Nature’s Steroid…SLEEP!

Ken Berger came out with a fantastic article this week detailing the efforts of pro sports on the study of sleep and performance.

In multibillion-dollar business of NBA, sleep is the biggest debt

The article touches on what the NBA is doing in terms of looking at future scheduling and how sleep plays into performance and injuries, but also shows several studies from MLB, NCAA, and even youth athletes.  It has something for any athlete looking to gain an edge in taking care of their body.

“There’s not a single metric that anybody would ever measure their life by that isn’t dramatically affected by sleep.”  -Dr. Kirk Parsley

The effects of sleep and the new information coming out from wearable technology in athletics is mind-blowing and hopefully can open up the eyes of athletes and coaches everywhere to the realization of how important good sleep really can be.  Reducing injuries, increased performance, career longevity, it is all has roots back to sleep and the ability of the body to recover and heal.

Below I’ve highlighted some of the staggering statistics from the studies cited in the article.

“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.”

80 MLB players from 2010-2012 showed a correlation between daytime sleepiness and career longevity.  During that 3 year span 72% of players self reporting lower levels of sleepiness were still in MLB vs 39% of players reporting twice as sleepy and 14% reporting three times as sleepy. 

More recently from September through January of this year, 119 NCAA DI athletes data were reported by using wearable technology, that can monitor sleep, and a self reporting questionnaire as to daily habits.  What researchers found was athletes began changing their behavior.  Alcohol consumption was down 70%, and caffeine consumption went down 65% all while sleep increased 40+ minutes.  Even screen time on electronics, which can have a huge impact on sleep, decreased by 20%.

During the 129-day NCAA study, the athletes reported 60 percent fewer injuries and 54 percent less sickness. And their resting heart rates dropped by 4.4 beats per minute on average, a sign of increased cardiovascular capacity and lower stress.

“A 2011 trial led by Stanford’s Cheri Mah, one of the world’s top experts on the effects of sleep on sports performance. Over several weeks, the nightly sleep of 11 Stanford men’s basketball players was increased, with a goal of spending 10 hours per night in bed. At the end of the trial, faster sprint times were recorded, and free-throw accuracy increased 9 percent while 3-point accuracy improved 9.2 percent.”

In a 2014 study involving 160 middle school athletes by the Journal of Pediatric Orthopedics, those who slept less than eight hours per night were 1.7 times more likely to have an injury than those who slept for eight hours or more.

Kirk Parsely, a former Navy SEAL began working with other special forces units, after finding the severe effects of adrenal fatigue and the disruption of hormone production from lack of sleep.

“These guys’ blood chemistries came back looking like fat, broken 70-year-old men, even though to look at them they were still fairly young and fairly fit.  Sleep deprivation leads to increased stress,” Parsley said, “and increased stress leads to increased sleep deprivation.”

Parsley worked with his special forces patients to get them off sleeping drugs and on natural supplements like Vitamin D, melatonin, and magnesium to aid them at night.  Testosterone levels skyrocket by an average of 300 percent, with some increasing as much as 500 percent.