Can sports performance be linked to sleep cycles?
Sports announcers love to talk about how certain players always step up and shine in championship games. Now, a new study shows those moments of peak performance could actually be influenced by what time the game is played.
Researchers had athletes perform a fitness assessment at six different times of day and found that their performance varied by up to 26 percent depending on the time of day. According to the researchers the amount of time between an athlete’s natural waking time, the time they would wake up without an alarm, and the game time was the best predictor of performance.
Both early and intermediate risers had peak performances about six hours after they woke up, however the late risers did their best 11 hours after rising.
“If you are a late type, and whatever sport you do, you would probably always perform better in the evening. If you are an early type you would always perform better in the morning,” said study co-author Dr. Roland Brandstaetter, from the University of Birmingham in a news release.
Brandstaetter said it’s all about timing.
“That simply means that if an early type had to run a marathon in the morning, then the person will have a better performance, a very good performance, very close to optimal performance while if a later type has to do that, performance will be impaired,” he said.
The time of day which people wake up is based on their circadian rhythm-the body’s internal clock. Circadian rhythms differ based on genetics, hormones and social behaviors according to Dr. Muhammad Hamadeh, a pulmonologist at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill.
There is good news for those who are early birds but often have night games or late risers who play in the morning, it is possible to adjust your circadian rhythm.
“Light exposure changes the clock forward or delays it depending on the timing of exposure,” says Dr. Hamadeh. “The hormone melatonin affects the rhythm and so do social cues such as time of meals and social events.”
According to the study authors, these findings can extend beyond the playing field applied to cognitive performance as well.
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