The last few years have seen an awakening of sorts in football on the importance of sleep in relation to their players’ performance. Chip Kelly famously tracked his players’ sleep in Philadelphia. An increased focus on sleep led Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan to stop showing up for work at 5 a.m., convinced he could best serve his team at that hour by resting between the sheets.
There’s this travel card emphasizing sleep during the New York Jets’ trip to London last season, provided to the MMQB.
So, at many college and pro facilities, scenes regularly play out where coaches send their players home for a good night’s sleep…. and then head back to the office for three or four more hours of work.
But, as studies show, coaches are no different less reliant on good, meaningful sleep than players just because they don’t use their bodies the same way.
As detailed by the Harvard Business Review, the prefrontal cortex — the area of the brain that manages decision-making, problem-solving and creative thinking — deteriorates faster than other areas of the brain when functioning on less-than-optimal sleep.
“A wealth of scientific studies have highlighted the impact of sleep on all three stages of the learning process: before learning, to encode new information; after learning, in the consolidation stage, when the brain forms new connections; and before remembering, to retrieve information from memory,” says HBR.
A good night’s sleep has been connected to more effective problem solving, avoiding tunnel vision and emotionally support those that follow you — all required leadership traits of coaches.
And, by contrast, those that don’t receive proper sleep deprive themselves and their organizations of those benefits. In fact, those who reach 17 to 19 hours of wakefulness — 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., for example — are committing the equivalent of making important decisions while three to four beers in. “After roughly 20 hours of wakefulness (2 AM), this same person’s performance equals that of someone with a blood alcohol level of 0.1%, which meets the legal definition of drunk in the United States,” HBR writes.
What can be done to ensure coaches receive enough sleep?
Many progressive companies have installed policies that deaden email during certain hours or create limits on work time. You’ve likely heard of nap rooms that have become popular in Silicon Valley as well.
Carving out eight sleeping hours is easier said than done. Attention and intention are both required. But, at some point, “grinding” crosses the threshold into counter-productivity. The work that’s created often isn’t worth the time put into creating it, damages decision-making processes, exacerbates stress levels and leads to burnout.
Don’t let that happen to your program.