Sleep is essential to success in sports (Thinkstock)
Sleep is essential to success in sports

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Jarome Iginla draws the blackout curtains. He keeps his room at a cool temperature. He silences his cellphone. Sometimes he reads a relaxing book to drift off.

The Colorado Avalanche ice hockey forward has played professionally for 18 seasons. But only recently has he happened upon this simple eye opener. Quality sleep really does matter. Especially to athletes.

The closer Iginla comes to nine hours of slumber on any given night, the better his production seems to be on the ice. That is why Iginla is not a big fan of early morning practices before games. Those skate sessions are a part of hockey tradition.

There is evidence that sleep restriction curtails adequate rest and recovery for athletes. It can impact performance. Some NBA teams have even dabbled with eliminating the traditional shootaround. That is a brief practice held earlier on the day of a game.

Cheri Mah is a researcher at the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Laboratory. She tracked the sleep habits of the men's basketball team at Stanford University for a study. It was released in 2011. By extending their sleep, the Cardinal players increased their 3-point and free throw shooting by 9 percent.

Iginla sees how the evidence can come into play on the ice, too.

"When you're tired, it doesn't seem like the game comes as quick," said Iginla of the Avalanche. He began working with sleep coaches while with the Calgary Flames a few years ago. "You want to keep things fresh, kind of like a kid." He said that is where you can't wait to get on the ice, can't wait to go out there and expend that energy. The more you capture that the better."

Nashville Predators coach Peter Laviolette actually scrubbed the morning skatearound. That was when he was with Carolina in 2008-09. But he was fired that December and didn't get to see the experiment through. The Hurricanes went to the Eastern Conference final after he was let go. Today, Laviolette is convinced the lack of a skatearound early in the season played a role.

"I think it's because they had a lot of energy left," Laviolette said, smiling. "I think right now (skatearounds) are more habit than anything else. I don't necessarily think it's good for you."

Still, players are creatures of habit. Maybe decades ago, skating or shooting around before games was a necessary ploy. It was a way for players to loosen up after a late night. Nowadays, players are more conditioned.

"I'm all for that, getting rid of those," Anaheim forward Ryan Getzlaf said. "It's just kind of been instilled in some guys that they need to go on the ice."

Dr. Charles Czeisler is known around NBA circles as the "sleep doctor." He is the chief of the sleep disorders division at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. Czeisler has worked with several professional teams. He believes more emphasis should be placed on monitoring the body's internal clock.

A few seasons ago, Czeisler consulted with the Portland Trail Blazers. The basketball team had a trend of struggling on East Coast trips. His biggest advice? Keep everyone's schedule on Oregon time and not, say, New York time. That three-hour difference is huge to the body.

"So the coach told them, 'OK, your curfew is 2 a.m.,'" said Czeisler. He also has worked with the NBA Boston Celtics and Boston Red Sox baseball team. "The players were all very excited about that. Trying to adjust is just going to degrade your performance."

Czeisler would like to see sleep taken just as seriously as strength programs or nutrition.

"Would you starve yourself before a game and say, 'Ok, I'm not going to eat for 24 hours?' That would be crazy," Czeisler said. "There's no reason to sleep-starve yourself before a game."

In Mah's opinion, elite athletes need between 8-10 hours of sleep.

"So often sleep is the first thing to go when there's a busy schedule and a lot on the plate," said Mah. She recently offered sleep guidance to the NBA's Golden State Warriors. "Making it a priority is essential for players and coaches."

NBA teams such as the Minnesota Timberwolves and Denver Nuggets have experimented with cutting down on the traditional shootaround approach. Instead of having their players practice at the gym early in the morning, then return that night for the game, they're having them arrive closer to game time.

Recently, though,the Nuggets decided to go back to the early morning shootaround. It was by a 6-5 player vote.

Not everyone is a big fan of getting up early.

"I notice when we had no shootaround, everyone is more upbeat when they got to the gym," Denver guard Ty Lawson said. "It sticks better and it's fresher (later in the day)."

Lawson prefers to break his sleep into chunks. He sleeps five hours at night. He takes a three-hour nap during the day.

"When I get back from shootaround now, that's all I do is nap," Lawson said. "If I don't get that nap, I'm done."

Iginla certainly wouldn't mind being done with morning skates. But it might take a Stanley Cup hockey champion to usher in that sort of change.

"That's what it will probably take to get it to catch on big time," Iginla acknowledged. "I'd rather get a little more sleep."

Critical thinking challenge: Why is it likely that the Red Sox and Celtics worked with Dr. Charles Czeisler rather than another doctor?

Assigned 85 times

  • DorrN-Sua
    4/07/2015 - 08:38 p.m.

    The Red Sox and Celtics worked with Dr. Charles Czeisler because he was the only sleep doctor that they could get and they need a sleep doctor to tell them how long to sleep and what time to do it before they play sports.

  • ManuelJ-Sua
    4/07/2015 - 09:36 p.m.

    Reason why it is likely that the Red Sox and Celtics worked with Dr. Charles Czeisler, is because he puts a curfew for them, so when they are out there they won't fall asleep because when it's a busy day for an athlete, the first thing the throw of the schedule is sleep.

  • StoneM-Sua
    4/07/2015 - 09:41 p.m.

    There are three reasons why the Red Sox and Celtics worked with Dr. Charles Czeisler than another doctor. First, Dr. Czeisler is the NBA sleeping doctor. He specializes in sleeping disorders for the NBA. Next, he is the one of the very few doctors for sleeping disorders in the NBA. Last, he helps several professional teams in the NBA.

  • HocogJ-Sua
    4/07/2015 - 10:01 p.m.

    They worked with him because he helped them get better in baseball. The way he helped is by sleep because they have to get energy. Dr. Charles Czeisler's two patients the Red Sox, and the Celtics were excited to get help with the doctor because they want more sleep to get better in baseball. Also because he is an expert in his job. Another part is that when you sleep you have too sleep 8-10 hours then they will have enough energy.

  • ShecklenZ-Sua
    4/07/2015 - 10:09 p.m.

    Dr. Czeisler was a sleep doctor. He helped them sleep better.

    Sports players need enough sleep to keep their energy levels up.

    The players were sent to this specific doctor because he was a sleep doctor for the NBA.

    And they need rest because they need energy for the game so they are able to play better.

  • MayerS-Sua
    4/07/2015 - 10:21 p.m.

    They rather have Dr.Charles then other doctor because Dr.Charles has more experience with other teams. Another reason why they rather have Dr.Charles then another doctor because he known's what is best for the NBA players when they are sleeping. Another reason why they want Dr.Charles because Dr.Charles is service about people that do not get enough sleep that play sport's. The last reason why they would want Dr.Charles then another doctor because the NBA thinks that Dr.Charles will be better than other doctor's. Those are some of the reasons why they would pick Dr.Charles instead of another doctor.

  • ManiegoC-Sua
    4/07/2015 - 10:27 p.m.

    The question is why is it likely that the Red Sox and Celtics worked with Dr. Charles Czeisler rather than another doctor. I think that because he has helped many teams with sleep in sports. Also he knows more things then others because been doing it for a long time. One more is that he studied for a long time. Those are my reasons why they chose Charles Czeisler .

  • CooperK-Sua
    4/07/2015 - 11:43 p.m.

    I read an article about getting sleep. Getting sleep is a very important thing. It is an important thing because it gives you energy the next day. Athletes need to get a lot of sleep so that when they play in a game, they will have a lot of energy. There is a man nicknamed the sleep doctor. His real name is Charles Czeisler. He thinks that sleep is very important and he tells athletes to get many hours of sleep before a game. In the article I read there were some athletes that said sleep helps them have a good game. Now sports teams are trying to stop early morning practices so the players can get some sleep. My opinion of sleep is that sleep helps everybody like athletes and even students like us because we need sleep to focus on school work.

  • KapapaZ-Sua
    4/08/2015 - 12:13 a.m.

    The Red Sox and the Celtics worked with Dr. Charles Czeisler rather than another doctor because he has worked with other NBA teams. The Celtics and the Red Sox also worked with him because the players were excited. The Red Sox and Celtics work with Dr. Charles Czeisler because he worked with many professional teams. This is why I think Red Sox and Celtics worked with Mr. Charles Czeisler.

  • NorrisJ-Sua
    4/08/2015 - 12:46 a.m.

    I think it's more likely that the Red Sox and Celtic with Charles Czeisler because he is the Sleep Doctor. He helps player stay on a schedule. He recommend Althelics should get 8-10 hours of sleep. He wants them to sleep during Oregon time not New York time.

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