Mindfulness practices, which center on being present and non-judgmental, have been recognized for their efficacy in reducing anxiety and depression, as well as improving sleep in adults. However, their impact on adolescent athletes, who face unique challenges like performance anxiety and demanding schedules, and face sleep disruptions due to late training sessions and inadequate recovery, remain limited.
Recognizing that both mindfulness-based body scans and relaxation techniques are used for stress reduction, a study recently published in Mindfulness aimed to determine their comparative effectiveness. Specifically, researchers sought to assess the relative effectiveness of brief mindfulness-based body scan interventions versus relaxation techniques on these young athletes and their influence on self-reported sleep problems and anxiety symptoms.
The study involved 206 adolescent athletes from six high schools in Sweden specializing in cross-country skiing and basketball. The participants were randomly assigned to one of four groups: a 4-week body scan intervention, an 8-week body scan intervention, a 4-week relaxation intervention (active control group), or an 8-week relaxation intervention (active control group).
The body scan intervention involved participants receiving 8-minute audio-guided body scan exercises, while the active control groups received 8-minute audio-guided relaxation exercises. Participants were instructed to practice these exercises regularly on their own.
Data was collected at baseline and then after 4, 8, and 16 weeks. Measures of sleep problems, anxiety symptoms, and depressive symptoms were collected using questionnaires.
The findings indicated beneficial changes in sleep problems and anxiety symptoms among all four intervention groups. However, these changes were statistically significant only for anxiety symptoms. This suggests that all interventions, including both body scan and relaxation, had a positive impact on anxiety symptoms over the course of the study.
The study’s results on sleep problems diverged from previous research that demonstrated that mindfulness is successful in helping young athletes with sleep problems. This may be because a significant portion of the participants had relatively low baseline levels of sleep problems. As a result, the interventions may not have had a substantial impact on sleep problems in this particular group.
It should be noted that the study suffered from a high dropout rate, and it couldn’t effectively control whether participants were actually practicing or not. However, these results are encouraging and suggest that these practises should be part of adolescents athletes daily curriculum.
The study, “Is a Brief Body Scan Helpful for Adolescent Athletes’ Sleep Problems and Anxiety Symptoms?“, was authored by Lis Johles, Annika Norell, Carolina Lundqvist, Markus Jansson‑Fröjmark, and Kirsten Mehlig.