6 Ways Athletes Perform Better With More Sleep

Download Audio

Thursday night the Boston Bruins will take on the Detroit Red Wings in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup playoffs series. The Bruins' 3-0 win Tuesday night gave local hockey fans hope that perhaps the home side might be able to repeat their success of 2011, when they captured the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1972.

One man you might not have heard about about behind the Bruins' victory is sleep guru Dr. Charles Czeisler. Three years ago, he advised the Bruins to nap more and practice less — and it paid off.


Dr. Charles Czeisler, professor of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School and the chief of sleep medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

6 Ways Athletes Perform Better With More Sleep

1. "One of the most important things that an athlete can do, particularly when they're on a grueling, exhausting schedule, such as the playoffs provide, is to try to make sure that each day they get a mid-afternoon nap, which can be quite restorative and can help improve their performance at game time."

2. "You need a couple hours to recover from the nap and gain your full performance after the nap is finished. And the problem was that they had a practice scheduled at that time. And so the physician said they're supposed to be practicing then and I advised them to cancel the practice because the nap, I felt, would be more important for their performance."

3. "Many cultures, for millennia, got by very well by having a shorter night's sleep plus a siesta in the middle of the day and we can perform just as well if we're on that kind of schedule as we can if we have a solid seven to eight hours of sleep at night. Since most professional athletes can't get that solid seven to eight hours of sleep at night, it's better to take that second route of having a little bit shorter sleep at night and then a siesta in the afternoon."

4. "If you're missing two to three hours of sleep per day and you do this day after day then that builds up a performance impairment that can be equivalent to being drunk."

5. "Maintain a regular bedtime and wake time because consistency in the timing of when you're sleeping and waking really primes the system and lets you be at your best."

6. "Make sure that you get an adequate amount of sleep per day because developing a sleep strategy — setting an alarm clock at the end of the day when it's time to go to bed is a much better strategy than setting one in the morning to cut your sleep short."


The Atlantic: The Doctor Who Coaches Athletes On Sleep

  • "On June 14, 2011, Dr. Charles Czeisler stood by the side of a small stage, listening as a colleague introduced him to a crowd of fellow researchers. Just as he prepared to ascend the steps, his cell phone vibrated in his pocket. He’s not sure why he answered it. Maybe he thought it was an emergency; maybe he just wanted to silence it. Either way, he took the call."

Cognoscenti: A Team We’ll Be Talking About For Years To Come

  • "If you’re like me, a lot of concerned friends are asking you, “What’s wrong with the Red Sox?” When a reigning World Series champion spends most of April in the cellar, there’s a tendency to parse and analyze, maybe even panic. My answer? Let’s talk in June. In the meantime, focus on the best sports team in Boston. I refer, of course, to the Bruins, the consensus pick to get to the Stanley Cup finals this season for the third time in four years, which no team has done since the Detroit Red Wings of 1995-98."

This segment aired on April 24, 2014.


More from Radio Boston

Listen Live