That’s right, getting enough rest and quality sleep is attributed by players, coaches, trainers, and others as a significant factor in the team maximizing athletic performance on the court, as well as preventing injuries and optimizing down time.
Make no mistake about it, NBA players and other professional athletes are not pampered and coddled, despite their multi-million dollar paychecks. In fact, the NBA schedule is grueling, with eighty-two regular season games, frequent back-to-back games, four games in five nights, and tens of thousands of miles of flights over six months…and then come the playoffs!
Games often end close to 10 PM, with press conferences and icing after, then whisked to the airport for late night flights where they often arrive in the next city at 2 or 3 AM, only to have an early wakeup call for team meetings and shoot-arounds.
Sure these are young men and super human athletes, but that exacting a schedule takes a toll on anyone, and players are often too wired and pumping with adrenaline to get adequate sleep when they do hit their beds.
"Sleep is the most important thing when it comes to recovery," says Lebron James. "And it's very tough with our schedule. Our schedule keeps us up late at night, and most of the time it wakes us up early in the morning. ... There's no better recovery than sleep."
But increasingly, teams are treating their sometimes hundred-million dollar investments (players) with the care they deserve, utilizing special trainers, wellness experts, scientists, and a mountain of athletic and medical research to make sure they get enough rest and their bodies and minds are ready to give optimal performance. With games, series, and championships often decided with just one missed shot, errant pass, or corralled rebound, a whole lot is on the line.
As Stephen Curry and the Warriors know, getting enough quality sleep (and not all sleep is good sleep, as we’ll find out) is essential not only to the next game’s performance, but reducing injuries and increasing the longevity of players’ careers. In fact, it’s been estimated that an injury to a star player could cost a team upwards of $100 million when you factor in not only actual losses, but also lost ticket revenue, merchandise sales, and devaluing the franchise.
Before I cover the specifics of Curry and the Warriors and what they are doing to combat the fatigue and “sleep debt” that comes with a typical NBA season (in part two of this blog,) let’s look at the data behind sleep deprivation and athletic performance:
- 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.
- 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.
- In a study conducted by sports technology company WHOOP, in which 119 NCAA athletes were given wearable devices that monitored a host of their lifestyle and health factors against vitals for a year he found that using the device alone reduced their screen time (computers, TVs, and phones) by 20%, alcohol consumption by 70%, and caffeine consumption by 65%.
- While those were victories unto themselves, the real effect was found on sleep, as these athletes slept an average of 41 minutes longer each night, and with a higher quality restful REM sleep.
- Due to that sleep increase, they found that these athletes reported 60% fewer injuries and 54% less sickness like colds and flu.
- Their resting heart rates dropped by 4.4 beats per minute on average, a sign of increased cardiovascular capacity and lower stress, which greatly boosted their athletic performance.
So how did this research, as well as other studies on sleep debt related to basketball performance, impact the Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warrior’s dream season? And how can YOU emulate what they’re doing to increase your own performance at work, health, and stress levels? Find out in part two of this blog next week!