Lebron James is a basketball god. For seven straight years he’s been to the NBA finals, the pinnacle of athletic achievement. During that time he has shattered every meaningful statistical category, while keeping his body in pristine condition — though Lebron turns 33 this year, his athleticism hasn’t aged in a decade.
While none of us may ever play in the NBA finals (or possibly even our own rec league finals), still, the burning question is this: What makes Lebron James so ageless? The answer, it turns out, is copious amounts of training… and sleep.
According to a recent ESPN article, Lebron and the Cleveland Cavaliers’ recent success is directly tied to the sleep that they’re getting. After suffering a string of embarrassing losses, the trainers looked at ways to spark more energy for their players during games.
They decided that the best course of action was to sleep more, keeping the players in one city overnight so that their sleep schedule wasn’t interrupted so they could get a full night of their best sleep. It’s something that head athletic trainer, Steve Spiro, said is vital to athletic success.
Sleep is Where Recovery Happens
“The biggest thing for recovery is sleep,” Steve Spiro said. “There isn’t anything better, and for these guys that are taxing their bodies through travel and through their workload on the court, and practice, and extra work or whatever, we can have all the technology in the world, but obviously a great night’s sleep plays a role into performance. There’s no doubt about it. So you have to have your finger on the pulse of it.”
So how much does Lebron actually sleep? Well, for context let’s look at the average American’s sleep schedule, which according to a recent gallup poll was around 6.8 hours a night. That’s over an hour less than the 8 hours of best sleep recommended by sleep scientists.
Contrast that with Lebron, who sleeps a whopping twelve hours a night. While we can’t say for sure that this is a good thing (there is some research to suggest that sleeping too much can also be harmful, or at the very least a symptom of depression), that’s a ton of time to rejuvenate Lebron’s body from the stresses he puts on it — so who are we to pass judgment on a man sleeping twelve hours?
Lebron is a Sleep Pioneer — but He’s Not the Only One
That said, Lebron has been at the forefront of sleep technology for a while, he even sleeps in a hyperbaric chamber to maximize the amount of oxygen in his blood whenever he has a game day. He’s not the only one, point guard Steve Nash used to sleep upwards of twelve hours on game days — and he played until he was forty. It’s exciting to see how much sleep, a good diet, and exercise is prolonging the careers of some of our favorite athletes, extending their peak efficiency well past what anyone imagined was possible.
And while you may not have time to dedicate to sleeping twelve hours a night, it is worth noting that adding sleep is a vital part of any workout routine. A night of your best sleep is the time when your body gets a chance to regenerate and rejuvenate the energy it’s depleted during the day. The next time you feel like you’re failing in your workout, give a night of your best sleep a try and get back in the gym. You could be surprised at the results.