This season the Celtics get All-Star forward Kevin Garnett back from a knee injury. They’re also getting more sleep.
The team is being advised by Harvard sleep researcher Dr. Charles Czeisler. As a result they’re practicing at noon instead of early in the morning. And they’re no longer holding morning shootarounds on game days.
“I think they’re fresh,” Rivers told the Boston Globe. “I think we’ve had better practices.”
The goal is to help the players avoid the sleep deprivation that is rampant in the NBA. The 82-game regular season can be a brutal grind.
Play a late game; fly deep into the night to the next city on the schedule; fight off jet lag for a morning practice. Do it all over again.
As teams criss-cross the country sleep can get lost like checked luggage. That may be one reason why only seven of the 30 NBA teams had a winning record on the road last season.
“What we are trying to do is leverage the power of sleep,’’ said Czeisler. “As pro athletes, they spend so much time trying to practice and master the skills of the game - and sleep turns out to be a very critical part of the process…Teams that take advantage of this can really enhance their play.”
In January the Sleep Education Blog reported that the Portland Trail Blazers were getting help from Czeisler. They had finished the previous season with a mediocre 41-41 record.
The Blazers surged to a tie for first place in their division with a 54-28 record. The turnaround was fueled in part by a seven-game improvement in their road record.
The Celtics hope sleep will be a successful part of their gameplan this year. They’ll get their first test when they open the season against LeBron James and the Cavaliers in Cleveland on Tuesday night.
As for Czeisler, he hopes that we would all get more sleep.
“We are such a sleep-deprived society,’’ Czeisler said. “But the message is beginning to get through, that sleep is important for performance…It’s all about making sleep a priority.”
Learn more about how sleep improves sports performance.
Image by Daniel Go