Our friend and collaborator Ian Dunican (@Sleep4Perform) recently spoke with SleepHub about using sleep to help elite athletes reach peak performance. Dunican talks in detail about using Fatigue Science’s Fatigue Avoidance Scheduling Tool (FAST) to help Super Rugby teams plan for and manage fatigue. He believes this has the potential to translate into greater success on the field of play.
“There’s definitely a relationship between how much sleep these athletes are getting and how they perform,” Dunican tells Dr. David Cunnington. “The recovery period, in particular, is really, really interesting.”
Dunican points out that he’s working with Super Rugby team the Perth Western Force, one of sports most traveled teams, to find ways to improve performance and recovery by measuring and optimizing sleep.
“It’s really interesting during Super Rugby competition because (Western Force) may have games back-to-back or they may have to travel from Perth to South Africa and back to Perth to New Zealand, and now with Japan as well,” says Dunican. “So the recovery is a vital piece of the overall performance of the team. And more time in the gym and more time on the field during the week is not necessarily translating into better performance in the game in that win/loss metric. So given the ample opportunity for sleep, recovery during those times is really key.”
Dunican adds that without actively facilitating key rest periods during those difficult portions of the schedule, athletes are not going to be able to recover mentally or physically. That’s because the lack of sleep stunts the body’s ability to naturally produce testosterone or human growth hormone, for example, which athletes require to recover from the rigours of their particular sport. According to Dunican, however, new technology is playing a key role in pushing performance.
“We’ve been using a lot of bio mathematical modelling,” says Dunican. “We’re using FAST from Fatigue Science in Vancouver, Canada. We’ve been using that to model last season, where we take the training times, the game times, a sample of actigraphy data and put that into FAST.”
With help from Fatigue Science technology Dunican is able to extrapolate out to an effectiveness measure to show the team’s players and coaches.
“Using those measures we’ve been able to model various countermeasures for next season such as changing flights, training times, increases in sleep, manipulations in sleep environment and so on,” says Dunican. “And we’re able to demonstrate from a modelling perspective what these changes might bring about. So next season we’ll be actually deploying those measures with the coach and the performance coach and then hopefully climbing the ladder to show that sleep can actually help you win.”
Ian Dunican (@Sleep4Perform) has 18 year’s international experience as a leader in project management, business improvement and health, safety, within the mining industry and military. He’s currently undertaking PhD research at University of Western Australia (UWA) and Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) investigating, among other things, the impact of evening use of electronic devices on sleep and next day athletic performance, the effects of jet lag and transmeridian travel on athletic performance, and the prevalence of sleeping disorders amongst professional Rugby players.
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