This is one of my favorite times of year… March Madness!

My son and I love to make our brackets, watch the games, and root for my team vs. his!

That said, I started to think.

I know that sleep can be a BIG factor for both team and individual performance, and I have seen a few research studies looking at the football season, and selected games (Monday Night Football), but this is March Madness we are talking about!

There was a great article from the University of Michigan Newsletter about a sleep specialist there, who really looked at all aspects:

First of all, she correctly identifies circadian rhythms as a key factor. I have written quite a bit about circadian rhythms over the years. She also correctly identified that there are times in a 24-hour cycle where performance can be enhanced or decline.

It’s cool to see this hit the mainstream since that’s what my Power of When book is all about.

Looking at some of the basics, research shows that a peak time for athletic performance is generally in the late afternoon or early evening. So, if your team is playing at this time (either on their internal clock or the external one), they might have an advantage.

But remember that the player’s Chronotypes could also be an important factor.

Unfortunately, this is not something we would know. But I would guess that you need a certain level of determination, sacrifice, and being health conscious, to be a Division 1 Athlete which would leave a majority of Wolves out. It would, however, probably include Lions and Bears. Which is terrible for basketball, since it’s played in the early evenings (depending upon what round you are watching). I think Dolphins would not make it to this level (generally speaking), because their anxiety might get the best of them. There is also a complicating factor, since many of these kids are eighteen and still growing into their Chronotype, they may still be a Wolf.

This is starting to hurt my brain!

Now don’t forget there is a ton of travel that goes on here, so we also need to remember that there could be circadian misalignment, (i.e., jet lag). Remember that it takes about a day to adjust to each time zone. So, jet lag may be a factor for the first day the team arrives, but if the team has been practicing in the new destination for more than 2 days, it’s unlikely it is a big factor, if at all.

So, what is a team supposed to do, if they are playing at a time when their body clock thinks its midnight?

Push the clock forward with light therapy, and a delayed practice (light and exercise have been shown to push your circadian rhythms). And extend sleep. At the elite level, these players are commonly going to need 9-10 hours before a game.

So, should you change your picks for this year’s March Madness, based on jet lag, chronotype, and circadian silliness? Nope, go for your favorite, there is always a crazy upset, and have some fun.

Hold on. But what if you don’t like to watch team sports as much as you like to play them?

Then there are a few things to consider based on your Chronotype. If you don’t know what yours is, you can get it at www.chronoquiz.com or watch my newly published TED Talk here.

Team sports provide more than physical activity and a chance to exercise—they give us a chance to socialize, to play, to let off steam, to use skills and modes of thinking that most of us don’t use in our everyday work lives. Science backs up the mental and emotional benefits of team sports. Research shows that people who engage in team sporting activities possess high levels of resilience, perseverance, and optimism. The direct physical benefits can be significant as well, in terms of fitness and health.

The big rule for team athletics is: Play at dusk. Late day is the best time for all chronotypes to gather for some sporting fun.

The competitiveness rhythm

Chronotypes display significant differences in their attitudes toward team sports and their levels of competitiveness.

Goal-oriented Lions are the most competitive players, and the most driven to organize and play in team competitions. Lions like team sports, and they usually show an aggressive style of play. Nighttime events can be a challenge for Lions—they’ll need a boost from some late-afternoon sun exposure, and a high-protein snack to keep them from dragging in the evening.

Dolphins, independent types, don’t take naturally to team sports. Their restless sleep often leaves them too tired and without sufficient motivation and energy to engage.

Bears are good team members. They bring enthusiasm to these games, if not the cutthroat drive that Lions do. Their peak times for play are midday and early evening.

Wolves don’t flock to team sports. These night types are less physically active overall than other chronotypes. When they do get active, they’re more likely to prefer a solo sport, such as running. If a Wolf has agreed to join a team, he or she will prefer to play at night.

The coordination rhythm

This rhythm combines several factors: how long you’ve been awake and how tired you are, along with the difficulty of the sport you’re playing. During times that you’re alert and rested, coordination will be greater than when you’re fatigued, or still waking from sleep. Hand-eye coordination peaks at different times, depending on chronotype:

  • Bears see theirs peak between 5-8 p.m.
  • Lions, hand-eye coordination is strongest between 3-6 p.m., while
  • Wolves see their hand-eye coordination peak between 6-9 p.m.

The power rhythm

Your athletic power—including your strength, speed, and agility—fluctuate along with bio-rhythmic changes to body temperature. When body temperature is higher, lungs increase in their capacity and more blood flows to the muscles. You’re more flexible, with quicker reflexes. For most chronotypes, the power rhythm peaks during late-afternoon or early evening. This power peak occurs toward the earlier side for Lions, and the later end for Wolves.

Have you ever noticed that most professional sports games take place in the evening? This is not only prime TV-watching time. It’s also the time when most athletes are at the top of their power rhythm, hitting peak athletic performance. 

The sportsmanship rhythm

Nobody wants to be the person who screams at the ref or pulls an underhanded move on an opponent. (Nobody wants to play with that person, either). The sportsmanship rhythm is all about mood. Better moods equal greater sportsmanship, and more fun for everyone. For all chronotypes, mood is at its best in the afternoon and early evening.

The best time to hit the field with your team:

Dolphins: 5-7 p.m.

Lions: 2-4 p.m.

Bears: 6-8 p.m.

Wolves: 6-9 p.m.

Whew!

I know that was a big one, but hey it is March Madness!

If you are interested in a few interviews I did this week, feel free to check them out.

America’s Sleepless Nights: In Pursuit Of Rest – WebMD

What Is Your Sleep Spirit Animal? – Care2

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