Given the New England Patriots’ unfortunate tendency to lag lately near game’s end, many a fan may dread the prospect of adding jet lag to the mix when the team plays the St. Louis Rams in London this Sunday.
I asked Dr. Aran Kadar, co-director of the Sleep Center at Newton-Wellesley Hospital, what he would advise the Patriots if he were coaching them. His reply, lightly edited:
The first thing that comes to mind is that these guys are so big, I’d want to screen all of them for sleep apnea, jet lag or no jet lag, especially the linebackers.
With jet lag, your normal circadian rhythm—the peaks and valleys of many biological functions across the 24 hour day—are out of sync with actual day and night times at your destination. If you travel across time zones, there are consequences that can affect performance, such as fatigue or difficulty concentrating.
Also, at different times of day, people have different peak levels of performance in terms of their ability to stretch or do strength tasks, that kind of thing. So you’re taking elite athletes and giving them some element of fatigue from traveling, and then you also may have them playing at a time when it may not be their peak performance.
What would I tell the team if I were coaching them? What you want to do if you’re traveling East is one of two things:
• Go there early enough to have four or five days to adjust before you play the game. Usually it takes about one day for every time zone that you cross to adjust.
• You could also speed up the process by getting yourself to start going to bed earlier and earlier in the days leading up to the trip. For the UK, it’s a difference of five or six time zones. Say your normal bedtime is midnight, but midnight is going to be 5 a.m. there, and at midnight in the UK, it’s going to be 7 p.m. here, so you’re going to feel like it’s much too early to go to bed.
Two other ways to mitigate jet lag: Continue reading