In the NBA, trainers, coaches and the billionaires who pay millionaires to play basketball for them are only now beginning to realize how poor sleep habits can devastate performance and perhaps even affect longevity and injury rates. They can be damaging to the bottom line, too.
Scientists are in agreement that even one sleepless night is the equivalent of having a few alcoholic drinks; 22 hours without sleeping has been shown to cause cognitive and reactive impairment comparable to being legally drunk.
From military combat forces to high-octane executives and working parents, school children and the committed athlete, sleep deficit is an epidemic. In the general population, it has been linked to higher rates of illness, disease and obesity, as well as declines in cognitive function and job performance.
“People are living beyond their means in terms of sleep,” said Jason Donahue, sleep specialist for Jawbone, whose wrist-mounted sleep tracker is among a growing inventory of wearables helping the Golden State Warriors (and weekend warriors) monitor and improve their sleep habits.
The breakthrough study was a 2011 trial led by Stanford’s Cheri Mah, one of the world’s top experts on the effects of sleep on sports performance.
According to scientists, sleep begins with a shallow stage before moving to a deeper stage and then into so-called slow-wave sleep, characterised by delta wave activity in the brain. This is a restful stage which is essential to athletic performance; growth hormones are released during this period of sleep. The last stage, REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, is believed to play a crucial role in functions such as memory and cognition.
But how are you supposed to get the restorative sleep that is required for tissue repair, muscle growth, recovery, mental sharpness and decision-making when you’re juggling work and exercise, a family, and the normal stresses of life?
Enter Lachlan Penfold, a buzz-cut Aussie who has worked with Australian Rules football players, rugby players and various Olympians, as the Warriors’ director of physical performance and sports medicine.
His experience with elite athletes and their typically atrocious sleep habits led him to focus there first. He consulted with Stanford’s Mah to optimize the team’s flights and practice schedules and came up with a to-do list for players to improve their sleep hygiene.
Some of it is simple stuff that any Average Joe or Jane struggling with the debilitating effects of sleep debt can implement:
- turning off the screens an hour before bedtime,
- avoiding inflammatory foods, and
- making sure the sleeping environment is dark, peaceful and
- temperature-controlled; 20 degrees or cooler seems to work best.
- Caffeine and alcohol should be avoided.
“We live in a culture that doesn’t value sleep,” Parsley said. “It’s often associated with laziness, lack of motivation, all sorts of negative connotations for somebody who sleeps excessively — and all sorts of accolades and idolization for people who claim to sleep three or four hours a night. You have to get past that prejudice.” http://www.cbssports.com/nba/news/in-multi-billion-dollar-business-of-nba-sleep-is-the-biggest-debt/
- Chamomile and lavender teas and oils before bed,
- as well as tart cherry juice, which has anti-inflammatory properties and naturally occurring melatonin, which helps the body and brain relax.
- firm up mattresses for certain players and had customized pillows
- untuck the bed sheets before falling asleep; something as seemingly harmless as having your ankles trapped under the sheets can cause you to toss and turn, raising your body temperature
For all of us, sleep is an important component of maintaining optimum health. For elite athletes, however, sleep becomes a crucial pillar of success. Reaction times and motor function, motivation, focus, stress regulation, muscle recovery, sprint performance, muscle glycogen, glucose metabolism, memory and learning, injury risk, illness rates, unwanted weight gain…. sleep (or lack thereof) plays a part in all of these things. And sleep, as more and more athletes are learning, has a big impact on performance, wins, and losses.
We’re teaching our players: Sleep is a weapon.
— Sam Ramsden, Dir. of Player Health and Performance, Seattle Seahawks http://www.fatiguescience.com/blog/5-ways-sleep-impacts-peak-athletic-performance