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Could Sleep Be the Secret to NBA Success?

We all know about the importance of a healthy and balanced diet, the right amount of training and the right mindset for a great NBA career. But what role does sleep play? Sleep is probably one of the simplest, but most important features of a healthy fitness regime. It's also the most often overlooked too. While many people may underestimate the importance of sleeping well can have on our day-to-day wellbeing, for an NBA player whose career is focused on their athletic ability, it's critical.

Impact of Sleep and Jet-Lag on NBA The grueling travel schedule for NBA teams sees them play 41 road games a season, traveling across four time zones. In fact, NBA teams generally spend more time in the air than teams in any other professional league. It's inevitable that the fatigue from traveling well over 40,000 miles a season while playing 82 games a year, will be incredibly tough on the players. And no doubt has a serious impact on results too.

Significance of Circadian Rhythms for Athletes

For NBA players, this volume of travel is likely to disrupt their body's circadian rhythm. That's the 24-hour internal clock that tells us when we should sleep and wake up. Getting a good night's rest allows these changes from high to low to be less intense. However, getting less sleep will cause more of an intense shift in energy, especially when mixing up the body clock combined with the number of time zones traveled. If a team is playing during a time when their body clock expects to be asleep then their performance will be lower, but their risk of injury will be far greater.

Fatigue Cause of Injuries

When we sleep, our brain releases the human growth hormone, HGH, which helps to speed up recovery from injury or muscle fatigue. Around 80% of our production of HGH happens during sleep. Therefore, if an NBA player doesn't get enough sleep, there will be less production of HGH in their body. This could potentially cause their muscles to become weaker and more prone to injury. It's not surprising then that according to BedTester.com, if an NBA player slept for longer, it would significantly reduce injury and improve their performance. So much so, that players should consider their bed as being one of their most important pieces of training equipment.

Prioritizing Sleep to Boost Performance

For basketball players, sleep quality can impact their sprint times and shooting accuracy. Something Golden State Warriors' Andre Iguodala, knows all too well. He found that finally prioritizing sleep would completely transform his performance. Keen to perfect every aspect of his performance, he realized that sleep was an important area to work on. Iguodala worked with a sleep therapist to help him get rid of his bad sleeping habits. He adjusted his sleep schedule to ensure he always gets eight hours a night, which as a result has boosted his playing time and points per minute combined with a significant drop in fouls and turnovers.

Better Sleeping Habits Mean Better Players

Former Los Angeles Lakers star Koke Bryant admits that he once had “horrendous” sleeping habits. It took him until midway through his basketball career before he realized that poor sleep was impacting his performance and he couldn't play at his best on just three hours sleep a night. He was often lacking energy and it got so bad that he finally realized he needed to make some significant changes to his sleeping schedule. And it worked. Once he had made some dramatic changes be begun to sleep better, feel better and see a significant change in his performance.

NBA players can't escape the tough training and traveling schedule that seems necessary for the game. But what they can do is thrive to get as much good quality sleep as possible, when possible, to help their bodies rest, recover and repair so they are ready for the next game.