red light and the sleep quality and endurance performance of Chinese female basketball players

Authors: J. Zhao, Y. Tian, J. Nie, J. Xu, & D. Liu

Citation: Journal of Athletic Training (2012); 47(6):673-678

Background: Sleep is a critical component of athletic performance, both in terms of quantity and quality. Similarly, regular exercise is considered a “non-pharmacological” intervention for sleep disorders, and it is generally accepted that physical activity is good for sleep. This is a healthy symbiotic relationship, in which sleep supports exercise and vice versa. Combining exercise with other sleep supporting non-pharmacological interventions, such as light therapy, may be especially important in helping athletes sleep and perform better.

Objective: This study investigated whether red light therapy improved the sleep quality and athletic performance of Chinese female basketball players. 

Who Was It? A total of 20 athletes participated in this study, 10 in the light therapy group and 10 in the placebo group.

What Was Done? The red-light therapy group received 30 minutes of full body red light therapy for 30 minutes each night for 14 days. The placebo group lay in the red-light therapy device for the same time period but did not receive light therapy. Sleep quality, serum melatonin, and athletic performance were assessed before and after the two-week treatment period.

What Happened? Some aspects of sleep quality improved with red-light therapy, including levels of daytime dysfunction. Serum melatonin was significantly higher following light therapy, and better sleep quality was correlated with higher levels of serum melatonin. Athletic performance after light therapy was more improved than in the placebo group.

Fringe Commentary: This study demonstrated that the use of red-light therapy at night for two weeks improved measures of sleep quality, serum melatonin, and athletic performance in female basketball players. These results suggest that athletes, athletic therapists, and health care providers can use light therapy as a safe, non-pharmacological intervention to support sleep and physical functioning.


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