April 26, 2011
NBA fans try to consider the inhibitions a tough day-to-day schedule places on their favorite teams, but usually such sympathy goes out the window the moment the starting power forward fails to box out.
Sleep, or lack thereof, is a big problem in the NBA, where players spend half of their season on the road while being asked to perform at the absolute peak of their abilities sometime after 10 p.m. before shutting it off completely and hitting the sack in a foreign hotel room just a few hours later. Players have to go piecemeal with their rest, often sneaking snoozes in during hotel stays in the afternoon, shuffled in-between team shootarounds or public appearances scheduled by people who only obey the 9-to-5 call.
This is why the Boston Celtics, ever on the vanguard, have hired the services of Dr. Charles Czeisler, as they attempt to feed their wily veterans and skittish youngsters all the sleep they need over the course of what for Boston is often a 100-game season. Dr. Czeisler is the chief of the division of sleep medicine at Brigham and Women's and director of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School, and Paul Flannery of Boston Magazine recently detailed his influence on the defending Eastern Conference champs:
The Celtics soon eliminated morning practices and instituted the "2 a.m. rule," which holds that if the players can't get to their hotel rooms in the next city by that time, then they stay where they are for an extra night and get their eight hours. Sound rest is all the more important for a veteran team like the Celtics, who have struggled playing games on consecutive nights. "Trying to create a window of 8 to 10 hours of sleep — it's almost impossible during an NBA season," Rivers says. "The way we were doing it made it completely impossible."
It's hard enough for me to wind down after shoving my nose an inch away from the TV as I watch the heightened playoff action, but I don't have to answer questions about my performance and then board a plane to Oklahoma City immediately following. Just something to think about, the next time you see a player yawning during the playing of the "Star-Spangled Banner."
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