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How sleep and fatigue affects sports performance

30-07-2013

While it is obvious that sleep and fatigue and intimately connected, it has only been in the last few years that sleep researchers have begun to really understand this connection in full. Before scientists began prying apart the mechanics of sleep, most people assumed that people slept because they were fatigued and that sleep was vital to physical rejuvenation. However, the more we have learnt about sleep, the more we have come to realise that the connection is not that simple or obvious. The reality is that while we are still not entirely sure as to why we sleep (or rather we do not have the full picture and it seems that there may be no single one answer), the connections between sleep and fatigue are becoming understood and the research is having interesting impacts on sport.

Two recent studies have found that fatigue can impair the strike-zone judgment of a baseball player during the 162 game Major League Baseball season, and even that a MLB player's sleepiness can actually help to predict how long they will play in the league. Yes, not only can sleepiness show how well a player might play on a day to day basis but that same information can also be used to work out how long their career will be. This shows that fatigue can have a massive impact not just on your everyday life but on your life as a whole.

One of the studies found that a Major League Baseball  players' strike-zone judgment became worse in September than it had been early on in the season in April.

The plate discipline – which is a measure of a hitter's tendency to swing at pitches outside of the strike zone - got worse and worse over the course of a Major League Baseball season, and this decline followed a linear pattern that could be predicted by data from the six previous seasons.

It appears that as the season wears on the players get wearier and their ability to make snap judgements decreased. This shows that if management can focus on fatigue management they will be able to gain a competitive edge over other teams, maintaining their consistency while the others drop over the season.

The other study found a significant and profound relationship between the sleepiness of a Major League Baseball player and their longevity in the league. As baseline self-reported scores of their sleepiness on the Epworth Sleepiness Scale increased, the likelihood that they would be in the league three seasons later decreased linearly. 72 percent of players who had a baseline ESS score of 5 were still in the league at the follow-up point, compared with only 39 percent of players with an ESS score of 10 and only 14 percent of players with an ESS score of 15.
What this means is that sleep quality and quantity are not just important with regard to your daily actions but over time have a massive impact on your life.

These findings help us understand the connection between sleep and our aptitude in all areas of life.
 


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