You’re a basketball player in the NBA. You’re up against Lebron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and it’s Game 6 in the NBA championship finals. Thousands of people scream at you from every direction, millions more watch from home. It’s been 40 years since your team has won a championship, and the pressure is palpable. At this moment, you’d think your bed would be the furthest island from your mind, but your sleep routine could mean the difference between winning or losing.
Back to reality. It’s Tuesday afternoon at Jawbone HQ in San Francisco, and Jawbone Founder and CEO Hosain Rahman is even more excited than usual. All 6’6 of the reason is sitting next to him. It’s #9, Andre Iguodala, NBA Finals MVP and champion for the Golden State Warriors. He may be at the top of his game in the NBA, but he’s here to talk about how, up until 2 years ago, he was losing a battle with sleep.
His challenges with sleep began in college when he was a young athlete at the University of Arizona. “When I was coming up, there were one or two guys that you knew were gonna play in the NBA. I had no idea that I was gonna play in the NBA until my sophomore year of college,” says Andre. “I’m thinking that I’m a 4 year guy, maybe get a steady job, when agents start calling me saying I’m a guaranteed lottery pick as soon as I get out of school.”
As the draft approached, the pressure continued to build. Andre was going to sleep at 4AM and waking up at 7AM for practice. It’s hard to imagine that this confident player on the court ever had an anxious day in his life, but at the time, his anxiety was extreme. Andre explains, “One bad workout, that might end you. You might not get drafted at all. All those pressures started the problem with me not sleeping, and it lasted until 2 years ago.”
Andre’s road to recovery didn’t start until a decade later. Andre was already on the Warriors when he started conversations with a sleep researcher at Stanford. She worked quickly to help Andre establish a new sleep routine targeting deep, restful sleep. At first, some of her recommendations came off to Andre as a bit crazy, but he was willing to try anything to improve his sleep. During their sessions, she instructed Andre to perform stretching and yoga to calm and prepare the body prior to sleep. She encouraged that he limit screen time with TV and devices and only eat certain foods before and after games.
Andre was overwhelmed by the sheer number of recommendations. He explains, “I’m thinking ‘All this to go to sleep?’ Then she told me there were several devices that could help; she’s like ‘This is my favorite one.’ It was the UP band. I tried it on and really start paying attention to it. I started seeing the light blue for Light Sleep, vs the dark blue for Sound sleep. It was really cool to me.”
Where other strategies had failed, UP came to Andre’s rescue. Over the next few months, he used UP religiously to track his sleep, all the while capriciously monitoring how certain activities, foods and routines affected his recovery. The Smart Coach system helped him understand their impact, and the data tracked in his UP app encouraged him to stick with what was working, and ditch the activities that sabotaged his sleep. “I started changing habits. I stopped eating certain things, and it was the first time in my life I didn’t have a TV in my room. Now, I don’t eat sugar. Each week I would count up the hours. The sleep was helping me so much. It changed everything for me.”
“Another thing I used the Jawbone UP for was how long I track my naps. I didn’t want to get into REM sleep in the middle of the day. So I’d sleep for 45 minutes in an upright position with a little bit of light in the room. I’d wake up on game day in the morning to practice, and I started noticing better shoot arounds. My teammates are like, ‘Man, you’re making some shots today,” and I’m thinking to myself, ‘They have no idea I’ve been going to sleep!’ I start getting confident. It’s 9 or 10 in the morning, but I know I’m going to have an amazing game tonight. Sleep good, feel good, play good.”
Andre finally had a routine that worked for him, but being data-loving fiends at Jawbone, our team wanted to know more about Andre’s sleep.
We met up and chatted about the importance of sleep duration for recovery. Over the season, we worked with him on getting more hours of sleep. We crunched the game vs. sleep data, and found that the nights he slept more had huge impact. Then Jason Donahue, who leads sleep initiatives at Jawbone, shared the data with him. Frankly, it blew Andre’s mind.
Sleep helped Andre’s offense. According to our data, Andre boasted a +8.9% gain on free throws, a +29% gain on points per minute, and a 2.18X gain on 3 point shots.
His game improved. With results like this, we theorize that Andre’s competition would prefer that he didn’t get any sleep. On nights where Andre slept more, he saw a steep decrease in the number of fouls and turnovers per game.
Coaches gave Andre more game time. Remember this one the next time you think about pulling an all-nighter before an important meeting. Andre’s coaches gave him more game time after a good night’s sleep.If Andre slept under 8 hours, he averaged 27.25 minutes on the court. If he slept more than 8 hours, he played 12% longer, averaging 30.4 minutes.
Back at Jawbone HQ, the interview with Andre is wrapping up and we’re about to start the Q&A. Hosain and 400 Jawbone employees are beaming at the displayed stats from their chairs.
“What an amazing story.” Hosain swivels his chair and takes a moment. He’s half talking to Andre, but also making eye contact with people in the room as he eloquently summarizes.
“These guys work so hard on building these solutions for exactly this purpose—to help people,” he says. “And to think that—whether you’re a high performance athlete, the world’s best at what you do, or one of the millions of people who use UP everyday—to be able to influence behavior that ultimately leads to a better life. Well, that’s the mission of what we do.”