Study: Sleep Patterns Directly Affect Athletes' Performance

By: Cheryn Stone Email
By: Cheryn Stone Email

June 8, 2010

How the University of Virginia baseball team does on the field may depend, in part, on how well and when they sleep, according to a new study.

Dr. W. Christopher Winter, a neurologist at Martha Jefferson Sleep Medicine Center, researches how sleep affects athletic performance and released the results of his latest study.

With the Cavaliers' inching closer to the College World Series and last week's blown call that cost a Detroit pitcher a perfect game, Winter is just one of many people talking about baseball.

Winter studies when the players are at their peak performance. He's not looking at their time at bat; he's looking at their bed time.

"Everybody theoretically is either a night owl or a morning lark or somewhere in between," he said.

The study focuses on pitchers in the Major Leagues and the players' preference. He wanted to see how those tendencies in a pitcher predict how well they would do at various games played throughout the day.

"What surprised me about our study was, overall, if you have two prospects and one is a morning lark and one is very much a night owl, the morning lark tends to do better overall," Winter said.

Winter said the teams he works with have an interest in improving player productivity.

"I think this study says, 'Look, we have a certain pool of talent, and we want to put them in a position where they are going to be maximally successful," he said.

Winter said the implications of the study swing beyond baseball. Knowing your sleep pattern can help you become more productive at work, he said. Home runs start at home.

Winter said his study correlates on the college level with one difference. College athletes are also worrying about school, sports and being independent, so their time to sleep can be pressed.

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