Sleep Big and Win

Football may not really be your game (I probably sound unAmerican but mine's tennis) but a certain Midwestern college's football team found out last fall just how important sleep is after their coach decided to start helping them sleep better.  They also won the big game.

The coach swears there's a connection.  The team is Northwestern and Pat Fitzgerald, the coach, has placed an unusual emphasis on his players’ sleeping behavior as a way to improve their performance, according to The New York Times. In the past, he has changed the times of practices and instituted team naps, but since the beginning of August, in collaboration with the university’s school of engineering, Fitzgerald has had his team undergo a sleep assessment, Steven Braid reports. The idea was to assess the players’ sleep patterns and then suggest ways they can have more and sounder sleep.

The players began wearing movement sensor armbands during training camp, except when they are practicing or in the weight room. The sensors have mainly been used to track the quantity and quality of sleep each player gets. Fitzgerald plans to have his players wear them throughout the rest of the season. Although players are not required to wear the sensors, most do.

“At first, we didn’t really know much about sleep and we were just curious,”  defensive end Tyler Scott, a team captain, told Braid. “But we really embraced it, and after a while, we got really competitive about sleep efficiency. We started checking our data every day.”
So why should you care about a football team and their sleep habits?  Because it applies to all of us.
 “What they’re doing is taking existing sleep research and translating it into a program designed for their athletes that they hope will improve not only athletic performance, but also a whole bunch of other things,” Braid quotes Emma Adam, a Northwestern professor and an expert on sleep in adolescents and young adults. “Sleep has effects on cognition, your attention, your memory, your mood, your metabolism, your appetite — it affects so many different things.”
You may not play on a football team, or even care about the sport!  But using some of these tactics may help you sleep better -- and improve your performance, too.


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