|The Harbaughs hope to use sleep as a means of boosting game-day player performance. (US PRESSWIRE)|
The old cliche is that football is a game of inches. Turns out, it's also a game of minutes and the Ravens hope to take full advantage of that, too. Specifically, using the results of a United States military study as a guide, the team is measuring players' sleep patterns this offseason with the ultimate goal of adjusting their schedules to optimize game-day performances.
“We're turning over every stone, looking at everything in our program, to find any way to get better,” coach John Harbaugh said last week, according to the team's website.
More details via BaltimoreRavens.com:
To ensure players are getting the proper rest they need, the Ravens are looking into adjusting their weekly schedule, including morning start times, off days and overall timetables for West Coast trips. …
Rather than starting the in-season weekdays around 8:15 a.m., they could potentially push back the start time to around 9:00 a.m. The decision will ultimately depend on the time that best corresponds with the body's natural clock, which is triggered by the sun rising, according to the team's medical staff. Some players are naturally “morning people” who wake up around 6:30-7 a.m.; for those who aren't, the medical staff works with them on ways to adjust to an earlier wake-up call.
According to studies, four to five hours of uninterrupted sleep provides at least 80 percent restoration the next day for players. Reaching peak performance, however, requires 8-10 hours a night, and that's the Ravens' long-term plan, though no decisions have been made yet.
The team is also looking into optimal sleep schedules for West Coast trips. Coincidentally, it just so happens that 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh is looking to keep his team fresh when they travel east next season, too. San Francisco faces Minnesota in Week 3 and instead of returning to the Bay Area, they'll hole up in Youngstown, Ohio, (home of CEO Jed York), before facing the Jets in New Jersey in Week 4.
"(Harbaugh) plans to again conduct walkthrough practices in the weed-choked parking lot behind the Holiday Inn in Youngstown," Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote earlier this month. "When a reporter said he planned to watch the walkthroughs, Harbaugh jokingly (I think) pledged to have security present."
The 49ers used a similar tactic last season and notched wins against the Bengals and Eagles. For some perspective, consider this nugget from Cold Hard Football Facts: since the 2007 season, West Coast teams are 32-57 in 10 a.m. PT starts. San Francisco accounted for five of those wins last season.
Given the disparity, as well as the research that suggests players are at their best later in the day, NFL.com's Brian McIntyre offers up a solution: "The NFL should accommodate these west coast teams by scheduling games in the the Eastern Time Zone for the late afternoon time slot on Sundays." Put differently: If a West Coast team is playing in the east, the kickoff should be at 4 p.m. ET. And with more games in prime time this year than ever, it seems like a reasonable request.
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