Med thumb university of tennessee players

Butch Jones, head coach of University of Tennessee’s football team, is stepping aside to let someone else guide his players: a sleep coach.

The UT football program uploaded a video to its YouTube page earlier this week, exploring the innovative ways their players are improving their sleep (and no, sleeping with a Peyton Manning stuffed animal is not one of them).

By using an app that’s connected to the athletes’ mattresses, a sleep coach (the first time a college football team has ever enlisted one) is able to monitor the Tennessee Volunteers’ heart rates, respiration and movement. With this information, the players can get a better sense of how they’re recovering after a practice or game.

“It’s all about investing in our players and really investing in them to meet their full potential,” Jones said in the video. “And that’s all part of our sports science, having sleep coaches and sleep monitors, and making sure they get the nine hours of rest that they need.”

The student athletes definitely seem to be into it. “I enjoy a lot of the benefits of it,” said sophomore offensive lineman Jashon Robertson. “It’s just a real big help as far as my sleeping habits go.”
Sleep plays a major role in athletic performance, affecting everything from metabolism to focus. And UT isn’t the only program using sleep as a training tool: As reported by The Wall Street Journal, University of Houston’s head coach Tom Herman schedules time for his players to have an afternoon nap, while University of Pittsburgh’s head coach Pat Narduzzi literally watches his players sleep (he and his assistant coaches take turn resting in the players’ dorms to make sure they’re in bed by 10:30 each night).

More than any other before it, the 2015 football season should prove what kind of on-field advatage sleep provides.