Jan 29, 2015
Tired Today, Gone Tomorrow

By Mike Phelps

Two new studies by sleep researcher W. Christopher Winter, MD, have uncovered a relationship between how sleepy an athlete feels during the daytime and the length of their professional career. Winter presented the two studies at SLEEP 2012, an annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies that brings together more than 5,500 leading clinicians and scientists in the fields of sleep medicine and research.

The first study surveyed 55 randomly selected college football players who were selected in the NFL Draft. Survey results indicated that sleepier athletes had a 38 percent chance of staying with the team that originally drafted them. On the other hand, 56 percent of the “less sleepy” players stayed with their original team.

The second study found similar results amongst baseball players. Forty randomly selected Major League Baseball players were surveyed, and researchers found that between 57 and 86 percent of players who suffered from excessive tiredness during the day had left the league after three seasons–either being sent down to the minor leagues, being released, or choosing to retire. The MLB average attrition rate is 30-35 percent.

The studies’ findings could have a big impact on the way NFL and MLB teams evaluate talent.

“A team’s ability to accurately judge a prospect or a potential trade in terms of the value they will get for that player is what makes or breaks many professional sport teams,” said Winter, principal investigator of the studies and the sleep advisor for Men’s Health magazine. “These studies demonstrate that a simple evaluation of sleepiness may be a powerful tool to add to the list of tests athletes already undergo, such as the Wonderlic Cognitive Abilities Test and the 40-yard dash.”

Winter also believes that identifying and addressing sleepiness in players and correcting the issues can help extend an athlete’s career. Researchers conducted the studies using the Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS), a short questionnaire that can be helpful in detecting excessive daytime sleepiness. EDS is a common symptom of many sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea.

T&C tackled the issue of sleep-deprived athletes in this article by Northeastern University Director of Sports Performance Art Horne in 2008.

Mike Phelps is an Assistant Editor at Training & Conditioning.

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