Celtics coach Brad Stevens on sleep deprivation in the NBA: ‘You can get enough if you plan right’

Ryan YoungYahoo Sports Contributor
While Brad Stevens thinks his players “usually do a pretty good job” managing sleep during the season, he knows he can’t enforce healthy sleep habits. (Nic Antaya/The Boston Globe/Getty Images)
While Brad Stevens thinks his players “usually do a pretty good job” managing sleep during the season, he knows he can’t enforce healthy sleep habits. (Nic Antaya/The Boston Globe/Getty Images)

Sleep deprivation in the NBA is a growing concern, as detailed in an ESPN feature published on Monday.

With 82 games in the regular season, including back-to-backs and constant travel across the country, players in the league simply aren’t getting enough sleep. One NBA executive even called it the league’s “dirty little secret,” and Philadelphia 76ers forward Tobais Harris thinks it’s one of the biggest issues for the NBA in the next few years.

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While that may seem like a basic issue that impacts the average American on a daily basis, it can have a real effect on professional athletes. Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens, like many in the league, has seen that issue first hand.

“I think we live it,” Stevens said Tuesday, via the Celtics. “I think that’s just part of it.”

Managing sleep in the NBA

According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults are recommended to sleep seven to nine hours each night on a strict sleep schedule. With the way the NBA is set up — players travel up to 50,000 miles and play every 2.07 days each season, per ESPN — that’s simply not doable.

Dr. Charles Czeisler of Harvard Medical School told ESPN that players he’s talked to sleep on average five hours each night during the season, and some “very famous” players said it’s much less than that.

“There’s not a factory on the planet that would move shift workers the way we move NBA players,” neurologist specialist Timothy Royer told ESPN.

While each team plans things differently through the year, Stevens said the Celtics do everything they can to allow for as much sleep as possible when scheduling both pregame and postgame.

“I think it takes a real corporate desire to manage it, and then to make sure that you schedule appropriately, especially with practice times, shootaround times, walk-through stuff at hotel, all that stuff,” Stevens said, via the Celtics. “And then there’s an individual onus that each player, coach, support staff member has to take to make sure they maximize their sleep to the best of their ability.”

He also said the Celtics speak with each player on their roster about maximizing their sleep and planning their routines.

Though Stevens thinks his players “usually do a pretty good job of” following a healthy sleep routine, he knows it’s not possible to enforce that routine.

“The schedule is built so that everybody can take advantage of their sleep as much as possible,” Stevens said, via the Celtics.


“You can get enough if you plan right, get everybody to use the right techniques as far as like, turn your phone off and turning the TV off and all those things. It’s doable.”

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