In case you were wondering if those late-night social media marathons were bringing you down the next day, the answer, at least for athletes, seems to be a resounding yes. Sports Illustrated reported that there’s a strong correlation between tweeting after 11 p.m. and having a poor game the next day.
Professors at Stony Brook College wanted to determine if sleep deprivation had an impact on performance, and the best way to do that was to see who was up late with their phone in hand. They looked through over 37,000 tweets from 112 players over seven years, from 2009 to 2016. Then they looked at game performance the next day. What they found was that players scored 1.14 fewer points and shooting efficiency dropped by 1.7 percent. Players also played two fewer minutes per game.
Those numbers only got worse the later a player was up tweeting. Those who were typing things out between 2 and 6 a.m. had a drop of 3.6 percent in shooting efficiency.
Not all the players who heard about the study are buying it.
“Hey man, next thing you know, if you don’t jump over a cat three days before the game, you ain’t gonna make two layups,” said Clippers point guard Patrick Beverley.
But study author Lauren Hale Ph.D., who has spent years studying sleep, said that while it may seem like a small drop in performance, it really adds up over an entire team.
“If two or three players are sleep deprived, that adds up,” she said.
Sleep has become an important factor in prepping for a game. Team doctors encourage players to drink tart cherry juice before bed because it is a natural source of melatonin. They also recommend people avoid caffeine and add decaf tea to their evening routine instead. Some have even suggested that players wear blue-light blocking glasses if they happen to be up late playing video games or on their computers or phones.
Sports Illustrated also explained that many coaches are not waking their team up when they are traveling for early morning practice so that they can stay on a more consistent body clock timing.
“When you try to wake your team up for an 11 o’clock shootaround, that’s 8 o’clock on their body clocks, which means they’re probably waking up at 6:30. That makes no sense,” said one coach. “So, we choose to sleep and do less on the first game. Less preparation, which makes no sense in a lot of ways, but I’d rather have their legs than anything else, so that’s what we choose to do.”
What used to be an afterthought is now one of the important factors in achieving top performance.
“Now it’s top of the priority list,” Atkinson said. “How we’re traveling, whether we’re staying over, not staying over, when guys are going to sleep on the plane, when we’re scheduling practice the next day on a long trip. It’s a big piece to this 82-game puzzle that we’re all still trying to figure out.”