Four NBA Players On How Sleep Enhances Their Ability on the Court

Research shows that circadian rhythms have a direct impact on the performance of sports teams.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

A study from the Academy of Sleep Medicine found that the circadian rhythms of N.F.L. players directly correlate to their performance in points, wins, and number of injuries. The study’s principal investigator Allison Brager, Ph.D. found that this was the case “independent of talent, geography, and home-field advantage.”

A circadian rhythm is like your internal clock, designating when you feel more tired and when you feel more energized. Getting a good night’s rest allows these swings from high to low to be less intense while sleeping less can cause the cycle to consist of more intense shifts in energy.

This internal cycle and the amount of sleep you get impacts all aspects of your life, and, as we now know, on the performance of football players. But N.F.L. players aren’t the only athletes who benefit from good sleep. Plenty of N.B.A. players count on sleep to help their performance, too. Let’s look to some of our favorite basketball players to talk about how sleep affects their performance.

1. Andre Iguodala: Sleep good, feel good, play good.

The Golden State Warriors’ Andre Iguodala, a member of the Thrive advisory board, spoke with Thrive Global founder and CEO Arianna Huffington on “The Thrive Global Podcast” about how prioritizing sleep completely shifted his performance. Nine years into his career in the N.B.A., Iguodala met with a sleep therapist to get rid of the bad habits he adopted in college. “I’ve tried to perfect everything that goes on in the game of basketball that can make me a better player,” Iguodala told Huffington. “I’m looking to better in every area. Sleep was one of those areas.” Since adjusting his sleep schedule to get eight hours per night, Iguodala saw an increase in playing time and points per minute, and a significant decrease in turnovers and fouls made.

2. Lebron James: There’s no better recovery than sleep.

The Cleveland Cavaliers’ Lebron James told CBS Sports that while players’ travel schedules can seem to limit their opportunities for sleep, getting quality rest is key in post-game and practice recuperation. “Sleep is the most important thing when it comes to recovery,” he said. With an average of 27.5 points and 9.1 assists per game this season, James also tries to average 12 hours of sleep a night.

3. Kevin Durant: You have to fine-tune your body.

The Warriors’ Kevin Durant attests that as a professional athlete, perfecting your health is as important as fine-tuning your basketball skills. “There are a lot of remedies you can use as a basketball player to get better, but the easiest thing you can do is go to sleep,” he says. Durant reports that sleep has been an essential part of his mission of constant improvement. “Every day is a new chance to challenge myself and push my training to the next level, but I can only do that if I keep my energy up. Sleep is an important part of that,” he tells the Huffington Post.

4. Kobe Bryant: You can’t perform on two to three hours of sleep.

In a Thrive e-Course, guest lecturer and late Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant highlighted the importance of a good night’s sleep. Bryant did not realize how much sleep impacted his performance until midway through his professional career. “My sleep habits were horrendous,” Bryant recounts, “I was feeling sluggish. I was feeling lethargic, and I knew it wasn’t because of my training.” Bryant seriously evaluated his sleep schedule and made dramatic changes in order to reach his peak potential. Through these alterations, he discovered that sleep and productivity go hand-in-hand. 

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