Evening East-West NFL Matchups Put One Team at Disadvantage: Study
Games played after 8 p.m. may favor biological clocks of Pacific time players
FRIDAY, Dec. 6, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- The body's biological clock may give West Coast pro football teams an advantage over East Coast teams during night games, a new study suggests.
Researchers analyzed more than 100 National Football League games played between 1970 and 2011 that started after 8 p.m. Eastern time and involved West Coast against East Coast teams. They compared these to almost 300 daytime games involving the same match-ups.
The West Coast teams had a major edge over East Coast teams during night games, according to the study in the December issue of the journal Sleep.
"Over the past 40 years, even after accounting for the quality of the teams, West Coast NFL teams have had a significant athletic performance advantage over East Coast teams when playing games starting after 8 p.m. Eastern time," lead author and sleep medicine physician Dr. Roger Smith said in a journal news release.
"Both the power and the persistent nature of this sleep-related athletic advantage were surprising," he added.
Biological rhythms can determine specific times at which peak performance is likely to occur, the researchers explained. Previous studies have shown that elements of athletic performance peak in the late afternoon based on these rhythms. Therefore, night games may provide West Coast teams with an advantage because their players are competing at a body clock time that is closer to their athletic peak than players on East Coast teams.
"Applying principles of sleep physiology to competitive sports has the clear potential to yield a significant and natural athletic performance advantage," Smith said. "So if you are an athlete looking for a natural performance advantage, or if you just want to improve your health, talk with your doctor about your sleep."
Another expert agreed. "This study is a reminder that the body has an intricate timing system that regulates both sleep and aspects of human performance," Dr. M. Safwan Badr, American Academy of Sleep Medicine president, said in the news release. "We function best when we maintain a daily routine that promotes healthy sleep, which is critical for daytime alertness, performance and public safety."
The U.S. National Institute of General Medical Sciences explains the link between biological clocks and health.