Philadelphia 76ers forward Tobias Harris is one of the most versatile offensive players in the NBA. He’s also one of the league’s most vocal advocates for sleep management.
In fact, during an interview with Baxter Holmes of ESPN, Harris likened the sleep deprivation epidemic in the NBA to the NFL’s league-wide problem with concussions. The Holmes piece is about how a lack of sleep is impacting the NBA, and Harris makes it clear: it’s a big deal in the league.
FROM HIS STALL in the visitors lockers in Staples Center, Tobias Harris looks around the room. He points at each of his teammates, even the team staffers, one by one, from left to right.
“You ask anybody in the room,” Harris says. “The thing I talk about is sleep.
“I think in a couple years,” he says, “[sleep deprivation] will be an issue that’s talked about, like the NFL with concussions.”
Obviously the effects of sleep deprivation on the brain aren’t as easy to follow as repeatedly getting hit in the head, but it’s certainly a problem. Here’s the most sobering analysis on sleep deprivation in Holmes’ in-depth breakdown:
Chronic sleep loss has been associated with higher risk for cancer, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, heart attacks, Alzheimer’s, dementia, depression, stroke, psychosis and suicide. As Phyllis Zee, chief of sleep medicine in the department of neurology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, says, “Sleep deprivation … doesn’t only affect the brain — it affects all your other organs. … Think about it as punching your other organs.”
It’s for that reason Harris takes extensive precautionary measures to make sure he gets the sleep he needs — or as close to it as possible. Those precautions include going to bed at 8:30 p.m. on off-days, monitoring his heart rate after games and examining his brain waves with an electroencephalogram machine, according to Holmes. He doesn’t just talk the talk; he walks the walk.
Harris has improved his points per game in each of the eight seasons he’s played in the NBA, and now we may know why. He’s going the extra mile to make sure his body is in good shape, and well-rested. Perhaps others become more mindful of their sleep habits for career and, most importantly, life longevity.