Sleep Extension and Peak Performance

Sleep disordersOver the many years of practicing Chinese medicine there have been countless times when a patient will respond to my inquiry about their sleep stating, “I do fine with six hours sleep. I do perfectly well with that.”

My response, “Perhaps, but not likely.”

Though moving through the familiar areas of the day can go relatively peacefully, an interesting study out of Stanford University suggests we could perform better with more sleep than what we think we need.

Cheri Mah, a researcher in the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Laboratory, studied male basketball players from the Stanford basketball team, and their ability to perform on the court with additional sleep.

As high-achieving academic athletes who varied from 6-9 hours of sleep per night at baseline, Mah requested that the students abstain from stimulants such as coffee, and aim to get 10 hours of sleep per night for two weeks. Mah recorded baseline and test time performance in the areas of running the court, shooting accuracy, free-throw accuracy and 3-point field goal accuracy.

Improvements were very significant in all areas. Nearly a second was shaved off the time it took for students to run the court; 3-point shooting accuracy improved by 9.2 percent; and so on.

One of the more striking pieces of Mah’s study was the area in which found that students were carry the load of chronic sleep debt accumulation.

Yes, Mah’s study group was small, just 11 students.Since this study she has began expanded sleep studies in other sports.

But this study would suggest that sleep deprivation can be subtle, and the ramifications to even highly functioning people such as bright, young, world-class athletes can be measured to show just where our ability to perform optimally can be compromised.

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