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Could blood flow stimulation amplify performance benefits of sleep?
Once again, sleep is in the headlines as a critical component in sport performance recovery. It is a focus of Bulls director of sports performance, Chip Schaefer, who also utilizes several forms of monitoring tech to maximize performance.
- Rise Science sleep coach
- Firstbeat heart rate and biometric monitor
- Second Spectrum's optical cameras to monitor workload from motion analysis
- Daily player-reported Rating of Perceived Exertion on a scale of 1-10
His staff will have personal interviews with players who might string together several sluggish days consecutively. "If I were looking at low rest and recovery numbers, which we do, those things get our attention," Schaefer said.
Sleep has both a psychological and physiological benefit including alertness, immune function, metabolism, memory, and learning. Sleep plays a huge role in athletic recovery, alleviating muscle soreness, as well as controlling appetite hormones and blood glucose levels.
After strength and endurance training, during which the muscles acquire microtears and are depleted of oxygen and nutrients, sleep diverts blood volume to repair, restore, and grow. Especially during N3 (stages 3 and 4 of sleep), blood supply increases to muscles and growth hormone is released to aide in muscular growth and adaptation.
Clearly, blood flow to the muscles is not the only function that sleep increases, but it does seem to be a huge factor in the recovery benefits gained from sleep.
Is it possible that some of these sleep benefits could be replicated or amplified by simply increasing blood flow during travel or between intense training sessions?
When travel gets in the way of stage 3 and 4 sleep, maybe other ways of increasing blood flow could amplify the delivery of oxygen and nutrients that the muscles need to repair?
Big compression boots wouldn't fit well in planes or team buses, muscle stimulators would likely promote wakefulness instead of sleepiness, and alternating cold and heat requires constant attention. Firefly nerve stimulation could be done in confined spaces while traveling with minimal attention or distraction.