are literally on the line every time they go up to the proverbial bat. For Woods, his career was in decline following a bad surgery and he had suffered from a very public divorce following accusations of affairs. This combination led to an extreme amount of stress, preventing the 14-time major champion from keeping at the top of his game. It’s little wonder that he was unable to sleep without sleep aids. There are plenty of other professional athletes in similar situations who are struggling with the fame, publicity, national attention, and other stressors of being in the limelight.
Along with regular practices and eating the right foods, professional athletes need to realize the importance of healthy sleep habits. Rather than depending on sleep drugs or overlooking medical checks out of fear that they may be prohibited from playing the game, these athletes should take sleep more seriously. It’s all a matter of balancing work on the field and a healthy self-care routine.