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Sleep, football players, and the NFL Scouting Combine’s 40-yard dash

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In 2010, Stanford University sleep and performance researcher, Cheri Mah, studied the effects of sleep extension on collegiate football players and determined that after several weeks of extending their time in bed from 6-9 hours per night (average) to 10 hours per night, the group was able to complete their timed 40-yard dash 2.1% faster. Such a small percentage increase in performance for an event that is mere seconds long may not seem like a significant improvement, but we were curious what it might mean for the college athletes participating in this week’s NFL Scouting Combine:

At the 2013 Combine, the fastest recorded 40-yard dash was completed by Marquise Goodwin in 4.27 seconds.

What if Marquise Goodwin ordinarily spent 6-9 hours in bed and maintained that same routine right up to the 2013 NFL Combine?

And what if every other participating college football player also routinely spent 6-9 hours in bed and in the 6 weeks leading up to the 2013 combine, changed nothing about their training or routines other than extending their time in bed to 10 hours per night?

What would a 2.1% increase in sprint performance mean to this group of the NFL hopefuls? For the top competitors, this improvement would potentially knock Goodwin from 1st for 7th place in the 40-yard dash. But, even more significantly, for the players sitting lower in the rankings, a 2.1% increase in performance for the 40-yard dash could mean a jump from 100th place to 45th place.

As for first place Marquise Goodwin, if we were to let him enjoy the same extended sleep period as the rest of his competitors, a 2.1% increase in performance would not only allow him to maintain his first place finish, but potentially give him a record breaking performance as well. The 40-yard dash record at the combine is 4.24 seconds (since electronic timing was introduced in 1999) held by Rondel Menedez (1999) and Chris Johnson (2008) – Marquise’s 2.1% increase would set his time at 4.18 seconds.

We know very well that successful athletic performance results from a number of factors – not limited to coaching, nutrition, training, and personal motivation – but all things considered, if consistent and quality sleep can help provide an edge in short sprint performance, then sleep or lack of sleep could potentially mean the difference between a record-breaking or sub-optimal finish at events like the NFL Scouting Combine.

Interested in learning more? Check out this popular ‘Sleep to be an all-star‘ infographic.

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.