Sleep and Mental Health Issues in Current and Former Athletes: A Mini Review

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Sleep and mental health are important aspects of human health that work concurrently. However, sleep and mental health disorders are often overlooked and undiagnosed in sport due to the negative stigma associated with them. Evidence suggests that athletes are disproportionately affected by mental health issues and sleep problems. Internal and external pressures contribute to psychological distress. Variable competition times, travel and stress are detrimental to sleep quality. Retirement from sport can deteriorate sleep and psychological wellbeing, particularly for those who retired involuntarily and identify strongly with their athletic role. When untreated, these issues can manifest into a range of clinical disorders. This is concerning, not only for compromised athletic performance, but for general health and wellbeing beyond sport.
Previous research has focused on sleep and health independently among currently competing, or former, athletes. To date, no research has comprehensively assessed and compared sleep complaints and mental health issues between these two cohorts. Moreover, research has failed to obtain data across a variety of different competition levels, sports, and genders, leaving the current scope of the literature narrow. Comorbid conditions (e.g., concussion history, obesity), ex-college athletes, and mental health has been the focus of existing literature post-retirement. Future research would benefit from employing both quantitative and qualitative methodologies to comprehensively assess the prevalence and severity of sleep and mental health disorders across current and retired athletes. Research outcomes would inform education strategies, safeguarding athletes from these issues by reducing negative stigmas associated with help-seeking in sport and ultimately increase self-guided treatment.
Original languageEnglish
Article number868614
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 7 Apr 2022


  • Sport and exercise psychology
  • Mental health
  • Sleep


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