The game-day nap is as commonplace as the pre-game shootaround, suggests an article in today’s The New York Times. The article states, “Napping is often stigmatized, seen as evidence of laziness or a lack of purpose. But in the world of sports, and certainly the NBA, the attitude is entirely different.”
That’s because athletes need more sleep than the average person in order to maintain their performance levels. And getting the optimal amount of rest is often impossible without an afternoon snooze.
Dr. Charles Czeisler, director of the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, said that players who get nine hours of sleep were more likely to react quicker, remember plays better and generally maintain their health more consistently. He said that biologically, the body rests best at night or in the mid-afternoon, further enhancing the value of the nap.
The Times piece opines that midday naps are most prevalent in the NBA and NHL, two sports where teams travel city to city during road trips—in contrast with MLB road trips, in which teams hunker down in one location for a three- or four-game series. NBA and NHL teams will play a night road game, depart by plane after midnight and arrive at their next destination around 2 or 3 in the morning. Result: sleep-deprived athletes punching in for morning practice in advance of that night’s game.
Savvy 14-year NBA vet Steve Nash puts it in perspective: “If you nap every game day, all those hours add up, and it allows you to get through the season better.”
Younger athletes are not jetting from city to city, but their in-season schedules are not all that far off from the pros’. Really.
For younger athletes, school days mean early rise and shine—much earlier than the pros start their day. Student-athletes sit through—ahem, work diligently for— up to six hours a day of class work. When the final school bell rings, the countdown to game time begins.
Not only do pre-game naps serve as an energizer, they also help get you in the right mind frame. Says Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry: “When you wake up from a nap, you know what time it is—you know it’s time to get ready and get focused and go to the game.”
In the introspective Times report, several players shared their napping strategies and routines:
- Derrick Rose shoots for three hours of afternoon sleep before night games
- Kobe Bryant checks into a Los Angeles-area hotel for his pre-game siesta
- Tyson Chandler gets a pre-nap massage
- Ronny Turiaf sleeps with a full stomach by snacking on bread pudding
- Antawn Jamison irons his game-day suit and lays out his clothes before he lies down
Lay the foundation for your pre-game ritual with a nap. Just make sure you’re catching those midday Z’s in post-school hours.