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Sleep Tips

Inside the NFL: Impact of Weekly Travel on Players’ Stamina

If you’re a professional athlete, your daily routine goes something like this: eat, train, eat, train, eat, sleep, repeat. Each of these activities is crucial to preparing for game day. The only time players dramatically deviate from this routine is when they are en route to an away game. For this reason, away games can impact the team’s training and recovery if not done right.

The simple act of getting on a plane can compromise a player’s health for several reasons. First and foremost, you are exposed to the germs of other passengers for several hours, making airplanes (and other forms of public transportation) a breeding ground for colds – not something you want to mess with before a big game. Furthermore, traveling (whether by wing or by wheel) often has a negative impact on your sleep. Have you ever tried sleeping in a fixed seated position? It’s not a comfortable way to sleep for most people. If you read my last blog post, you know how important sleep is to athletic performance and recovery, yet planes and buses make for a poor sleeping experience at best. Lastly, traveling to an away game often involves sleeping in a hotel the night before, occasionally in a different time zone than the players are accustomed to. While this may seem like a recipe for disaster before a big game, there are a few things players can do to maximize recovery while traveling, and get a good night’s sleep before the game:

  1. Sleep on the plane/bus if possible.
  2. If you know you need something specific to get to sleep (pillow, music, etc.), bring it with you.
  3. Try to mimic the environment you sleep best in at home.
  4. Find a relaxing bedtime routine and stick to it.

The NFL requires that we travel the day before a game. Depending on how far we’re traveling (and how many time zones we cross), we may fly an extra day early to allow for more rest and recovery. Post-game recovery is just as important as pre-game rest, so we are usually on the plane within a couple of hours after the game has ended allowing players to sleep in their own beds and return to their routine as quickly as possible. The day after a game, players are permitted to come in a bit later to allow them to get a full night’s sleep. We don’t hold practice that day – instead, we evaluate the game and go over necessary issues, followed by an active recovery session in the weight room to help them recover. Then, it’s back to the routine: eat, train, eat, train, eat, sleep, repeat.

Be sure to come back to The Daily Doze next week for the third and final part of my three-part series on sleep and performance.

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