Sleep debt induces skeletal muscle injuries in athletes: A promising hypothesis

Med Hypotheses. 2020 Sep:142:109836. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2020.109836. Epub 2020 May 12.


Sleep is a physiological state and it is fundamental for physical and cognitive recovery of athletes. Due to strenuous training and competitions, athletes may present sleep complaints compromising good quality and quantity of sleep. Studies have related sleep debt to the occurrence of musculoskeletal injuries in athletes, but the mechanisms that can lead to this are not entirely clear. Studies involving animals and humans have shown that poor sleep quality can cause significant changes in hormones and cytokines. Demonstrating that this hormones changes lead to a decrease of testosterone and growth hormone levels and increased cortisol levels, important hormones in the process of protein synthesis and degradation. In athletes, the sport itself is a risk factor of injuries, and sleep debt may result in overtraining syndrome associated with inflammatory markers and ultimately to immune system dysfunction. Thus, we hypothesize that athletes who have sleep debt are more susceptible to musculoskeletal injuries due to increased catabolic pathway signaling, i.e. protein degradation and decreased anabolic pathway signaling, compromising muscle integrity. In this sense, we indicate the relationship between musculoskeletal injuries and sleep debt involving new targets for immunological signaling pathways that start the reduction of the muscle recovery process.

Keywords: Athletes; Hormones; Inflammation; Musculoskeletal injuries; Protein degradation; Sleep.

MeSH terms

  • Athletes
  • Humans
  • Muscle, Skeletal
  • Sleep
  • Sleep Deprivation*
  • Sports*
  • Testosterone


  • Testosterone