The Stanford Cardinal is learning sleep may be the key factor in gaining the upper hand in the increasingly competitive Pac-10 college football conference.
A group of football players at Stanford University ran faster and responded quicker when two more hours of sleep were added to their daily training regimen.
The findings are the latest to show sleep can help athletic performance. Lead author Cheri Mah turned her attention to football after demonstrating similar benefits for basketball, tennis, swimming and other sports.
The research abstract for “Sleep extension and athletic performance in collegiate football” is on display Tuesday at SLEEP 2010.
Seven team members who played various positions began the study by sleeping normal hours for the first couple weeks of the season. Then for seven to eight weeks, they slept in as long as possible.
The players’ times dropped significantly in the 40-yard-dash and the 20-yard-shuffle. Both drills are commonly used to evaluate football players at the college level and in the NFL Scouting Combine.
The researchers also monitored the players’ moods and daytime sleepiness. Both scores also improved along with the athletes’ vigor.
Mah advises athletes to extend sleep several weeks before competition, maintain a low sleep debt and keep a regular sleep schedule. Brief naps are also helpful, especially when drowsy.
Some NBA teams are beginning to recognize they can gain an advantage by accommodating for sleep. The 2010 Eastern Conference Champion Boston Celtics are among the teams that practice in the afternoon instead of the morning.