Ask anyone how many hours of sleep, on average, they get per night. What do they get? Somewhere between 5-7, if you’re lucky.
Then ask a doctor how many hours of sleep, on average, you should be getting per night. What’s their answer? Somewhere around 8, but with a push towards getting somewhere closer to 10.
So then ask anyone what their response to that recommendation is. What’s that going to look like? Something along the lines of “Yeah, right” but probably with some more expletives worked in. But then what if I told you that there’s some new research happening at Harvard that might end insomnia forever, and make it so everyone could get the sleep they need? Now we’re talking, right?
Sure enough, the work of Dr. Patrick Fuller is maybe getting us to exactly that point. Dr. Fuller is working on sleep medication to help ensure full, rich nights of sleep. And not the ‘full night’s sleep’ that current sleep medication provides that leaves you groggy upon waking up or is indefinite in the time you’ll be able to wake up–there is the potential for this medication to help cure insomnia outright, some researchers believe.
So naturally the question becomes: How? Fuller is using research that dates all the way back to 1950’s, changing the way that sleep medication affects the brainstem. By counteracting the brainstem’s traditional function of “wake-promoting,” Fuller and his team are helping to make sleep come more automatically, make it deeper, and most importantly make it actually restful. According to the researchers, advancements on this research could even ultimately induce sleep. Not just deep and rejuvenating sleep, but deep and rejuvenating sleep whenever you want or need it. Cheers to you, Dr. Fuller.
But so what does this mean for athletics and sport psychology? The lives of athletes are busy; when you’re not training, studying film, eating, maintaining diet and exercise logs, or completing rehabilitation and recovery exercises, chances are you’ve still got lots left to do that isn’t directly involved with being an athlete. There’s a nearly constant struggle of time-management, and for most athletes the thing is sacrificed is the same: sleep. This lack of sleep, though, is all sorts of detrimental to physical performance. To expect an athlete to be at their best, when operating on a night of no sleep is the equivalent of operating with a BAC of .10 or higher, is absurd. And while Dr. Fuller didn’t necessarily have athletes specifically in mind while he conducted his research, he’s still doing a world of good for athletes all over.
Get sleep when you can get it; ample hours of rest can be one of the most important things for healthy functioning. But in a world where it’s not always feasible to get your doctor-recommended 8 hours of sleep, Dr. Fuller might have the next best thing.
Click here to read more about Dr. Fuller’s research.