UA Sleep Research for Student-Athletes Awarded NCAA Grant

Feb 20, 2018

Looking to improve sleep among student-athletes, two University of Arizona researchers developed and have enhanced an educational support sleep program and have been awarded an NCAA grant to expand its reach.

Sleep problems are common among student-athletes. The National College Health Assessment surveyed athletes from 2011-2014 and found that 19.8 percent reported that sleep difficulties had been “traumatic or very difficult,” 21.8 percent reported “extreme difficulty” falling asleep more than 3 nights per week, and 57 percent indicated that they got enough sleep to feel rested less than 3 nights per week.

Among those surveyed, poor sleep was associated with lower academic performance, worse mental health, increased substance use, and increased risky behaviors while drinking.

To help combat sleep problems among student-athletes, the ProjectREST program – which stands for Recovery Enhancement and Sleep Training – was developed in 2016 by Michael Grandner, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry, medicine, and psychology, and director of the Sleep Health Research Center at the UA College of Medicine – Tucson, and Amy Athey, PsyD, director of clinical and sport psychology services for Arizona Athletics.

The program has proven successful. UA student-athletes enrolled in the initial ProjectREST study reported 77 minutes increased sleep duration, 10 percent increased sleep efficiency, 55 percent improvement in sleep latency, 40 percent improvement in insomnia symptoms, 80 percent reduction in drowsy driving, and 21 percent in improved overall energy level.

With proof of ProjectREST’s success, the researchers have been awarded a 2018 NCAA Innovations in Research and Practice Grant and now are working to develop a version of ProjectREST that can easily be disseminated to student-athletes across the United States and beyond. The NCAA Innovations in Research and Practice Grant Program is designed to enhance college athletes’ mental health and well-being. The “Sleep and Health in Student Athletes: Next Steps Toward Developing a Technology Platform for Dissemination and Implementation” $25,000 grant will fund the ProjectREST study for one year.

“Our aim is to improve sleep health in student athletes, which can lead to improvements in mental well-being, physical well-being, social functioning, stress and mood. With feedback from our first study of the program, ProjectREST has evolved to a sleep health intervention for student-athletes that can be delivered using online educational tools,” said Dr. Grandner.

The original ProjectREST program included education, tracking, support, and motivational enhancements for sticking to the novel sleep health program. At the conclusion of the study, the researchers conducted a thorough program evaluation surveying additional athletes, coaches and staff to enhance ProjectREST’s content and format.

“The feedback we got was crucial in refining the program for its next version, which will be an online platform. This will include on-demand videos, handouts, and specific exercises to improve sleep and promote relaxation,” said Dr. Athey. “Many athletics programs are beginning to see the value of sleep in training and recovery. There is no other program like this, though, which brings together this level of expertise in sleep science, behavior change and sport performance psychology.”

The team now will begin enrolling student-athletes to evaluate the new program’s effectiveness.

About the University of Arizona Health Sciences

The University of Arizona Health Sciences is the statewide leader in biomedical research and health professions training. The UA Health Sciences includes the UA Colleges of Medicine (Phoenix and Tucson), Nursing, Pharmacy and Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, with main campus locations in Tucson and the growing Phoenix Biomedical Campus in downtown Phoenix. From these vantage points, the UA Health Sciences reaches across the state of Arizona and the greater Southwest to provide cutting-edge health education, research, patient care and community outreach services. A major economic engine, the UA Health Sciences employs almost 5,000 people, has nearly 1,000 faculty members and garners more than $140 million in research grants and contracts annually. For more information: (Follow us: Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | LinkedIn)

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