LATROBE, Pa. – The Steelers enjoyed their first off day of training camp on Tuesday, a chance for the players to catch up on one of the most valuable things they need this time of year, sleep.
And if they were having any problems sleeping, or understanding the importance of it, they got a lesson in just that during a recent seminar during camp.
Cheri Mah, a sleep research fellow at the University of California San Francisco Human Performance Center, spoke to the players at training camp about the importance of sleep and how it is directly related to performance.
"Often times sleep is frequently sacrificed and overlooked," said Mah. "It's an area a lot of athletes just haven't dived into other than being told to get a good night's rest before a big game. We know there is a lot more to it. I presented the team a quick snapshot of why sleep is important for their performance and to be the best athlete they can be and some practical things they can do to improve the quality of their sleep."
Steelers' head athletic trainer John Norwig and conditioning coordinator Garrett Giemont heard Mah speak at different events and thought it would be a good idea to bring her in to speak to the team, as she has worked with teams in all the major sports leagues.
"She has a lot of information on how good sleep habits have proven to help with performance both cognitively and physically," said Norwig. "If we can give our athletes the opportunity to get even a percent, or half a percent better it's worth it.
It's non-invasive. It's a discipline that you don't have to do anything but sleep and how it affects you."
Coach Mike Tomlin was on board for the talk, which all players, coaches and team staff attended.
"I think we are all searching for a winning edge to maximize performance," said Tomlin. "As we get in the beginning of this journey that is our season, it's great to have presentations like this. I know the guys are receptive about being their best.
"Sometimes the purest answers are right in front of us. We think about technology and all these recourses to maximize performance and the most critical thing is properly resting your body."
Mah provided the players with tips for getting proper rest, which included some of the following:
- Powering down all electronics an hour before going to sleep.
- Maintaining a schedule of going to sleep and waking up at the same time daily.
- Sleep duration should be eight hours for athletes, even nine to 10 preferred.
- Sleep environment is important, from blackout curtains to cool temperatures.
"My hope is I will at least have planted a seed so they are more cognizant and we can build on that with further steps from a team standpoint and individual level," said Mah. "It's a work in progress."
The players said they understand the importance of sleep, but there were some good points made that will help them.
"I feel like it was good. Sleep is necessary," said linebacker Arthur Moats. "We talked about some of those things before, but you hear it from a specialist and that adds more credibility to it. We will take it and work our way with it."
Safety Mike Mitchell likes the fact the Steelers do things of this nature that helps give the players every advantage they can.
"The scientists are saying sleep is now the new competitive advantage for athletes," said Mitchell. "We want that advantage. There were some good things. Everybody knows you need to sleep well."