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Jet lag’s impact on athlete performance: Part 3

In Part 1 and Part 2 we discussed what jet lag was and how athletes can incorporate simple interventions to help cope with the symptoms of phase advances and delays. In Part three we will outline strategies for time-zone shifting and provide advice on designing a comprehensive time-zone management plan. Specifically, pre-travel activities, in-flight activities, and post-flight activities will be discussed, as well as a sample of a time-zone equivalence table to help visualize what’s involved in a time-zone management plan.

Pre-travel sleep history

Ideally, athletes and support staff will have the ability to monitor sleep schedules and sleep quality at least a month prior to travel. This way, athletes who are having issues with sleep can be identified and more rigorous schedules and interventions can be implemented.

For example, a time-zone management strategy for an athlete that naturally falls asleep at 11:00pm and wakes up at 7:00pm with no sleep disturbances is going to look quite different compared to an athlete who falls asleep at 1:00am, wakes up several times during the night, and rises at 9:00am. Recording an athlete’s sleep history and habits can help support staff design an efficient and realistic time-zone strategy for individual.

Pre-flight adaptation

According to Dr. Charles Samuels, the Medical Director of the Centre for Sleep and Human Performance in Calgary, preflight adaptation should begin at least 7 days before travel aoccurs (2012). Several strategies include: reducing training volume and intensity, adjust training to the destination time zone, and choosing an evening flight for travel eastward (reduced light will make it easier for athlete’s to synchronize their rhythms with a phase advance).

Samuels also notes that endurance training should be modified to reduce volume, intensity and frequency, and that coaches should weigh the benefits and risks associated with training before travel.

In-flight activities

It’s recommended that athletes switch their watches to the destination time as soon as they board the plane. This helps them prepare and adapt for the destination. The environment should be comfortable – using pillows and supports while minimizing distractions is crucial. It’s also been shown that feeding at the appropriate times can dramatically improve circadian adaptation (Reilly 2007). Athletes should eat according to the destination times and make sure they are well hydrated throughout the entire flight.

Finally, this is the time in which athletes and support staff will want to start providing interventions such as eyeshades, ear-plugs, melatonin, caffeine, or light-emitting devices (according to the direction of travel and the athlete’s time-zone management plan).

Post-flight activities

For 2-4 days after travel, the activities of the athlete should be closely monitored and planned by support staff to ensure a quick adjustment to the new time zone. Their rest, sleep, meals, training, and recovery should all be taken into account when developing a post-flight strategy. As we mentioned in Part 2, a combination of light therapy, light avoidance, caffeine, Ambien, and melatonin can be used during these first few arrival days to help the athlete adjust faster.

Time-zone equivalence tables

Combining all these elements can get a little tricky at times. But, as Dr. Caldwell (2015) mentions, one of the most helpful aids for circadian adaptation are time-zone equivalence tables. These tables include time-zones for both the departure city and the arrival city, the scheduled event time, a personalized sleep schedule, and any interventions needed pre, during, and post travel. You can view a sample of the table below (taken from Dr. Caldwell’s paper titled Strategies for Time-Zone Adjustment for Athletes).

In this example, a team of runners from San Francisco are travelling to New York for a competition. You can see the interventions laid out and the strategy for helping them adjust to the phase advance. These interventions, combined with the careful planning of the support staff, helps the runners quickly adapt to a 3-hour time shift so they wouldn’t experience any performance issues.

Impact on athlete performance Time Equivalents between San Francisco and New York

Planning an individualized time-zone management strategy for each athlete is critical for maximizing performance. By taking a close look at an athlete’s sleep history and by carefully monitoring preflight, inflight and post flight activities, support staff and coaches can drastically minimize the effects of jet lag and significantly increase success during the event.


References

Dr. Caldwell. Strategies for Time-Zone Adjustment for Athletes

Reilly T, Waterhouse J, Burke LM, et al. Nutrition for travel

Samuels C. Jet lag and travel fatigue: A comprehensive management plan for sport medicine physicians and high-performance support teams

Jet lag’s impact on athlete performance: Part 2

In an effort to reduce fatigue and minimize the effects of jet lag, The Union of Sports Ministry in India recently made the decision to send their athletes to Rio for the 2016 Olympics a full month before the Games. In previous Olympic games, athletes were arriving as close to 2 days before their scheduled events. This focus on body-clock synchronization speaks to the effects of jet lag on athletic performance.

In Part 1 of this three part series, we focused on defining jet lag, the exact mechanisms involved, and how it affects an athlete’s performance. This post will explore some of the most effective intervention techniques designed and proven to help cope with jet lag.

Light exposure

One of the factors that should be the most closely monitored is an athlete’s exposure to light when traveling through different time zones. In humans, light is strongly linked with an alert or wakeful state, and it acts as the most potent circadian phase shifter (Cajochen, 2007).

There are two different types of phase shifts – phase advance (moving everything earlier in the body-clock’s day), and phase delay (moving everything later in the body-clock’s day). As you can see in the table below, an athlete’s exposure to light will depend on what direction they’re traveling, and how many time zones they’re crossing.

When an athlete travels from west to east, their body is going through a phase advance – which means they need to shift to an earlier time zone. In this case, the athlete should be exposed to more light in the morning and less light in the afternoon. When traveling from east to west, the body is going through a phase delay and shifting to a later time zone. Conversely, light should be minimized in the morning and maximized in the afternoon.

There are several strategies for increasing and decreasing light exposure during long trips: Seasonal Affective Disorder light devices (450-480nm) at approximately 1500 lux are perfect for maximizing light exposure, and light-blocking glasses that have been created to block between 80% and 98% of incident light in the blue range work to minimize light exposure (Samuels, 2012). Ideally these interventions should be implemented 2-3 days before the time-zone shift.

 

Jet Lag impact on athlete performance Fatigue Management Intervention Strategies

Melatonin

The effects of melatonin on athletes traveling through multiple time-zones is well-studied, and it has been proven to have a mitigating effect on jet lag symptoms (Manfredini, et al 1998). Melatonin is a hormone that is known as a chronobiotic drug, or a drug that specifically affects an aspect of one’s biological time structure. Produced by the pineal gland during darkness (and therefore usually at night), melatonin is responsible for the synchronization of the circadian rhythms.

Several studies have demonstrated the efficacy of well-timed, low dose of melatonin to overcome the symptoms of jet lag (Cardinali et al. 2002, Manfredini et al. 1998, Parry 2002). Most experts agree that <1 mg is sufficient to shift human rhythms (any more seems to have a lethargic effect – not something you want to induce in high-level athletes). The general rule is evening administration advances one’s body clock (induces sleepiness) and morning administration delays it (helps keep you awake). Using melatonin to fight jet lag works best if it is consumed 30 minutes before/after the athlete’s normal sleep/wake cycle, and taken at least three days after the time-zone shift (Samuels, 2012).

Caffeine

Just as melatonin is used to help induce an athlete’s natural sleep rhythms, caffeine is used to help an athlete maintain alertness when their body’s clock is telling them it’s time to sleep. In a study by Dr. Beaumont titled Caffeine or melatonin effects on sleep and sleepiness after rapid eastward transmeridian travel (2004), it was found that slow-release caffeine reduced sleepiness for a few days after travel and helped alleviate symptoms of eastbound jet lag.

The recommended dose of caffeine is 100-300mg every four hours, and should not to be taken too close to the destination bedtime (Caldwell, 2015). Some of the most effective sources of caffeine are: NoDoz© (100-200mg caffeine), home-brewed coffee (100 mg per cup), Red Bull© (83 mg per can), 5-Hour Energy© (215 mg per bottle) and Coca Cola© (34 mg per can). See Table 1 for the recommended dose of caffeine depending on the direction of travel and the number of time-zones crossed.

Ambien

The final pharmacological intervention used to fight jet lag is Ambien. The recommended dose of Ambien (10mg) taken right before the standard local bedtime, can help athletes fall asleep when their internal body clock is telling them to remain awake. This sleep medication is short acting, produces no side-effects, and can be used during the first 2-3 days in a new time zone (Caldwell, 2015). Athletes should always consult a medical professional when deciding if Ambien is right for them or not.

As with other sports performance techniques, the modification and scheduling of these intervention techniques should be tailored to the athlete’s lifestyle, body composition, reactivity to stimulants, and medical history. Though the symptoms of jet-lag are unavoidable, using integrative and personalized intervention techniques can significantly help athletes cope with the unwanted effects.

In Part 3 of this series we’ll talk about some important strategies for time-zone shifting. Stay tuned.


References

Cardinali D, Bortman P, Liotta G, Lloret S, Albornoz L, Cutrera R, Batista J, Gallo P (2002) A multifactorial approach employing melatonin to accelerate resynchronization of sleep-wake cycle after a 12 time-zone westerly transmeridian flight in elite soccer athletes.

Manfredini R, Manfredini F, Conconi F (2000) Standard Melatonin Intake and Circadian Rhythms of Elite Athletes after a Transmeridian Flight.

Manfredini R, Manfredini F, Fersini C, Conconi F (1988) Circadian rhythms, athletic performance, and jet lag.

Parry B (2002) Jet Lag: minimizing it’s effects with critically timed bright light and melatonin administration.

Samuels C.H. (2012) Jet Lag and Travel Fatigue: A Comprehensive Management Plan for Sport Medicine Physicians and High-Performance Support Teams. 

Jet lag’s impact on athlete performance: Part 1

Today, professional athletes are frequent flyers. And, rapid time-zone changes can pose serious challenges to their competitive edge. This 3-part series introduces strategies to combat the effects of jet lag on pro athletes.

Jet lag defined

Humans have a number of internal physiological processes that are normally tuned to a well-synchronized 24-hour rhythm that’s regulated by the timing of sunlight exposure. When your schedule is consistent, in terms of morning wake ups, daytime activity, and nightly bedtimes, your body’s time and the environmental time are closely aligned, and thus your body’s rhythms are in harmony. Whenever 3 or more time zones are crossed, however, disagreements between the body’s internal clock (your body’s sense of time) and the clock on the wall (the time cues in your new environment) can wreak havoc if not properly managed. Since this is a phenomenon made possible by modern airline transportation, it has been labeled “jet lag.” In addition to changing time zones, all the other hassles that accompany traveling by air (check-in procedures, seating conditions, schedule delays, high altitudes, dry air, etc.), only make matters worse.

Jet lag symptoms

Typical symptoms of jet lag include sleep disruptions, altered mood, loss of appetite, stomach upset, disorientation, and generalized discomfort—all of which can be traced directly to desynchronization of the body’s internal rhythms. And of course, the more time zones crossed, the more severe the symptoms.

Fact or Fiction: The direction of travel makes a difference

Fact. Jet lag is much less of a problem after travelling in a westward direction than an eastward direction because it is always easier to shift the body to a later schedule than an earlier one. Think about it, people have little difficulty staying awake a little longer than usual (and sleeping in later than usual) on days off, and this is exactly what happens when traveling west where everything occurs later than in your home time zone. But in the case of eastward travel, forcing yourself to go to bed earlier rarely leads to actually falling asleep earlier than usual, and waking up at 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning is never fun. Heading eastward shifts everything ahead of schedule, and the body definitely doesn’t like this change. In both cases, however, the body’s clock resists any disruption, and thus it takes time to readjust: at least one day per time zone crossed.

Jet lag and the athlete

Athletes need to be aware of an additional jet lag factor that can especially interfere with their performance: timing misalignment. On top of the “internal body-clock desynchronization” described above, a misalignment between body-clock time and local-clock performance time can create problems even when jet lag symptoms are minimal. Such is often the case when only 3 time zones are crossed.

There’s a rhythm to sports performance that favours late-afternoons and early evenings, and moving the competition away from these times (according to the body’s internal clock) can lead to unfavourable results. This explains why west coast teams have an advantage when playing nighttime games on the east coast. A 9:00pm game in the east occurs at the west coast team’s body-clock time of only 6:00pm, which is a time of day when athletic performance is enhanced. In an article on circadian rhythms, athletic performance and jet lag, Dr. Roberto Manfredini and his team cite considerable evidence that sports performance peaks around 1600 to 2000 hours when reaction time is faster, grip and back strength are stronger, flexion is greater, exercise endurance is longer, and the perception of physical exertion is lower than it is earlier in the day. In addition, there’s typically less joint stiffness and reduced pain perception in the early evening than in the morning.

Of course not every type of performance is best later in the day peaks in the evening. While reaction time tends to be faster at the timing of peak physical capability, Accuracy, at least on some tasks, is worse than it is better earlier in the day. Thus, it is suggested that earlier times of day may be better for sports that demand accuracy and implementation of competitive strategies, and for the delivery and recall of coaching instructions.  However, in general, physical performance is better when body temperature is relatively high versus low, and this happens in the early evening according to the body’s internal clock.

 

Jet lag and the athlete

Figure 1. From Duffy JF et al (1998) Core (rectal) body temperatures for young and older subjects. Solid orange circles = older subjects; open grey circles = younger subjects; Solid bar = usual sleep episode of older subjects; open bar = usual sleep episode of young subjects.

 

Traveling can be adversarial for athletes due to:

  1. trip-related fatigue and stress
  2. time-zone related desynchronization of the body’s internal rhythms, and
  3. time-zone related misalignment between the body’s peak capabilities and the local timing of performance requirements.

The bad news is that there’s no “magic bullet” that can wipe away these problems. The good news is that there are science-based strategies to mitigate their effects.

Check out Part 2 and Part 3.


References

Smith RS, Guilleminault C, and Efron B (1997). Circadian rhythms and enhanced athletic performance in the National Football League

Manfredini R, Manfredini F, Fersini C, and Conconi F (1998). Circadian rhythms, athletic performance, and jet lag

Duffy JF, Dijk DJ, Hall EF, and Czeisler CA (1999). Relationship of endogenous circadian melatonin and temperature rhythms to self-reported preference for morning or evening activity in young and older people

It’s not just physical: The difference between mental and physical fatigue

We know athletes are exhausted in more ways than one, but it’s not just physical fatigue that’s affecting their performance. At Fatigue Science, when we talk about fatigue, we’re talking about reduced alertness, reaction time, and effectiveness—all of which manifest in the form of sub-optimal athletic performance. This mental fatigue results from inadequate sleep or when sleep and activities fall outside of our biological need to consistently sleep at night and be active in the day—it’s not the same as fatigue resulting from physical exertion.

Mental fatigue

Those who routinely obtain less than 7-9 hours of interrupted sleep per 24-hour period will have a high homeostatic drive for sleep as the body struggles to restore balance. In addition, scheduling inconsistencies often lead to a high circadian drive for sleep at exactly the wrong times of day as well as to sleep-initiation problems at night.

So, when athletes lose sleep due to any number of factors, when they’re unable to stick to a consistent bedtime due to travel or social engagements, and when they have to train or play at the “wrong” times in a new time zone, they’ll be faced with both a high homeostatic and a high circadian drive for sleep. The result will be impaired judgment, reaction time, and situational awareness—the hallmarks of poor mental effectiveness.

Physical fatigue

Physical effectiveness, or energy, is different. It’s a function of non-sleep and circadian-related factors such as the type, intensity and volume of exercise (or physical labor) as well as muscle fiber composition, neuromuscular characteristics, high energy metabolite stores, buffering capacity, ionic regulation, capillarization, and mitochondrial density. Physical energy can be viewed as the capacity to perform a certain amount and intensity of physical activity for a given period of time. Elite athletes, who routinely engage in high-intensity training, are far less susceptible to physical fatigue than those who are sedentary. They run faster, lift more weight, and perform for longer periods of time due to their enhanced physical conditioning.

The difference between mental and physical fatigue

Mental and physical energy are governed by very different underlying processes—they’re separate biological functions. Having said that, they can coexist.

If one’s physically exhausted due to high-intensity physical activity, they may struggle to run, lift, or play, but their alertness and concentration will remain intact. In fact, most research concludes that physical activity has either a positive effect or more often, little or no impact on mental performance.

However, when a person’s mentally exhausted due to sleep deprivation, their alertness will suffer while most aspects critical for physical performance will be preserved. And while sleep loss affects mood, motivation, judgement, situational-awareness, memory, and alertness, it doesn’t directly affect cardiovascular and respiratory responses to exercise of varying intensity, aerobic and anaerobic performance capability, or muscle strength and electromechanical responses. But, time-to-physical-exhaustion is shorter and their perception of exertion and endurance is distorted.

Even though physical fatigue has little to no impact on mental alertness, the reverse is true—the psychological realm has a great deal of impact on the physical. This is how a competitive decline takes root under conditions of sleep loss.

Learn more about the differences between mental and physical fatigue in this comprehensive eBook, The Science of Sleep. DOWNLOAD NOW.


References

Effects of physical activity and inactivity on muscle fatigue
Bogdanis G.C. (2012)

Neurocognitive Consequences of Sleep Deprivation
Durmer J.S., Dinges D.F. (2005)

The Effects of Physical Exertion on Cognitive Performance
Krausman A.S., Crowell III H.P., Wilson R.M. (2002)

Cognitive methods for assessing mental energy
Lieberman H.R. (2007)

Sleep deprivation and cardiorespiratory function. Influence of intermittent submaximal exercise
Plyley M.J., Shephard R.J., Davis G.M., Goode R.C. (1987)

Investigating the interaction between the homeostatic and circadian processes of sleep–wake regulation for the prediction of waking neurobehavioural performance
Van Dongen H.P.A., Dinges D.F. (2002)

Sleep deprivation and the effect on exercise performance
VanHelder T., Radomski M.W. (1989)

5 areas sleep has the greatest impact on athletic performance

UPDATED MAY 7, 2019

For a comprehensive overview of the scientific link between sleep and athletic performance, download our Science of Sleep eBook HERE

Introduction

For all of us, sleep is an important part of maintaining optimum health. For elite athletes however, sleep becomes a crucial pillar of success. When it comes to athletic performance, sleep plays a part in:

• Reaction times
• Motor function
• Motivation
• Focus
• Stress regulation
• Muscle recovery
• Sprint performance
• Muscle glycogen
• Glucose metabolism
• Memory and learning
• Injury risk
• Illness rates
• Unwanted weight gain

The list could go on. More and more athletes are learning that sleep has a big impact on performance, wins, and losses. Physical conditioning and good nutrition are critical in reaching peak athletic performance, but sleep plays an equally important role. In recent years, it’s become clear that both the quality and quantity of sleep obtained by elite athletes can be the edge between winning and losing on game-day. Read on to discover the ways that sleep is impacting your athletic performance.

graphic five human performance influencers

 

Injury Rates

Reduced sleep has been linked to increased injury rates during athletic competitions. A University of California study concluded that injury rates in youth athletes increased during games that followed a night of sleep fewer than 6 hours. Another study looking at injury rates in high school athletes found that sleep hours were the strongest predictor of injuries, even more so than hours of practice.

“Keep your head up!” is a common refrain of coaches in youth sports for good reason. Especially in high-impact and fast-paced sports, it’s important for players to read their surroundings and anticipate potential collisions. When a player is fatigued after poor sleep, they’re slower to react. A slowed reaction time could be the difference between a player taking a preventable injury or bracing for an impact.

Fatigue also affects the body’s immune system, making players more susceptible to illness. In close team environments, illnesses are given the opportunity to spread, and it’s important for teams to eliminate risk factors like poor sleep to ensure that everyone remains healthy.

A recent study involving sleep data in mixed martial arts also demonstrated a link between sleep and injuries. The study concluded that among a group of athletes undergoing performance testing in a six-week fight camp, “athletes who showed consistency in sleep…missed significantly fewer sessions due to fatigue and injury throughout.” The study also concluded that, “other tactical occupations such as military, law enforcement, and fire departments may benefit from consistency in sleep metrics.”

When it comes to sleep recovery, short sleep periods also don’t provide the body with the time to regenerate cells and repair from the abuse of workouts, games, and daily activities. This means that not only can sleep deprivation take players out of the game through injuries, but it can also keep them out longer due to slowed recovery. Over time, sports injuries, health issues, and the inability to fully recover can wear on an athlete and contribute to more time spent on the sidelines.

What to Do

In an interview with Parade magazine, Tom Brady highlighted the need for a regular sleep schedule to the recovery of his body. While it’s not always possible to avoid injuries, athletes that maintain a steady sleep schedule give their bodies the best possible chance to recover quickly and avoid future preventable injuries.

“If you told an athlete you had a treatment that would reduce the chemicals associated with stress, that would naturally increase human growth hormone, that enhances recovery rate, that improves performance, they would all do it. Sleep does all of those things.”

— Casey Smith, Head Athletic Trainer, Dallas Mavericks

Accuracy and Speed

Sleep quality has been shown to impact both the shooting accuracy and sprint times of basketball players. Improved sleep has also seen increases to athletic performance in tennis players, swimmers, weightlifters, and more.

Cheri Mah, a researcher at Stanford university, conducted a sleep-extension study with the Stanford men’s basketball team. After maintaining a normal sleep schedule for 4 weeks to establish a baseline, players from the team went through a 7-week sleep extension period. Over this time, the players obtained as much nighttime sleep as possible, with 10 hours being the goal. The results:

“Measures of athletic performance specific to basketball were recorded after every practice including a timed sprint and shooting accuracy. Subjects demonstrated a faster timed sprint following sleep extension. Shooting accuracy improved, with free throw percentage increasing by 9% and 3-point field goal percentage increasing by 9.2%. Improvements in specific measures of basketball performance after sleep extension indicate that optimal sleep is likely beneficial in reaching peak athletic performance.”

An earlier study of weightlifters carried out at the Centre for Sport and Exercise Sciences at John Moores University in Liverpool found similar conclusions, as it measured partial sleep deprivation against normal sleep. The sleep deprivation was shown to have a significant negative impact on bench press, leg press, and dead lift exercises, and daily mood checks showed a significant increase to confusion and fatigue.

Both these studies show that sleep is crucial to the physiological, biochemical, and cognitive restoration of the body. Not only has a lack of sleep been shown to reduce athletic performance, but increased sleep has also been shown to have a significant impact on improving performance.

What to Do

Our Science of Sleep eBook breaks down a comparison of two soccer goalkeepers with some very different sleep habits. Knowing how rested an athlete is before a game could help their coach make decisions as game time nears. The decision may be that an athlete needs more rest than practice in order to deliver peak performance when the time comes.

Reaction Times

Studies have shown that even a low level of fatigue can impair reaction times as much or more than being legally drunk. Sleep deprivation has an impact comparable to intoxication by alcohol, which for athletes can have a major impact on their game.

An elite athlete can’t spare even fractions of a second to react to a play unfolding in front of them. While it’s common sense for that athlete to remain sober on the field, a poorly rested athlete, clean from alcohol, could still be similarly impaired. A single all-nighter can reduce reaction times by more than 300%, and the sleep recovery can take several days.

According to Harvard Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine, “being awake for 22 hours straight can slow your reaction time more than four drinks can.” While there are physiological differences between being intoxicated and being fatigued, the impact on reaction times is still present. If an athlete wouldn’t reasonably expect to have peak reaction times after drinking four beers, they can’t expect to perform their best on less than a full night’s sleep.

What to Do

People often overestimate the amount of sleep that they get, and athletes are no different. One of the best ways to ensure that you’re getting enough sleep is to plan ahead and strategize. Setting routines, avoiding caffeine and alcohol before sleep, and establishing boundaries for the use of electronic devices in the bedroom all contribute to better sleep.

“We’re teaching our players: Sleep is a weapon.”

— Sam Ramsden, Dir. of Player Health and Performance, Seattle Seahawks

Decision Making

A study of Major League Baseball players found that they consistently showed better judgement at the beginning of the season than at the end. The suspected cause? Mental fatigue during an arduous 162 game season.

The study covered 30 baseball teams and showed that players demonstrated a decrease in “plate discipline” as the season progressed, leading to an increase in batters swinging at balls outside of the strike-zone. This seems to buck traditional logic that predicts teams to have increased discipline over the season as players receive more practice and at-bats. When describing the impacts of the study, the principal investigator, Scott Kutscher, stated that, “a team that recognizes this trend and takes steps to slow or reverse it – by enacting fatigue-mitigating strategies, especially in the middle and late season, for example – can gain a large competitive advantage over their opponent.”

Other impacts of reduced sleep show that motivation, focus, memory, and learning are all impaired by shortened sleep. Without sleep, the brain struggles to consolidate memories and absorb new knowledge. A spotlight on the science of sleep in Maclean’s magazine pointed to multiple studies which showed that sleep loss impairs the brain’s frontal lobe and decision-making abilities.

The impairment to the brain’s decision-making centres following sleep loss was found to increase risk-taking behaviour, and adjustments to moral reasoning and inhibitions. Jennifer Peszka, a co-author of one of the studies cited by Maclean’s pointed out the similarities between reduced sleep and intoxication by alcohol to the brain’s decision-making processes.

What to Do

Being rested before an athletic event can often mean planning in advance. We’ve written in the past about some sleep strategies for athletes on their days off. Some of our tips include maintaining the circadian rhythm and managing social jet lag.

Playing Careers

A study of Major League Baseball players showed that fatigue can shorten the playing careers (and therefore income) of professional athletes. The study followed 80 baseball players across three teams and after three seasons recorded players who either were demoted to a lower league, went unsigned, or who were no longer playing, as inactive.

The principal investigator of the study, W. Christopher Winter, MD, medical director of the Martha Jefferson Hospital Sleep Medicine Center in Charlottesville, stated that those conducting the study were “shocked by how linear the relationship was.” Winter pointed out that, “from a sports perspective, this is incredibly important. What this study shows is that we can use the science of sleep to predict sports performance.”

Winter placed such importance behind the findings of his study that he went on to describe several ways that sports teams could benefit. When evaluating players, Winter stated that teams, “easily could implement sleepiness screening.” Winters also noted that both players and their teams would benefit from being able to diagnose and treat conditions that lead to fatigue during the day.

A recent meta-analysis of on the sleep habits of athletes found that athletes were often unable to achieve recommended sleep times due to early training times, travel, and late-night departure times. Because this is such a wide-spread problem for athletes, it also creates opportunity for competitive edge among those athletes who are able to adopt better sleep patterns long-term.

Mental fatigue that results from a lack of sleep is not the same as the fatigue that results from physical exertion, and it needs to be treated differently. Being physically rested might help an athlete make the play, but being mentally rested will help that player make the right play.

What to Do

Since sleep habits are such an important aspect of predicting long-term athletic performance, athletes may want to investigate known methods for achieving the most restful sleep possible. Elite athletes experiencing sleep difficulties may want to look into some of the sleep aids that we’ve written about in the past.

“Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”
— Vince Lombardi

Final Thoughts

The importance of sleep to athletic performance can’t be overstated. Sleep quality can predict how fast an athlete will react, how quickly they’ll act, how accurate they’ll be, how many errors they’ll make, and if they do make an error, whether they’ll avoid an injury. Along with physical and mental conditioning, proper nutrition and hydration, sleep should be a regular part of any elite athlete’s preparation.

Now that you know 5 ways that sleep impacts athletic performance, get even more tips on managing fatigue and athletic effectiveness by downloading our comprehensive eBook on the Science of Sleep. In our eBook, you’ll learn:

• The difference between mental and physical fatigue.
• How sleep deprivation affects an athlete’s mental and physical performance.
• How sleep quantity and quality can be measured.
• How Fatigue Science’s technology helps elite sports teams manage sleep and improve performance.

Click here to DOWNLOAD NOW.

Further Reading

The effects of sleep extension on the athletic performance of collegiate basketball players
Mah C, et al. (2011)

Effects of training and competition on the sleep of elite athletes: a systematic review and meta-analysis
Roberts, Spencer Stuart Haines, et al. (2018)

Ongoing study continues to show that extra sleep improves athletic performance
Mah C, et al. (2008)

The effect of partial sleep deprivation on weight-lifting performance
Reilly T, Piercy M. (1994)

• Sports-related injuries in youth athletes: is overscheduling a risk factor?
Luke A, et al. (2011)

Sleep Data, Physical Performance, and Injuries in Preparation for Professional Mixed Martial Arts
Peacock, Corey A., et al. (2019)

• Chronic lack of sleep is associated with increased sports injuries in adolescent athletes
Milewski MD, et al. (2014)

How sleep deprivation decays the mind and body
The Atlantic

Moderate sleep deprivation produces impairments in cognitive and motor performance equivalent to legally prescribed levels of alcohol intoxication
Williamson A, Feyer A. (2000)

• Sleep prior to and following competition in professional rugby league athletes]
Driller, Matthew (2018)

How awake are you?
Hardvard Medical

The sleep crisis and the science of slumber
Maclean’s

Studies link fatigue and sleep to Major League Baseball (MLB) performance and career longevity 
Winter C. MD

 

Sleep like a champ: How FSU women’s soccer promotes sleep as a vital component of success

The Florida State University Seminoles have one of the top women’s soccer programs in the United States. FSU has qualified for the NCAA tournament every year since 2000, making appearances in three championship games over that stretch.

The Seminoles women’s soccer team has been using the Fatigue Science Readiband technology since 2014. As the team prepares to kick off the 2015 season as defending National Champions, we had the chance to ask a few questions of Assistant Coach Mike Bristol about their use of the Fatigue Science Readiband platform.

Assistant Coach Mike Bristol Photo courtesy of seminoles.com

Assistant Coach Mike Bristol photo courtesy of seminoles.com

Since his arrival in Tallahassee, Bristol has helped guide the Seminoles to four straight appearances in the College Cup, a national runner-up finish in 2013 and the national title in 2014. Last December, Mike was honored as the Glenn “Mooch” Myernick National Women’s Assistant Coach of the Year.

“The technology helps in their understanding of how fatigue affects performance, both on the field and in the classroom.”

— Assistant Coach Mike Bristol

A few questions with FSU Women’s Soccer’s Mike Bristol

F/S: How do the Seminoles incorporate modern technology into the overall team program?

MB: All of the technology we use is geared towards avoidance of injury and player education. That is, we really try to reduce the impact of fatigue-associated injury and keep the players feeling fresh and healthy late into the season. We also want to prepare them for their future as professionals after their time at FSU. With the condensed nature of the collegiate soccer season amid a demanding academic schedule, recovery from training and games is imperative for optimal performance. The technology helps in their understanding of how fatigue affects performance, both on the field and in the classroom.

 

F/S: How are you using the Readiband technology?

MB: Currently, the Readibands are being used for player education and health screening, learning how athletes manage sleep around games/events, and making decisions to limit the impact of training and travel on sleep opportunity. We are looking forward to evaluating game-time readiness with the implementation of Bluetooth capabilities in the new model.

 

F/S: What have you found to be the biggest benefit?

MB: Player education is of great importance to us here at Florida State. The Readibands have encouraged our athletes to learn about their sleep habits and how it affects their performance on the soccer field. Another benefit we have seen is the ability to screen for possible sleep disturbances, and get to the root of the problem before it becomes a serious issue.

 

F/S: To what degree has using the Readibands been a game-changer for your athletes and the team overall?

MB: The Readiband and all of this education about sleep and recovery has been immensely helpful in preparing our athletes for training and competition. It definitely plays a part in the overall picture we try to give our athletes about the importance of preparation and recovery during a short and busy season.   The small details make a big difference at the end of the season.

 

F/S: Finish this sentence: Sleep is…

MB: One of the vital components to optimal performance.

 

We look forward to seeing what the season brings for defending national champions, the FSU Seminoles!