Circadian rhythms and enhanced athletic performance in the National Football League

Sleep. 1997 May;20(5):362-5.


Circadian rhythms produce daily changes in critical elements of athletic performance. We explored the significance of performing at different circadian times in the National Football League (NFL) over the last 25 seasons. West Coast (WC) NFL teams should have a circadian advantage over East Coast (EC) teams during Monday Night Football (MNF) games because WC teams are essentially playing closer to the proposed peak athletic performance time of day. Retrospective data analysis was applied to all games involving WC versus EC teams playing on MNF with start times of 9:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST) from the 1970-1994 seasons. Logistic regression analysis of win-loss records relative to point spreads and home-field advantage was examined. West Coast teams win more often (p < 0.01) and by more points per game than EC teams. West Coast teams are performing significantly (p < 0.01) better than is predicted by the Las Vegas odds (the point spread). This apparent advantage enhances home-field advantage for WC teams and essentially eliminates the beneficial effects of home-field advantage for EC teams during MNF games. These results support the presence of an enhancement of athletic performance at certain circadian times of the day.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Circadian Rhythm*
  • Football
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sleep*
  • Sports*