NBA Bought 2000 Oura Rings, and This Is Why It's the Best Thing for Sports Ever

American basketball league NBA just bought 2000 Oura smart rings for their players and teams. The basketball season was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the plans to restart the games at the end of July have raised a lot of worries. Even before the pandemic, some Oura ring users have used the device to detect the early signs of flu. Now the NBA wants to play it safe and use the rings to track down possible coronavirus cases among players at the early stage of the infection.

However, tracking down viral infections is not what these smart rings were originally designed to do. And when it comes to professional sports detecting flu (or coronavirus) symptoms is certainly not the only useful trick they have up in their sleeve. Oura ring is actually a powerful sleep tracker device. The COVID-19 pandemic is a severe crisis, but it is a short-term problem. Poor sleep, on the other hand, can cause severe long-term health consequences and already costs billions to societies around the world. Now that 2000 professional basketball players have a smart ring on their finger, why shouldn’t they put them to good use? Let me tell you just how these trackers could transform the art of professional sports.

Sleep and physical performance are heavily connected. It’s no secret that sounder sleep and restful nights increase athletic performance. This has actually been studied with basketball players too! Increasing the amount of nightly rest improved both their physical performance and shooting accuracy significantly.

And this is not even the coolest thing. In a recent study, sleep researchers found that at certain times of a day, athletes acquired better results than on others. However, the peak performance hour varied from people to people. It turned out it was not the time of the day that matters, but the hours since their natural wake-up time. Your circadian rhythm (the biological clock that controls your sleep-wake cycle) has a huge impact on your physical performance. And sleep trackers are the best tools to keep track of your circadian rhythm. This means that athletes could estimate their peak performance hours using sleep tracker data.

There is just one more variable: your individual chronotype. According to the study, morning larks reached their highest performance peak about 6 hours after their natural wake-up time. After that their performance started decreasing again. People with flexible chronotypes (somewhere between morning and evening types) had similar figures. Night owls, on the other hand, performed much worse in the early hours after waking up. They kept on improving their performance the whole day, reaching the maximum as late as 11 hours after their natural awakening time.

Therefore, to optimize your sleep for physical performance, you need to master your circadian clock and be aware of your personal chronotype. Luckily, it is possible to influence your chronotype and shift your circadian rhythm by changing your sleeping behaviors and sticking to a consistent sleep schedule. Mastering your sleeping habits is by no means easy, and sleep trackers alone might not provide enough support in the process. However, together with personalized sleep coaching, these devices might change the way of athletic training for good.

Pietari Nurmi
Head of Nyxo Coaching