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10 Reasons sports teams should use Fatigue Science technology

 

Guest post: Dr. Jonathan Bloomfield, Sleep & Performance Consultant

Sleep has a very measurable impact on physical and cognitive performance – both of which need to be consistently in top form to sustain competitiveness at an elite athletic level. Studies show that an optimally rested athlete can run faster and make smarter split second decisions.

Understanding sleep to improve athletic performance is not as simple as just telling players to sleep 8 hours a night. Fatigue Science Performance Consultant, Dr. Jonathan Bloomfield, lists 10 reasons why sleep is important for athletes and why he has been using Fatigue Science technology for over four years with English Premier League and International Rugby teams to help optimize player performance:

  1. Athlete’s essentials: All players need to train, fuel, and recover – the three essential pillars of performance. Most clubs know how to address measurements and best practices around training and nutrition, Fatigue Science can help manage the third aspect.
  2. Get a bigger picture: Being a professional athlete is a 24/7 job. Coaches and backroom staff are in contact with players for usually 10-15 hours per week. If you can understand how the team is sleeping, you start to get a bigger picture of how this aspect of training might affect their on-the-field performance.
  3. Sleep = Recovery: Sleep is crucial to athletic recovery – including physiological, biochemical, and cognitive restoration. If not properly managed, player mood, effort, and technical performance will all suffer and they will be more susceptible to injuries and reduced performance.
  4. Players are human: 20-25% of UK and US populations suffer from some form of sleep disorder, many of which are undiagnosed. That’s potentially ¼ of your squad. If you can profile for sleep disorders in your team, your medical staff can intervene to address them.
  5. Stay in shape: Poor sleep consistency impacts body-weight. Well rested players are able to maintain optimal body weight, whereas those who have poor patterns will have an imbalance in their appetite hormones and metabolism – this can result in craving all the wrong foods at all the wrong times.
  6. Late Games = No Sleep?: Many players report having serious difficulties sleeping after evening games. Do you know which players are suffering worst from this and what impact it has on the next fixture? What’s the best possible training and travelling schedule to stick to, recognizing that sleep plays a central role to your team’s success?
  7. Up with the larks: As a coach, you might like to get up early and get things done before breakfast, but young players simply don’t have the same body-clocks and have a much greater sleep requirement. Dragging them out of bed for a pre-dawn practice might be terribly counter-productive. Fatigue Science technology can help schedule practice and travel to ensure your players are getting sufficient rest between practices and games.
  8. Most vulnerable: Your youngest players (esp. 18-22 year olds) often come out of their adolescence with a high volume of sleep debt as a result of growing into young men or women. Get some insight into your younger players’ sleep habits and circadian rhythms to help educate them how to re-pay the debt so they can perform their best.
  9. Even good sleepers have their challenges: Major life changes that require coping with change can affect sleep. New babies, family stress, strained relationships, moving house, living overseas, all add a significant stresses that can affect a player’s ability to get good quantity and quality sleep. It’s important to help understand when there is a sleep issue and how to address it.
  10. Real data: Studies show that a person’s ability to judge their own sleep is flawed. Athlete’s participating in a study in the US self-reported (on average) 70 minutes more sleep than they were actually obtaining. Using Readiband technology allows teams to start managing fatigue and recovery – starting with real data.

With Fatigue Science technology, you can work with your players to create a full profile and reduce injury risk, increase mood and focus, create better schedules, and provide them with real insights on how their sleep is affecting their on-the-field performance.

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The road to Sochi

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With the  2014 Winter Olympic Games quickly approaching, athletes around the world are getting ready to hit the road to Sochi.

The road to Sochi is a long and challenging one, as athletes devote years of training and sacrifice to have a shot at bringing home a gold medal. But for many athletes, the road to Sochi is also literally long and challenging. Take a look at the miles and time zones crossed to get to Sochi:

  • From Calgary, AB Canada – Miles: 5725.4, Time Zone: + 11 hours
  • From Lake Placid, NY USA – Miles: 5137.9, Time Zone: + 9 hours
  • From Leukerbad, Switzerland –  Miles: 1576.6, Time Zone: + 3 hours
  • From Osaka, Japan – Miles: 4887.4, Time Zone: – 5 hours
  • From London, UK – Miles: 1915.4, Time Zone: – 4 hours
  • From Sydney, Australia – Miles: 8784.0, Time Zone: + 7 hours
  • From Buenos Aires, Argentina – Miles: 8186.3, Time Zone: – 7 hours

With all of these miles and times zones to contend with, athletes should probably arrive weeks in advance to adjust to the Olympic setting’s local time, right?

A few weeks ago, we took a look at a recent study, published in the December 2013 Journal of SLEEP, which explored the circadian advantages and disadvantages of NFL teams playing at various times on the East Coast. The study concluded that depending on the start time of the game, there were instances in which the West Coast team was actually at an advantage over the East Coast team, and showed better performance in spite of their travel across time zones. Over the duration of a later East Coast game, the West Coast team’s performance increased 3% while the East Coast team’s performance was diminished by 6% – all because of circadian factors.

When looking at this change in performance in the context of  elite sports, where events can be won by 1/100th of a second, even a small increase or decrease in reaction time can be the difference between a podium or 4th place finish. So does it make sense for athletes to make sure they are settled into Sochi and the local time zone well ahead of the Olympic start? The answer is: There is no simple answer. Depending on time zone changes and timing of athletic event, the opportunity to take advantage of circadian factors will be a little different for everyone.

As we demonstrated in the previous post looking at Circadian Factors in Athletic Performance, Fatigue Science technology can model the change in performance based on all of these inputs so teams or athletes can take measures to optimize performance at the moment it matters.

Circadian factors in athletic performance

A new study published in the December issue of the Journal of Sleep has looked at the impact of circadian factors on athletic performance in NFL football players and concluded that those “playing close to the circadian peak in performance demonstrate a significant athletic advantage over those who are playing at other times.”

The researchers acknowledge that even small variations in performance can mean the difference between winning or losing in professional sports and concludes that applying the knowledge of circadian factors is an underused approach which “is likely to enhance human performance”

Fatigue Science Co-Founder, Pat Byrne, reviewed the study and discusses the results in this video:

 

 

Knowing that circadian factors may help your team achieve optimal performance is just part of the equation, how you apply this information is another. Using Readiband to understand a team or athlete’s actual sleep and FAST (Fatigue Avoidance Scheduling Tool) to model game-time performance, trainers and athletes can get the most out of, or more importantly, create their own ‘circadian advantage’.

 

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The study, which is titled: “The Impact of Circadian Misalignment on Athletic Performance in Professional Football Players” was published in the December 2013 Journal of SLEEP. You can view the abstract or download the full study.

U.S. Open defending champ, Andy Murray, takes a day off to avoid fatigue

On Monday, 26 August, one of the most important Grand Slams of the year started – the 2013 U.S. Open.

With a total prize pool of $34,300,000 and the last grand slam of the season, winning the U.S. Open is one of the most coveted prizes of the year.

For the current world number 3, Andy Murray, the need to perform during the U.S. Open is imperative – as this will be Murray’s first time as a defending champion at a Grand Slam tournament.

So how has Murray been training? Well instead of squeezing additional training on his day off, Murray did what many professional athletes deem as unthinkable – he actually took the day off.

This is not the first time Murray has added rest and adequate sleep into his pre-game regime. In fact, before his 2013 Wimbledon victory, Murray credited his win to getting 12 hours of sleep pre-game, where as his competitor Novak Djokovic credited his poor performance and multiple unforced errors on fatigue.

So what is sports fatigue? 

Fatigue is both a physical and a mental state, representing that point in a difficult training session or competition when the body demonstrates a reduced ability to work efficiently, with a feeling of weariness that cannot be mentally overcome.

For athletes, such as Murray and Djokovic, the need to see just how far they can push themselves in order to achieve their best is key to their training pre-championship.  This often means giving up a few hours of sleep for training, or sometimes squeezing in an hour’s workout into their busy schedules. For many athletes it’s tough to balance, but with game-day coming up, many athletes can only see the end goal in mind and tend to over-train themselves.

So how can athletes avoid sports fatigue?

An athlete can reduce or eliminate the impact of fatigue by tracking their actual sleep patterns with our fatigue measurement technology – Readiband and FAST.

Readiband – By wearing the Readiband™ athletes can see their real time effectiveness scores allowing them to understand how fatigue is affecting their performance on a daily and hourly basis. Additionally the sleep data collected by wearing the Readiband can be uploaded into our cloud-based software which aggregates the data into fatigue analytics allowing coaches and managers to pinpoint periods of optimal and compromised performance. The analytics then allow for proactive strategies to be created to optimize team performance both on and off the field.

Fatigue Avoidance Scheduling Tool (FAST®) – By uploading FAST flight times, game times and the team’s actual historical sleep patterns to identify where fatigue is affecting athletes the most. Based on results, travel plans and practice schedules are modified in order to optimize performance effectiveness and improve reaction times.

The Vancouver Canucks know the importance of measuring fatigue 

“Adequate sleep is without question the most important recovery factor for athlete mental and physical fatigue. The “state of the art” Readiband and FAST technology developed with strong science and a large data base make the product “a must” for sport organizations interested in fatigue assessment and monitoring of their athletes.” – Dr. Zaichkowsky, former Director of Sport Science – Vancouver Canucks