The findings suggest, Mah said, that it's important for sleep to be prioritized over a long period of time, not just the night before "Game Day." She called optimal sleep an "unrecognized, but likely critical factor in reaching peak performance." She said the findings may be applicable to recreational athletes and those at the high school, semi-pro or professional level.
Mah and her co-authors noted several limitations to their study. The sample size was small and the players' travel schedule made maintaining a strict sleep-wake schedule difficult. (Mah noted, though, that this was an unusual opportunity to study actively competing elite athletes.) It's important to note, also, that the study didn't focus on in-game performance: The team aspect of basketball makes it tricky to do so, she said, but future studies could focus on swimming, track and field, or other sports more conducive to examining individual performance.
Mah has already laid the groundwork for this research. Over the last several years she has investigated sleep extension in other Stanford sports teams including football, tennis, and swimming. She has presented abstracts with preliminary findings on these sports that suggest a similar trend: More sleep led to better performance.
Mah now works with many of the Stanford sports teams and coaches to integrate optimal sleep and travel scheduling into their seasons and also consults with professional hockey, football and basketball teams, in addition to continuing her research. She hopes to next turn her attention to the quality, versus quantity, of athletes' sleep.
|Contact: Michelle Brandt|
Stanford University Medical Center