British Columbia

Vancouver company gauges sleep's role in Cubs' World Series win

"We don't claim that by wearing a Readiband you're going to win a World Series but at this level it's all the little things that build up," says Fatigue Science's Karl Woll about growing importance of sleep analytics in success.

Fatigue Science technology analyzes players' sleep patterns

Chicago Cubs player Kris Byrant receives a high-five from a teammate wearing a Readiband on his wrist from Vancouver sleep analytics company Fatigue Science. (Chicago Cubs/Instagram)

While Vancouver is predominantly a Blue Jays town when it comes to baseball, employees at a downtown Vancouver sleep analytics company were firmly on the Chicago Cubs' bandwagon when the team won the World Series last week.

"There was a lot of drama and personal interest in that particular series," said Karl Woll, who is an account manager with Fatigue Science, which, for the past decade, has tracked professional athletes' sleep habits.

In 2011, the company, which launched because it wanted to help industries whose workers suffer from fatigue-related safety issues, was approached by the Vancouver Canucks to help their players.

Fatigue Science helps players by having them wear bands on their arms, called Readibands, which monitor sleep cycles. Other teams have also signed up, including the Seattle Seahawks.

The bands monitor what time the players go to bed, what time they rise, and whether their sleep is disturbed.

'Sleep is that other crucial building block that people are starting to become aware of and factor in to their preparation for their athletes,' says Fatigue Science's Karl Woll (Errol Richardson/CBC)

The data the bands produce is then used a bit differently than other fitness bands available to average consumers.

"We have a proprietary model developed by the U.S. military, which actually takes your sleep data and transforms it into performance data," said Woll.

"We're actually able to tell you at the end of the day, based on how well you're sleeping, what does that mean for your performance today in terms of your cognitive function and your reaction times."

Fatigue Science's Karl Woll shows off the company's new app that allows players and workers to see how their sleep patterns may impact their performance. (Errol Richardson/CBC)

Fatigue Science acquired the Cubs as a client in the pre-season. All its athletes, including those on its five minor league teams, were given Readibands to wear to monitor baseline sleep habits.

Challenges of being monitored

Some of the players continued to wear the bands all the way through to the end of the World Series, but Woll said that not every player is sold on the band's effectiveness. Others don't like being monitored.

"There's certainly challenges," said Woll. "It's not about being or saying or identifying that you were out late, perhaps at a bar or a party or whatever it may be.

"We know that you are a young athlete with a lot of money, there's going to be the odd night out."

Woll added that the data from the bands — and how athletes have used it to adapt their sleep — can be applied to the average person.

"We do need to look at the sleep we're getting and prioritize it," he said. "We should find a nighttime routine, power down, make sure we're getting our seven to nine hours and if not, identifying what is the challenge."

As for the Canucks, who have lost seven straight games, Woll says the team did not renew its contract with the company for the 2016-2017 season.