Sleep Deprivation in the NBA

NBA athletes are some of the best athletes in the world. They can jump 30-40 inches in the air, they’re extremely agile, and they work out 24/7. We don’t think about it often, but these men withstand tremendous trauma upon their body. Constantly jumping, running, and moving side-to-side all on a hardwood floor for years and years on end. Even with all of this pressure put on their body, they still play the game. There is one aspect of the NBA that most people do not recognize that is extremely detrimental to one’s health; sleep deprivation.

Unlike your normal 9-5 job, the NBA is an all day-all night affair. In 2016, the Kings published an article called, “Inside Look: Life on the Road.” This article gave me a glimpse of what these athletes have to go through, and it is not easy. Assuming that most teams go through the same procedures as the Kings, an NBA athlete’s game day would start with an early morning meeting. After, players would have 12-4pm open to themselves then the buses arrive and take the team to the arena for warm ups and last-minute treatment. Tip-off tends to start at around 7pm and the game ends at around 9:30pm. At around 11pm, the team boards the plane to go to their next destination, in this instance, it’s Miami.

They get off the plane at 1:30am, giving the players the ability to sleep maybe 2 hours, if they slept at all. Since it’s a back-to-back, the process begins over again and the players get possibly 6 hours of sleep any given night, including the sleep they may have gotten on the flight to Miami. It’s a miracle that these players function normally for a full 82 game season with the amount of sleep that they get.

Although the media hasn’t given this issue the publicity it deserves yet, players have tried vocalizing their experiences with sleep deprivation. For example, Blazers guard CJ McCollum says, “Lack of sleep messes up your recovery, messes up how you play, your cognitive function, your mindset, how you’re moving on the court,” McCollum says. “Sleep is everything.” (ESPN) McCollum knows this struggle very well as the Portland Trail Blazers are expected to travel over 54,000 miles this season, the most in the entire league.

Another example is Sixers Forward Tobias Harris. Harris takes great lengths to ensure he meets his nightly goal of 9 hours of sleep, an NBA players dream. On off-days, he gets all of his workouts, studying, etc. at 6pm to make sure he is in bed by 8:30pm. Immediately after the buzzer sounds he is already beginning his recovery by strapping a breathing belt to his waist, attaching a heart-rate monitor to his index finger, and consuming a sufficient amount of melatonin. Harris says, “I think in a couple years,” he says, “[sleep deprivation] will be an issue that’s talked about, like the NFL with concussions. (ESPN)” The media must do a better job publicizing this issue, as the players can only do so much themselves.

Matthew Walker, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California at Berkeley and founder/director of its Center for Human Sleep Science said, “Based on the weight of probably now about 10,000 empirical scientific studies, the number of people who can survive on six hours of sleep or less without showing any impairment, rounded to a whole number and expressed as a percent of the population, is zero. (ESPN)” In other words, if the NBA continues to burden their player with this exhausting schedule, they will 100% have some kind of impairment in their body or mind. Let me remind you that the people you see on TV running 100mph and jumping 50ft in the air every night are still human, just like you. We can only hope that Commissioner Silver and the rest of the NBA finds a way to protect to physical and mental health of their beloved players.




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