Nov 2, 2016
Catching Some Z’s

Sleep is an often overlooked, but always-critical component to an athlete’s success. Few people know this as much as Cheri Mah, a ‎Sleep Research Fellow at the University of California San Francisco Human Performance Center, who was previously at the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Laboratory. While there, she researched sleep in athletes and helped Cardinal teams to optimize sleep and recovery.

Working with the men’s basketball team, her research found concrete ways in which sleep improves performance, as detailed in this blog.

“Our findings from men’s basketball… indicate that several weeks of sleep extension improves reaction time, mood, levels of daytime sleepiness, and specific indicators of athletic performance, including free throws, 3 point field goals, and sprint time,” she wrote. “These findings suggest that sleep duration is likely an important component of peak performance.”

Working with other teams, Mah saw significantly improved performance from athletes who focused more on proper sleep habits.

“Many of the athletes I work with are surprised at the difference sleep can have on their training, performance, and even schoolwork!” she wrote. “For many, it’s their first experience having a strategic approach to optimizing sleep and tracking their progress through a season. It’s often only in hindsight – after they’ve significantly reduced their sleep debt over several weeks – that many athletes realize they were operating at a sub-optimal level.”

Mah also detailed five tips for athletes who want to practice good sleep hygiene:

1. Have a quiet, cool, and dark sleep environment. Doing so will make it easier to attain quality sleep.

2. Maintain a consistent sleep schedule. Going to bed and waking up at the same time will help your body get into a rhythm.

3. Establish a regular routine for the last half hour before bed. Whether you read or listen to music, a set routine will help your body anticipate sleep.

4. Drink less liquid two hours before bed. That, along with going to the bathroom before bed, should reduce the number of times you’re awakened at night.

5. If you still have trouble sleeping, try stretching before your nighttime routine and thinking about an upcoming game or practice at that time.

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