Perth Lynx: women’s basketball team partners with sleep experts to improve performance


From left: Perth Lynx players Natalie Burton and Sami Whitcomb with UWA's Ian Dunican.
From left: Perth Lynx players Natalie Burton and Sami Whitcomb with UWA's Ian Dunican.

PERTH Lynx women’s basketball team has dozed off in the name of improving performance.

The team partnered with the University of Western Australia during the 2015-16 season, in which they finished second in the WNBL, to analyse the sleep patterns of players and gain an edge on court.

The study found modifying the pre-bed routine of players led to improved results.

Ian Dunican from UWA’s Centre for Sleep Science said the Lynx wanted to explore every possible avenue to improve.

“In this day and age, coaches and trainers are looking at every single element of an athlete’s life and what contributes to a team’s performance both on and off the field,” Mr Dunican said.

“We split the Lynx’s season into two halves and then looked at the sleep cycles … pre-bed routines and training regime of each individual player, including the academy players.”

The players were fitted with sleep monitoring devices and asked to keep detailed sleep diaries.

“We were able to give each player an individual report and guidance and while in general the athletes were getting reasonably good sleep, we found that for those that weren’t, changing the pre-bed routine was key,” Mr Dunican said.

“That included things like switching off all electronics at least an hour before bed to calm the mind, using mindfulness or meditation apps and sleeping in a cool room, which might sound obvious but are all incredibly important.

A major recommendation for the Lynx was that their training sessions be held in the afternoons, suiting the cycles of most athletes.

Lynx forward Natalie Burton said the sleep study was beneficial in helping to prevent fatigue.

“The data collected from the sleep studies enabled our coaches to make informed decisions around the timing of flights, training sessions and rest periods to make sure we were performing at our best and minimising fatigue,” Ms Burton said.