The NFL Prescription for Better Performance

Men’s health articles tend to focus on “performance” as the holy grail of health. It might be the height of good health to be able to perform well, but not in the way many men think.

Human performance for our purposes refers to the ability of the mind and body to handle pressure and complete mental and physical tasks to a specific standard. That standard varies depending on how high we set the bar for ourselves. Professional football players perform within a highly competitive and demanding industry. When an NFL conditioning coach who has trained 35 first-round draft picks speaks about the key to better human performance, it’s worthwhile to listen up.

Joe Gomes made a career telling the world’s top-tier athletes how to be their best. In a recent presentation to a packed house at the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition Evening Lecture in Ocala, Florida, Gomes gave up the biggest secret he learned over years of training elite athletes and soldiers.

The secret, revealed

Sleep is the key to improving human performance.

Gomes said that a person who gets 7-9 hours of sleep each night is better able to recover and rebuild after exercise. That “magic” number of hours allows the brain and body to eliminate toxins and regenerate damaged cells without the distractions present during waking hours.

The effects of adequate sleep quantity and quality on the human body can’t be matched with any other known therapy. Gomes recommends combining that golden 7-9 hours of sleep with proper hydration, nutrition, and the use of a sauna whenever medically prudent. This approach is how he conditioned some pretty impressive clients to hone their competitive and cognitive skills in some extreme environments and stressful situations throughout the world.

What it means to the rest of us

You’ve probably heard the old adage, “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” Let’s break it down and see just how much truth is in that statement.

Chronic sleep deprivation has been shown to have disastrous effects on the human body and brain. On the flip side, here’s what happens when an exhausted body finally starts getting enough sleep:

  • Energy levels increase (healthy)
  • Mood improves (healthy, wise)
  • Cognitive function improves (wealthy, wise)
  • The desire to snack decreases (healthy, wealthy)
  • Weight is more easily regulated (healthy)
  • The risk of chronic disease and injury decreases (healthy)

While there’s no guarantee that better sleep is the magic “pill” that will make you instantly wealthy and wise, or even get you drafted into the NFL, there’s plenty of evidence that the health benefits you’ll gain from better sleep are worth the effort.

How to get started

Improve your sleep with better sleep hygiene, the practices surrounding where you sleep and the routine you implement at bedtime to help the body and brain wind down. You’ll need to allow enough time for your 7-9 hours of snoozing, so go to bed earlier. Make sure you’re tired by incorporating exercise into your day and avoiding alcohol and caffeine near bedtime. Schedule a massage to help you relax when you’re getting started.

What do I do with all this energy?

Gomes didn’t condition his clients to the height of human performance with sleep and saunas alone. Find out how to use your newfound energy by trying out a few of our 50+ weekly group exercise classes. Move a little more each day, sleep better each night, and live your best life, on or off the field. Now is the perfect time to start!

In partnership with EXOS, a world leader in human performance and the management company for CU Anschutz Health and Wellness Center.