Could sleep be the competitive advantage needed to win the AFL Premiership Cup? St Kilda fans will be hoping so, as the Melbourne-based football club partners with Monash University’s Turner Institute to explore off-field ways to enhance player recovery and performance through various sleep techniques and programs.
As part of an industry-led project, funded by a grant from the Science and Industry Endowment Fund (SIEF) and administered by CSIRO’s SME connect, the St Kilda Football Club is seeking to exploit the competitive advantages of new technology on the global sports and human performance market.
The program will be led by SIEF Ross Metcalf STEM+ Business Fellow, Dr Elise Facer-Childs, a chronobiology expert who manages the Sleep and Performance Program at the Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health at Monash University.
“We know that sleep is a vital dimension of an athlete’s health, fitness and wellbeing, and by looking at ways to track and potentially modify player sleep behaviours, we have the potential to maximise both individual and team performance,” said Dr Facer-Childs.
“With this grant, Monash University will work in partnership with St Kilda Football Club to develop digitally-assisted tools for athletes that can provide on-going education and interventions designed to improve sleep health and performance”.
Monash University is a leader in Australian sleep and circadian research, with a strong track record of working collaboratively with industry partners to develop technologies to monitor sleep, alertness and body clock function in both work and clinical settings, explains Professor Shantha Rajaratnam, Deputy Director of the Turner Institute.
“The Turner Institute is very focused on connecting innovation with the real-world problems of our industry partners. We strive to make positive change, and working closely with industry partners like the St Kilda Football Club means that we can accelerate the adoption of new ideas and technologies,” said Professor Rajaratnam.
Simon Lethlean, Chief Operating Officer, St Kilda Football Club said they were keen to innovate and search for an edge for their athletes.
“The health and wellbeing of our players and our staff is paramount, and that focus has been no more critical than in the last few months when our community has been faced with the challenges and uncertainty brought by the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
“In partnering with leading specialists and institutions like Dr Facer-Childs, Monash University and CSIRO, and with the support of SIEF, we are able to explore opportunities to develop tools and techniques for our players and staff that can enhance sleep, health and performance. We are excited by the opportunities that this project presents and look forward to working closely with all parties involved.”
Dr Facer Childs is also conducting a survey on the impact COVID-19 has had on sleep and health in athletes. The insights collected as part of the research will be used to develop strategies for improving athlete health and wellbeing beyond the pandemic.