Why Sleep Just Might be the Next NFL Secret Weapon

An Oct. 5 article by Mike Tanier on BleacherReport.com examines how some franchises are looking for a leg up on the competition by connecting with companies to help monitor the quality of NFL players’ sleep.

After the Seattle Seahawks won the Super Bowl in 2014, cornerback Richard Sherman wrote a guest column for Sports Illustrated noting, “We have specialized doctors who monitor us for concussion symptoms and wristwear that helps the team track our sleep patterns.”

In a parenthetical aside, he adds, “In case you’re wondering, the sleep science has paid off for several guys.”

NFL Quality of Sleep

Sleep coach Nick Littlehales designs seminars for players, coaches and teams and teaches athletes to think of sleep in terms of cycles, not hours, the article says. Most people go through five cycles of light, deep and REM sleep in eight hours. With constant travel, jet lag and strange hotel rooms, football players are lucky to get eight hours a night. Littlehales recommends that players aim for 35 cycles per week, including naps.

Several players are embracing the benefits of sleep. “You’ve always heard you need eight hours of sleep, but you don’t know the science behind it all,” says Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins. “You don’t know until you’re taught the effect lack of sleep has upon your brain and its functionality. It changes completely when you’re sleep-deprived.”

Fitness trainer Brett Bartholomew, who has worked with several players during the off-season, emphasizes the importance of sleep. “Rest is a weapon,” he says in Outside Magazine. “What was once seen as a weakness is now a strength. Just like you eat to support your training you need to sleep to support your training.”

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