Dirk Nowitzki enjoys his nightly slumber. At this stage in his career, he needs every wink he can get, as rest is the surest way for his body to recover from the usual wear and tear of the season.
“As you’re older, your recovery gets even more important,” he said. “I try to give myself seven hours every night at least. I’ll probably be in bed longer, but I try to get a good night’s sleep, at least seven hours, so I can rest. I try not to drink during the year, which obviously doesn’t let you rest as well. I try to eat right, not too heavy at night, so I can sleep well. All of that goes in to having a good night’s sleep, and being ready to go again the next day.”
Diet and duration of sleep are obviously very important to a player’s health and recovery cycle, but until recently, not much thought has been given by athletes, teams, or anyone, really, about the quality of sports stars’ sleep from an equipment standpoint. Everything from a pillow, to its case, to the bed sheets can make an impact on a player’s sleep. The Mavs, in partnership with performance bedding company Bedgear, are about to find out just how quantifiable the effects of a good night’s sleep can become.
Bedgear engineers and creates fabrics and textiles to create the perfect environment for a good night’s sleep — their pillows remain cool, and their fabrics not only eliminate moisture, but they also stay cleaner longer.
At first glance this might not seem like benefits you would consciously experience, but that’s kind of the point. During sleep you aren’t supposed to constantly wake up, toss and turn, or feel the need to cool down. So you might not understand the benefits of the technology until the day after, or until using it for weeks or months. Bedgear has already partnered with the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos and the AL East champion Boston Red Sox, so the track record of success suggests that there’s certainly something behind it.
The Mavs are the first NBA team to partner with the company, and every player and coach, along with many staff members as well, were fit with their custom pillows last week. Each pillow varies in size and thickness, some are fluffier, some firmer. Players were given different pillows based on whether they sleep on their back, side, or stomach. Some side-sleepers were given leg pillows, as well, which helps to keep the hips from sliding forward during rest. The idea of sleep is that you’re in the same position for hours on end, so if your body is uncomfortable in that position, you’re going to be feeling the negative side effects the next day. That simply can’t happen during an 82-game season full of travel and back-to-backs.
Wesley Matthews is not only much younger than Nowitzki, but the soon-to-be 30-year-old isn’t a huge sleeper. “Good luck with me,” he joked as he received his pillow, though he admitted experiencing the results could make him a big believer.
“But I’m really open to anything, anything that makes me better as a player and with overall health,” Matthews said. “Sleep is one of the most important things that a human can do. Obviously the better you sleep, the more you’re able to perform the next day. Hopefully this works.”
Sleep science is becoming more of a prominent topic in the NBA today. The Golden State Warriors have a full-time sleep scientist on staff to monitor players’ rest habits. More teams are beginning to stay in cities overnight and traveling the next day, giving their players a quality rest in bed as opposed to an awkward two-hour nap on the plane followed by a late-night bus ride to the next hotel. The Mavericks, led of course by Nowitzki, are now getting into the action.
Players around the sports world who have worked with Bedgear continue to stay in contact with the company, VP of Strategic Development Shana Rocheleau said, sometimes asking for more pillows or, in one baseball player’s case, a pillow for his infant.
“It’s a really interesting way to be engaged throughout the season, because you just see that it does mean so much to people to have a great night’s sleep,” Rocheleau said. “You can really be part of their lifestyle, which is nice.”
The way the team sees it, if this can add up to even one extra win throughout the season, it will definitely be worth it. Basketball is as mentally demanding as it is physically challenging, and a solid snooze can help players in both aspects. Soon each Maverick will receive his pillow, which means not long after we could see the benefits of what a good night’s sleep can do for some of the best athletes in the world.