Athletes awaken to the link between sleep and sports performance

While some families are worried about the effect a later school start might have on athletics, others are worried that sleep deprivation is affecting their child’s athletic performance and significantly increasing their risk of injury. Other districts, including Beverly MA (a member of our own athletic conference) have been able to make a later start time work – so can we.

Volleyball standout Denise Wooding remembers her first year at U of T as a hard lesson in the importance of sleep. “Once you don’t get a good sleep you can’t focus on class and you have to go through everything twice just to make up for what you missed,” says Wooding, who just finished her fifth year of eligibility. “You feel bad at practice and you’re not recovering, so you’re always sore. Then you feel like you need more sleep but you don’t have time.”

While players report feeling better, the evidence of the benefits of enhanced sleep runs deeper than anecdotes.

Zeilstra says Fatigue Science licenses software developed by the U.S. military and employs an algorithm that predicts the erosion of an athlete’s reaction time based on their sleep scores. According to the model, an athlete who scores 90 will react 25 per cent more quickly than one who scores 70.

In 2013, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine published the results of a three-year survey of major league baseball players that asked them to report their levels of sleepiness. Among players who reported fatigue in 2010, 39 per cent were still in the league in 2013 compared with 72 per cent of players who reported low levels of sleepiness.

Researchers at Stanford University found that three-point shooting accuracy increased by 9.2 per cent after basketball players were asked to up their sleep to 10 hours daily.

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