Every major league baseball player experiences the stress of a truly messed up sleep schedule. Teams travel from one time zone to another often playing well into the night and then catching a flight to a different time zone arriving at five or six in the morning. This kind of scheduling plays havoc with the body’s natural circadian rhythms and significantly reduces efficiency, concentration, focus and energy levels.
We humans have a natural 24 or 25 hour internal clock that tells us when we should be sleeping and when we should be awake. When the external world demands that we sleep at the wrong times or are forced to stay awake at the wrong times, we pay a significant negative consequence.
Is the nature of a major league baseball schedule such that players are doomed to simply deal with this disruption in their natural cycle? Or are there ways to organize schedules and flight times to make the best of a challenging situation?
The Giants have won the World Series three years out of the last five and trainer Dave Grossman has consulted sleep expert Dr. Chris Winter during each of those winning seasons as the postseason approached. Dr. Winter is Director of the Martha Jefferson Hospital Sleep Medicine Center in Charlottesville, Virginia and the Giants were the first professional team to seek his services. After consulting with Dr. Winter the trainer and manager implemented changes in the way the Giants daily schedule is organized including not scheduling flights overnight but instead staying put after a game and flying out the next morning. Such minor adjustments in scheduling seem to have yielded significant consequences.
Certainly winning the World Series involves more than just a few tweaks of the team’s sleep schedule but is it significant that a professional sports team has taken advantage of sleep research and clinical practice to maximize athletic performance by minimizing the damage done by disorganized and unhealthy sleep patterns.