The Not-So-Secret Weapon of an NBA Champion

Even superstars look for every advantage they can get, and so should we.

Yes, the Golden State Warriors have a deeper roster of stars than any other team in the NBA. But that’s not their only competitive edge. Last week Wired reported on how the Warriors “sleep their way to success,” through the story of Andre Iguodala, who was the finals MVP for their championship run in 2015.

I first heard these amazing stats from Andre when he did a presentation at an Aspen conference on the importance of sleep. When he put the stats up on the screen in the room, all the CEOs in attendance gasped. When Iguodala starting getting a consistent eight hours of sleep a night, his points per minute went up 29 percent, his free-throw percentage increased by 8.9 percent, his three-point-shot percentage more than doubled, his turnovers decreased 37 percent per game, and his fouls dropped by an astounding 45 percent. And, of course, there was the small matter of being named the 2015 Finals MVP (he Instagrammed a picture of himself holding the award—credit where credit is due—while sleeping). As he put it, “Sleep good, feel good, play good.”

In fact, he’s so convinced of the connection between well-being and performance that he became an investor in Thrive Global. Until recently, he was our tallest investor, but that title has now been taken by this year’s Finals MVP, Kevin Durant, another convert to the performance science of well-being.

And, I’m happy to say, the performance-enhancing secrets of sleep are becoming much more widely known. When I published The Sleep Revolution, I spoke to Cheri Mah, then at the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic, who performed some of the early experiments showing a link between sleep and athletic performance. “Some sports teams are beginning to realize there are untapped benefits in improving their athletes’ sleep,” Mah told me at the time.

Now, as Wired reports, she’s not only working with the Warriors but with professional football, hockey and baseball teams, in addition to other NBA teams. “The comparison most of us make, when talking about the importance of sleep, is to performance-enhancing drugs,” she says. “All these athletes are looking for that extra 1 percent boost in performance. But when you look at the research, it suggests a solid foundation of rest and recovery is worth way more than 1 percent.”

The Warriors are now not going to the White House to celebrate their second consecutive title — if they were that would have been a good opportunity to educate our sleep-deprived president on the connection between sleep and performance, whether on the court or in the Oval Office.

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