It should come as no surprise that professional athletes, who spend long hours practicing, and travel across the country on a regular basis, need sleep to be at peak performance.
Unfortunately, many of them, no matter what the sport, are overworked and overtired, as coaches and managers are sometimes more focused on training than down-time.
In recent years, however, some team managers have started to zero in on the utter importance that sleep holds for their players. The NHL Player’s Association, for example, changed some of its policies last year to include more days off per month, as well as breaks between travel and practices, to allow players to get more rest.
In 2012, the New York Jets hired sleep specialists to coach players on healthy sleep habits, and to re-engineer the team practice schedule to for players to get more optimal shut-eye. Many other teams across various sports, including hockey, baseball, basketball and swimming, have adopted this strategy and welcomed sleep specialists to help their players.
Sleep is important to athletic performance in numerous ways. Getting adequate rest ensures the best possible cognitive function, which includes reaction time and the ability to absorb new information.
Deep sleep is also when the body regenerates cells, which helps players both to recover from injuries and to build muscle mass during workouts. It also lowers stress levels, and reduces disease-promoting inflammation.
Not getting enough sleep has been tied to obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and an overall higher risk of early death. Athletes who are on tight travel schedules may be more prone to insomnia and sleep apnea.
According to Michael J. Breus, PhD, not enough sleep has been linked to shorter careers in some athletes. Dr. Breus also mentions that a good night’s sleep may decrease an athlete’s risk of sustaining an injury.
Dr. Charles Czeisler, Harvard University’s Director of the Division of Sleep Medicine and ‘Sleep Doctor’ to many NBA teams, states that those who make athletes play on insufficient sleep are in essence requesting that they “play with one hand tied behind their back.” He adds, “it’s making them do something we know degrades their reaction time, their ability to take in their training, to get the most benefit out of it. They spend all this time practicing but never get to sleep.”
Of course, athletes aren’t the only people that need a good night’s sleep; it is crucial for all of us. To enjoy optimal health and make sure you are at your absolute best no matter what you are doing, make it a point to log seven to eight hours a night. Your body and mind will thank you.
-The Alternative Daily