In the last bulletin, we discussed that current science generally agrees that 8 to 9 hours of sleep per night is the ideal amount of sleep to maintain one’s overall health over the long term. With less than 8 to 9 hours of sleep per night, an individual runs the risk of a variety of health issues, such as diabetes, depression, high blood pressure, heart disease, and weight gain.

The last bulletin was also an alert for the condition known as SLEEP APNEA, a very serious health condition. Today’s Bulletin will focus on the reality that it is impossible for NBA Coaches to get the recommended 8 to 9 hours of sleep per night during the NBA season (and beyond).

What follows is the best of advice from two renowned physicians/sleep experts on a sleep strategy for NBA Coaches. The strategy will focus on 3 areas; (1) the critical importance of a daily nap  (2) tips on what to do/avoid so that you are able to fall asleep as quickly as possible and thereby maximize your sleep time; (3) the key interaction between sleep, what you eat, and when you eat it.

*For NBA Coaches The “Power Nap” Is King/But Watch Out:

When: Take advantage of the circadian “lull” in alertness in the late afternoon (3:00 PM – 5:00 PM), when it is easier to fall asleep.

Where: In a place that is quiet, private, and comfortable.

How Long:The Power Nap should last no more than 30 minutes (or less). By limiting your nap in this way, you are less likely to go into a “deep sleep.” This is important because if you try to wake up out of deep sleep, you may well experience “sleep inertia” – that groggy, where am I, confused, I feel worse than before I napped – feeling on waking from deep sleep which feeling can last up to 30 minutes! A short power nap will recharge your batteries, increase your alertness but not interfere with getting to sleep that night!


*How To Get To Sleep Quickly And Maximize The Opportunity You Have To Sleep:

  • Turn off electronics at least 30 minutes before lights out
  • Avoid any activity in bed besides preparing for a good night’s sleep (i.e. view any screens, watch TV, text, read, etc.)
  • Dim lights down in the room at least 30 minutes before bed
  • Avoid vigorous exercise within 2 hours of lights out
  • Wear loose clothing and socks to sleep
  • Keep cell phone/mobile devices at least 5 feet away from the body while sleeping (even if turned off)
  • Keep the room cold (below 68 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Avoid heavy meals within 2 hours of lights out but don’t go to bed hungry (light protein/carbohydrate snack ok.)
  • Upon awaking in the morning, quickly let as much light into the room as possible (this will suppress the body’s natural melatonin and make it easier to get up and out of bed with energy.)


**Nutrition And Getting A Good Night’s Sleep:

Jet lag isn’t the only reason for sleepless nights amongst frequent travelers. Sleeping in a new bed and regularly adjusting to new sleep environments can drastically impact sleep quality.

Fortunately, proper nutrition can play a major role in combatting both jet lag and irregular sleep environments and thereby achieving a better nights sleep.

Foods to Avoid Before Sleep:

Alcohol: Although alcohol may initially help you fall asleep, you are injecting a chemical that contributes to less restful sleep, night sweats, nightmares, headaches and frequent awakenings. Therefore, it is best to limit or avoid alcoholic beverages 4-5 hours before bedtime. If you do consume alcohol late in the evening, make sure to do so on a full stomach and drink plenty of water to dilute the effects of the alcohol. Is also important to avoid sugary alcoholic drinks with sweetened juice or flavored liquors. Large amounts of sugar can disrupt sleep quality and lead to increased weight gain.

Spicy or Acidic Foods: Spicy and acidic foods interfere with sleep quality by impacting digestion. They also may contribute to heartburn, which is made worse by laying down. Avoid spicy and acidic foods (tomatoes, chocolate, chili peppers, spicy sauces) directly before bed and be sure to finish large meals at least 4 hours before bedtime to ensure plenty of time for digestion.

Caffeine: A cup of coffee may sound like a good pick-me-up after a long flight/game on the road, but studies show that consuming large amounts of caffeine even as much as 6 hours before bedtime impacts sleep quality. The recommended daily “safe dose” of caffeine is 400 mg, according to a report published by the American Chemical Society. The numbers can add up quickly; a “grande” Starbucks coffee, for example, contains 330 mg of caffeine! Caffeine is highly disruptive to sleep and causes restlessness. Avoid food and drinks with more than 200 mg of caffeine (coffee, green and black tea, energy drinks, soda, and chocolate) 4-6 hours before going to sleep.

Foods To Consume Before Sleep:

1. Make Tart Cherries Part Of Your Pre-Sleep Ritual: Tart cherries are a natural source of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep. In one small study, older adults with insomnia slept an average of 90 minutes longer when they consumed 8 ounces of tart cherry juice twice a day. Another study found that adults who drank 2 serving of tart cherry juice per day increased their sleep time by 40 minutes and their sleep efficiency by 6 percent over those who drank other beverages. Try adding 8-16 ounces of tart cherry juice into your daily routine to experience longer, more restful sleep. You can also try a handful of dried tart cherries for a nighttime snack, or frozen tart cherries in your favorite smoothie recipe. Tart cherry products come in juice, concentrate and dried snack form. These products are available in most health food stores (GNC).

2. Foods High in Magnesium: Magnesium deficiencies contribute to less restful sleep. Magnesium deficiency is very common among adults of all ages, with one study finding that 58% of adult participants regularly consumed less than the recommended amount. Increased magnesium consumption throughout the day may increase sleep quality and duration. Foods that are high in magnesium include dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, collards) avocado, nuts, wild salmon, and dark chocolate. 

3. Foods High in Tryptophan: Tryptophan helps promote a better night of sleep by producing serotonin. (Chances are you’ve heard about tryptophan found in turkey meat and its ability to induce sleepiness after a large Thanksgiving turkey meal.) Serotonin is a hormone that influences sleep patterns and the circadian rhythm. Yogurt, milk, oats, bananas, poultry, eggs, and peanuts all contain significant amounts of tryptophan that will help you sleep longer and better. 

**Nutrition Tips For Snacks To Eat Before Bed:

Although some foods may help you sleep, it is important to watch portion sizes directly before bedtime to avoid indigestion. Try these small snacks before bedtime to get a better night’s sleep and wake up feeling refreshed and ready for game day:

  • 1 low sugar protein bar
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened peanut butter on whole wheat bread or banana
  • Low sugar Greek yogurt with ½ sliced banana
  • 1 tablespoon tart cherry concentrate mixed into small glass of water and a handful of walnuts
  • Small bowl of whole grain cereal and milk/nondairy milk
  • 1 or 2 cups of popcorn
  • Half a cup of oatmeal with ½ banana and 1 tablespoon of almond butter
  • 2 tablespoons of hummus (high in protein) on a whole grain pita bread
  • Herbal tea (chamomile, peppermint, passion fruit, ginger) with a teaspoon of honey

We wish you good luck and pleasant dreams!

*Sleep tips written by two of this country’s most renowned sleep experts, Dr. Judith Owens of Boston Children’s Hospital and Dr. Charles Czeisler of Harvard Medical School.

**Nutrition tips written by Stacy Goldberg, Official Health and Wellness/Nutrition Consultant for the NBA Coaches Association, and Lexi Sinclair, Content and Blog Editor at Savorfull.