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For individuals who work in high-stress, active environments, the need for sleep is imperative. That’s why more and more professional sports teams have begun to add sleep scientists to their rosters to help their athletes and coaches get the most restful sleep possible to ensure their best performance. One sports team, the NBA’s Chicago Bulls, are on the forefront of combining sleep science with sports nutrition and physical therapy. In a move that’s sure to be copied by the rest of the league, the Bulls have recently announced that they’ve renewed their contract with sleep science research organization Rise Science.

Every single one of the Bulls players sleeps with a special electronic sensor built into their pillows which monitors their heart rate variability throughout the night while they sleep. Rise Science specialists monitor the data to determine which players are getting enough sleep, which players need more rest, and the optimal times for morning practices to help facilitate the Bulls’ sleeping habits.

Already, the team has moved morning shoot-around sessions back one hour and found their players are getting around 27 more minutes of sleep each day. NBA teams travel frequently and face long, grueling seasons with late nights and occasional back-to-back games. Bulls’ director of sports performance Chip Schaefer told SportTechie that the pairing of sleep science and performance monitoring allows the team to ensure their players recover after strenuous performances:

What we are looking at is particularly back to backs and late-night returns, what their sleep patterns were — not to be intrusive on them but rather to advise us and our coaching staff on the scheduling of practices and shootarounds and things like that. Hopefully that reflects in a more recovered team.

Sleep researchers are beginning to discover that sleep has a whole host of surprising beneficial effects on both our brains and our bodies, while also discovering that the opposite is true: getting insufficient sleep can be one of the worst overall health choices you can make.  Even if you’re not a professional athlete, your body and mind need to rest and replenish themselves each night through sleep. High-profile studies like these, however, often inform the recommendations of medical practitioners and therapists.

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