Whisking between time zones to play in tournaments may be commonplace for professional golfers like those participating in the recent Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Tournament at Eagles Landing Country Club in Stockbridge, GA. But for a game dependent on focus and concentration, could jet lag and other sleep-related issues affect the pros' driving and putting?
At the request of the LPGA, Emory University nursing professor Kathy Parker, PhD, RN, FAAN is looking at a number of sleep variables to determine their relationship between the golfers' success in the tournament. Dr. Parker, board-certified sleep specialist, has focused her research career on investigating sleep disturbances.
"Our main purposes are to describe the quantity, quality, and pattern of sleep obtained by the players immediately prior to and during the tournament, and to explore how those factors relate to their eventual performance on the course," Dr. Parker said. "We know that attention and focus are critical to playing successful golf, and we also know that high levels of attention and focus are dependent on getting quality sleep and being adequately rested."
The project began with a chance meeting on an airplane between golf professional Suzanne Strudwick and Marla Salmon, ScD, RN, FAAN, dean of Emory Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing. At Dean Salmon's advice, Strudwick, who had experienced personal sleep issues related to jet lag, began corresponding with Dr. Parker. Strudwick mentioned Dr. Parker's work to Dr. Betsy Clark, vice president of Professional Development for the LPGA, and once approved, the plan was set into action.
"The LPGA is excited to be working with Emory University and Dr. Parker on this cutting edge research on sleep deprivation and performance," Dr. Clark said. "We are looking forward to the implications from this study and for possible interventions and programs relating to minimizing sleep deprivation for the players."
During the players pre-tournament registration, Dr. Parker distributed more than 100 questionnaires that rated sleep variables such as subjective sleep quality, daytime sleepiness, restless leg syndrome, circadian rhythm type (morning or evening person), and basic demographics (name, age, height, weight, etc.), and the number of times they have traveled across time zones in the preceding ten days before the tournament.
Once completed, the sleep quality and sleep patterns of the LPGA golfers will be compared to a performance profile that includes not only their total tournament score, but also measures factors such as rank, rounds under par, birdies, driving distance, driving accuracy, putting average and sand saves.
"The mind-body connection in golf has been well described because focus is critical to the game," Dr. Parker said. "We know that sleep is bound to be a factor in these abilities, so it will be interesting to see the kinds of sleep problems the players have, even if it's just so we can develop recommendations and educational programs to help them."
Dr. Parker is the Director for the Center for Research on Symptoms, Symptom Interactions, and Health Outcomes at the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing. One of nine exploratory nursing research centers funded by the National Institutes of Health, National Institute for Nursing Research, the Center's purpose is to facilitate symptom-related research, including the development and testing of interventions designed to reduce negative symptomatology and improve health outcomes in clinical populations. The LPGA sleep study is part of Dr. Parker's ongoing program of research dedicated to the study of sleep/wake cycle disturbances and the development and testing of population-specific interventions.