Basketball enthusiasts are on a losing streak when it comes to sleep

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Basketball enthusiasts are on a losing streak when it comes to sleep. A new poll shows that more than half (55%) of NBA fans watching the playoffs reported going to sleep later than normal on nights when they watched a game; of these, nearly 92% reported going to sleep an hour or more later than usual.(1)

"Although many devoted fans don't mind trading some sleep for the excitement of the game, they should be aware that several nights of continued sleep loss have a negative effect on daily function," said Dr. Thomas Roth, PhD, Director of the Sleep Disorders and Research Center at Henry Ford Hospital, in Detroit, Michigan. "Many fans think they'll be able to catch up on sleep after the playoffs end, but rarely do people invest the extra sleep time necessary to overcome earlier deficits."

Snoozing After the Final Score The nationwide poll, sponsored by Sanofi-Synthelabo Inc., the maker of the sleep medication Ambien(R) (zolpidem tartrate) CIV, surveyed 297 basketball fans nationwide and was conducted during the first round of the NBA playoffs. Sixty-four percent of the fans polled said they had watched three or more games completely.

In addition to going to bed late after a game, some survey respondents (16%) said they had difficulty falling asleep after a game, and 68% of these fans cited "an exciting game" as the reason for their insomnia.

Fans of losing teams were more likely to have trouble falling asleep after game's end than those whose teams prevailed. Of those reporting trouble drifting off at the game's conclusion, 39% said it was because their team lost an important game, and 16% said it was because their team won a key game.(1)

"Many times people become so enthralled by an exciting game that it becomes a stressor to them and it actually becomes difficult to fall asleep once they're in bed," said Dr. Roth. "Losing a game, particularly a close contest, can cause so much stress that some fans may lie awake in bed for hours rehashing the game in their mind."

According to a recent study published in Psychosomatic Medicine, individuals may become more vulnerable to insomnia when they lack control over stressful events,(2) such as an important sports game.

With more than 40 million Americans already suffering from sleep disorders,(3) this may put sports fans at a greater disadvantage of getting the recommended 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. Other Factors That "Net" Sleep Loss The survey revealed other findings that may be linked to sleep loss during the NBA playoffs.

  • Almost a third of respondents (30%) said they drink alcoholic beverages while watching the playoffs.(1) Unfortunately, this may lead to problems staying asleep. While alcohol is often perceived as a sedative, it may in fact disturb the sleep cycle and increase nighttime awakenings in the later half of the night, which contribute to unrestful sleep.(4)
  • Two thirds (66%) of basketball buffs in the Central time zone reported going to sleep later than usual on nights when they watched a game, compared to 59% in the Eastern time zone and 30% in the Mountain and Pacific time zones.(1)
  • More than two out of five fans (43%) reported going to bed later than midnight on nights when they had watched a game.(1) Later bedtimes can result in not enough sleep, which can impair next-day work performance, and can even make it more difficult to get along with others.(5) Teaming Up for Healthy Sleep For sports fans who want to win over insomnia, the following tips may help:
  • Watch television in a room other than your bedroom. If you train yourself to associate your bedroom only with sleep, then it will be easier to fall asleep after getting into bed.(4)
  • While watching a game, go easy on the beer or other alcoholic beverages. Drink water or other non-caffeinated liquids that are less likely to interfere with good sleep.(4)
  • Avoid watching late-night replays of a game. Not only will it further delay your bedtime, but it may also cause you to become anxious again, which may keep you awake.(6)
  • If you have trouble falling asleep after a game ends, get out of bed, go into a dimly lit room, and participate in a quiet activity such as reading or listening to soothing music until you feel sleepy. This can help take your mind off the game and prepare you for sleep.(7)
  • Move your alarm clock out of view. Watching the clock while in bed can increase anxiety, which makes it more difficult to fall asleep.(6)
  • If you have regular bouts of insomnia, the best solution is to get to the source of the problem. A doctor can help you improve your sleep hygiene or prescribe a sleep medicine such as Ambien(R) (zolpidem tartrate) CIV to help you fall asleep and stay asleep.

For more information and other resources on sleep, visit or


     (1) NBA Fan Survey:  Sleeping Habits During Playoffs. North Palm Beach,
         Fla: Sports Marketing Surveys USA; April 17-May 3, 2004.
     (2) Morin CM, Rodrigue S, Ivers H. Role of stress, arousal, and coping
         skills in primary insomnia.  Psychosom Med. 2003;65:259-267.
     (3) National Sleep Foundation.  The importance of sleep.  Available at: Accessed March 12, 2004.
     (4) National Sleep Foundation. Helping yourself to a good night's sleep.
         Available at:  Accessed
         April 13, 2004.
     (5) National Sleep Foundation.  Sleep is important when stress and
         anxiety increase, says the National Sleep Foundation [press release].
         Available at:  Accessed
         May 11, 2004.
     (6) Sanofi-Synthelabo Inc. Promote sleep. Available at:  Accessed January 23,
     (7) National Sleep Foundation.  ABCs of ZZZs.  Available at:  Accessed April


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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