Ask Stanford Med about sleep and athletic performance

football-kidIt’s football season and back-to-school time, which means evening routines in households across the country may be changing to accommodate homework, practice, dinner and perhaps Monday Night Football. For athletes of all ages and stripes, conversations may also be focused on optimizing performance and reducing the risk of injury, with such topics as conditioning technique and nutrition getting playing time in the discussions. But one thing that may not be getting enough attention is sleep and its role in sports.

To boost the conversation of sleep’s part in athletic performance, the School of Medicine’s Scope blog asked CHERI MAH, a researcher with the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Laboratory, to respond to your questions on the topic. Sleep and sports are the focus of Mah’s work, dating back to a 2002 study during which collegiate swimmers reported they had beaten personal swim records after getting extra hours of sleep as part of their participation in the trial. A light bulb went off in Mah’s head, and she decided then to investigate whether sleep extension could have an impact on physical performance. She has since researched the effects of sleep on numerous groups of athletes, including elite college-level basketball players (as detailed in a 2011 study), and she has two soon-to-be-published papers measuring the impact of sleep on Stanford football players and on NFL players. Over the last several years, Mah also has worked with many of the Stanford sports teams and coaches to integrate optimal sleep and travel scheduling into their seasons, and she consults on sleep issues with professional hockey, football and basketball teams.

You can submit questions to Mah by sending a tweet that includes the hashtag #AskSUMed or by posting your question in the comments on the Scope blog. Questions will be collected until 5 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 17.

For ground rules for posting, visit EMILY HITE‘s original post.