July 23, 2014
FORT WORTH, Tex. — Everyone endures sleepless nights. When a pattern of sleep deprivation takes place with athletes, serious consequences can occur as performances suffer on the field and in the classroom. Dramatic mood swings happen as well.
Those in the game of baseball have broken down almost everything in the quest for high level athletic achievement. And that can take the form of better nutrition, weight training, mental training, video technology and progressive teaching concepts specific to the different skill sets required. But rarely do coaches talk about proper sleeping habits which may be among the most important aspects of athletic performance.
Sleep is not something to take lightly.
Sleep deprivation has been utilized as torture, a tactic favored by the KGB and the Japanese in prisoner of war camps in World War II. Going without sleep is intensely stressful with unpredictable short and long-term effects. People lose the ability to act and think coherently.
Hallucinations, paranoia and disorientation are just a few of the symptoms of prolonged sleeplessness.
Collegiate Baseball is offering this exclusive interview with Dr. James Maas who will discuss how to achieve proper rest.
Dr. Maas is a leading authority and international consultant on sleep and performance who has studied the subject more than four decades as a professor at Cornell University where he taught more than 65,000 college students.
He recently wrote a book with Haley Davis called Sleep To Win!: Secrets To Unlocking Your Athletic Excellence In Every Sport.
The staff of Sleep To Win have presented highly successful programs on sleep to scores of corporations, the U.S. Navy, U.S. Figure Skating Association, New York Jets, Philadelphia Flyers, Ottawa Senators and Orlando Magic. But one sport they have not been involved with is baseball.
“About 70 percent of Americans aren’t meeting the 7 ½ to 8 ½ hour sleep requirements as adults,” said Dr. Maas.
“Sleep needs go up from puberty to about the age of 26 which involves everyone from middle school kids to Major League ball players. The amount of sleep this group of people needs to be fully alert and full of energy is 9 ¼ hours of sleep per night. If you ask this group of people how many hours of sleep they get a night, they will claim they are sleeping about seven hours. This includes regular students as well as athletes.
“But we have done actual brain wave studies in home monitoring, and they are really only getting about 6.1 hours of sleep a night. They are so sleepy that they don’t even know how little sleep they are getting. These people are in essence ‘walking zombies.’
“They think that because they eat well or appear to be in good athletic shape that this is enough. But they are missing 1/3 of the equation. We have been studying the effects of sleep deprivation both athletically and cognitively for years. And we also have studied lack of sleep with basic physiology.
“The findings aren’t of immediate concern. But they have long term repercussions to our younger athletes. Drowsiness at inappropriate times is a concern. During the mid-day dip in alertness that we all have in the middle of the afternoon, if you are sleep deprived as these youngsters are, the dip is even more serious.
“And this is often the time when baseball games on the high school and college levels are played. Obviously, when the brain and body is tanking because of lack of sleep, the athlete can’t perform at his highest level.
“So the athlete shows drowsiness, an increase in irritability, anxiety, depression and weight gain. For middle age people and older, there is a much higher risk of heart disease and Type II diabetes. Cancer has even been linked to sleep deprivation.
“Loss of sleep can impact a player’s teamwork, sense of humor and impact his motor skills.”
Dr. Maas said studies have shown reaction time deteriorates with athletes who suffer from sleep deprivation.
“This all happens during chains of events whether it is a pitcher who has to throw a quality pitch or a batter trying to hit a pitch. As an athlete, you must have your body synchronized in the athletic discipline you are trying to achieve in the proper firing sequence, so you don’t have to think.
“It all should be an automatic motor muscle memory. But when you have a lack of sleep, that chain of events can be seriously disrupted.
“When the athlete is sleep deprived, he has a lack of awareness and suffers from the ability to remember and think critically and creatively as one has to do to make a split second decision in baseball. You might make poor decision skills when balls fly off the bat or not looking at the third base coach who is waving you on…many different situations like this.
“There are a whole slew of events which happen, and sleep deprived athletes are blissfully unaware of how much they have lost over what they could be.”
For More Information: To read more about the importance of proper sleep, why young adults need 9 1/2 hours every night, how it can help athletes play at a higher level, how motor muscle memory will be enhanced, how to choose the proper mattress and pillow, why blue spectrum light from electronic devices can impair sleep, what the ideal sleep routine should be and how to solve the problem of jet lag, read the special 2-part series which starts in the April 5, 2013 edition of Collegiate Baseball. Part two appears in the April 19, 2013 issue. Single copies can be purchased for $3 each. Click here for more information.