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In praise of sleep

Back in my undergraduate days, we had a slogan at the campus newspaper:

Sleep is for the weak.

Surely you've heard variations of the theme, perhaps even invoked one or two as your schedule becomes packed with things you want to do, should do and need to do.

But sometimes, great results come from rethinking how you schedule.

Enter the athlete's best performance-enhancing weapon: sleep.

There has been some research on how getting enough sleep can improve athletic performance.

Now, count professional basketball players among the ranks of athletes who are playing around with the idea of getting more sleep.

A recent article in the New York Times discusses how several NBA teams have eliminated the time-honored tradition of the game-day shoot-around in lieu of letting their players sleep later. 

"You're talking about our players functioning on five or six hours of sleep a day," Boston coach Doc Rivers said in the Times' article. "and that's just not good enough. 

"If you go three, four, five days in a row with less than six hours of sleep, your reaction time is comparable to that of someone legally drunk. You're trying to play a basketball game where just a 10th of a second, a degree off, throws your whole game off."

Will more sleep allow you to win your age group in the next 5K or finish that intermediate distance triathlon in a podium position? Maybe. Maybe not. It won't turn you into an NBA player or an elite level athlete.

But on all fronts, experts seem to say that fitness, nutrition and sleep is a holy health trinity of sorts. If we plan our workouts and plan healthy meals, it makes sense to try and plan some sleep patterns, too.

Put that on my list of New Year's Resolutions: Sleep is for the strong.

--- Amy Moritz

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