‘The best athletes on the teams I’ve worked with have always been the best sleepers. The bottom third of the sleepers are usually gone within a few years.’
We live in a world where functioning on less and less sleep has become ‘the new normal,’ so we may not realize just how much insufficient sleep impacts our performance. Of course, there are elements of this that are out of our control, like the travel schedule associated with competition. But if you are struggling to get close to the recommended 7½-9 hours, it is likely that your reaction time and your ability to focus are suffering. What is the best way to monitor how much sleep you’re actually getting? And how do you determine what’s causing the problem if you’re falling short?
Pat Byrne is an authority in the field of sleep science with 30-plus years of experience in health and safety, risk management, and performance optimization. Pat’s fatigue management systems utilize state-of-the-art technology to revolutionize the way professional sports teams and 24/7 workplaces manage sleep schedules to enhance performance and mitigate risk. Pat’s elite client roster includes the US Department of Defense, Harvard Medical School, major mining and transportation companies, and leading sports teams in the NHL, NFL, NBA, MLS, MLB and AFL.
Today Pat gives us the run down on the importance of sleep, explaining the influence of age and biological variation on the amount an individual needs. He shares the short- and long-term consequences of sleep deprivation, his experience around the causes of sleep issues, and why sleep quality is more important than duration. Pat cautions us against using consumer-grade technology to monitor sleep and relying on sleeping pills to get the rest we need. Listen in as Pat speaks to the sleep challenges particular to athletes, discussing his approach to consulting with individuals and teams to improve performance.
Topics Covered [1:04] Pat’s take on the importance of sleep
Critical brain function 7½ to 9 hours per night Quality more important than duration [3:04] Sleep research as a very new science
Began in 1953 Study of how sleep affects human performance in last decade [4:06] How age influences the amount of sleep necessary
Human brain not fully developed until 25 Adolescent brain requires 9-10 hours per night Harder to sleep in one block as we get older [6:04] The consequences associated with sleep deprivation
Measurable change in reaction time Inability to concentrate Obesity, diabetes Inability to learn, retain information [7:58] Pat’s insight on napping
Should take strategically 1-2pm = best time [9:48] Pat’s advice around sleep technology
Impossible to measure sleep from wrist Consumer-grade wristwatches unproven Medical-grade tech 90-95% accurate (only measures when awake, asleep) [12:52] Why athletes don’t sleep well
Natural biology Lifestyle issues Work/travel schedule [14:48] Pat’s approach to sleep monitoring with athletes
Medical-grade ActiGraph Sync to phone, send data to computer Determine cause via data, questionnaire [16:52] Pat’s warnings about consumer-grade technology
Ask for validation papers Sleep quality can’t be measured [18:34] Pat’s experience around the causes of sleep issues
Biology bigger problem than might think Lifestyle only 10% Scheduling has improved in recent years Best athletes are best sleepers [20:30] Pat’s work with the Vancouver Canucks
Ended road trips on east coast, home at 5am Three nights to catch up on sleep Often lost games in that window Recommended flying back next day, changes in sleep environment Went from worst road record to best (two years running) [24:51] The most common sleep disorders
Restless leg syndrome Sleep apnea [27:09] Pat’s take on supplements and drugs
Can be addictive Quality of sleep not same with sleeping pills [28:23] The ideal sleep for health, safety and performance
Five cycles (about 1½ hours