As you’ve been hearing a lot recently, this is an exceptionally busy time of year for us at Endeavor. Over the last week, we (finally!) moved into our new facility and are still piecing together everything. I’ve been posting pictures of the process on twitter, so if you’re interested in following along give me a follow here: Follow Kevin. This is a huge move for us and I’m very excited about our new facility. Among other benefits, we’re going to have a separate room for manual therapy, and have plans to add an infrared sauna and cold tub in the near future. We also have plans to expand our staff to include a few professionals with unique skill sets, and have intentions of integrating different technologies to provide a more thorough and comprehensive service to our athletes. The vision I’ve had of privatizing a professional sports setting is starting to take shape. It’s an exciting time.
Last week I wrote an article on heart rate variability and what I think may be the most user-friendly and easily applicable tool for athletes and fitness enthusiasts to track their HRV. If you missed it, you can check it out here: BioforceHRV
An underlying theme of that article was the importance of finding balance between stress and recovery. Another more subtle message lies in the fact that technology is now advancing to a point to allow end-users (you and I) to monitor fairly complex processes. Very much related to these two points, I wanted to tell you a little bit about a new tool that I’ve been using for the last few weeks called the Zeo Sleep Manager.
Zeo Sleep Manager
As you likely know, sleep is incredibly important. It provides time for recovery and regeneration, and is associated with, among other things, a cascade of related hormonal and physiological changes. As with all things training related, there is a quantity and quality component. Most athletes need a minimum of 8-9 hours of sleep per night. Younger athletes may need more. In general, as folks age they don’t need as much time to sleep. Although, as the amount of stress in our lives (incidental or planned) increases, we need more rest to recovery from it, so our sleep needs are likely to fluctuate throughout the year. In most situations, it’s best to err on the side of getting too much sleep.
Another important concept, aside from simply getting sufficient sleep, is to go to bed and wake up within an hour of the same time every night (including weekends). This is an area where most athletes miss the target horribly, and consistently. While I think the average athlete is familiar with the idea of a circadian rhythm, I don’t think most appreciate what physiological processes are governing and influenced by this rhythm, and therefore how important it is to at least attempt to regulate it. As I alluded to last week, EVERYTHING is a stress to your body. In other words, everything that you do or don’t do (any change to homeostasis) causes some stimulus for adaptation, positive or negative. In this case, having varying sleep patterns, can impair recovery, tip your hormonal balance unfavorably, and create an undesirable stress to your immune system. Not exactly the ideal environment for peak performance!
As I mentioned above, it’s not just sleep QUANTITY that matters; sleep QUALITY is equally as important. While the amount of time we sleep is easily measured, sleep quality poses more of a challenge. At least it used to. A couple weeks ago I picked up a Zeo Sleep Manager and have been using it nightly ever since. If you’ve never heard of “Zeo”, it’s essentially a headband that monitors brain activity to assess what stage of the sleep cycle you’re in. The headband transmits the data via a bluetooth connection to your phone (they offer other units that aren’t phone-based too if you don’t have a “smart” phone). When you wake up in the morning, you can instantly see a read-out with:
Zeo then uses this information to calculate a score, and tracks all of this for you over time. This, in itself, was worth the price of admission (not to mention…chicks dig guys that sleep in headbands). The neat thing is that the Zeo app includes a boatload of tips on how to improve all of the above components. Depending on what you may be lacking, they have specific recommendations on different strategies you can try to make your sleep more optimal. For example, if you don’t get enough “Deep Sleep”, Zeo provides 12 different areas to help you improve that, one of which is “Shielding Sounds”. When you click on that option, it provides you with four easily implementable strategies to cut down on extraneous noises, explains why this is important, and then follows up with four additional ideas in case the first four didn’t take.
In many cases, subtle behavior changes can have a significant impact on sleep quality, but most people aren’t aware of the connections.
And finally, Zeo’s site also includes a FREE 7-stage coaching program, which is a cool way to help jumpstart improving your sleep quality.
Zeo Coaching Program
As you can tell, I’m pretty excited about this. I’m constantly searching for ways to help improve the training adaptation process and for ways to help athletes get an edge (and people enjoy their lives more in general), and I think this is a huge one. Athletes spend so much time, money, and energy on the stressors (practice, games, training, supplements, etc.) and essentially ignore the factors that facilitate a positive adaptation response from these stressors. Sleep is one of the biggest ones, and is a great place to start!
Click here for more information on Zeo: Zeo Sleep Manager
To your success,
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Kevin has rapidly established himself as a leader in the field of physical preparation and sports science for ice hockey. He is currently the Head Performance Coach for the Boston Bruins, where he oversees all aspects of designing and implementing the team’s performance training program, as well as monitoring the players’ performance, workload and recovery. Prior to Boston, Kevin spent 2 years as an Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach for the San Jose Sharks after serving as the Director of Performance at Endeavor Sports Performance in Pitman, NJ. He also spent 5 years as a Strength and Conditioning Coach with USA Hockey’s Women’s Olympic Hockey Team, and has been an invited speaker at conferences hosted by the NHL, NSCA, and USA Hockey.