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The Sleep Doctor to Elite Athletes, CEOs—Even Rock Stars

Thanks to sleep specialists like Harvard’s Charles A. Czeisler, Ph.D., M.D., everyone from the Portland Trail Blazers to the Rolling Stones is manipulating their slumber to their advantage.

Before long, Czeisler received his first desperate phone call from a road-weary celebrity. It was 1989, and the Rolling Stones were gearing up for their Steel Wheels Tour. “Mr. Jagger was having trouble transitioning across time zones,” says Czeisler. “So I created ‘MJ Time,’ his own personal time zone.” Over calls and faxes, Czeisler designed Mick’s schedule and his exposure to light for the tour. He had him black out the windows in hotel rooms, and scheduled his meals to arrive at certain times of the day. “We also shipped special lighting systems so he could be exposed to bright light” when it was “daytime” on MJ Time, but dark in, say, Japan. “I used to get urgent requests before each of his tours, and kept saying, ‘Give me some advanced notice!’ But I did that for like, 10 or 15 years.”

Years later, when Czeisler would get calls from pro sports physicians—the first of whom was a former med school classmate who’d gone on to work for the Portland Trail Blazers—he drew on his work with the Rolling Stones. “Just as we had ‘MJ Time,’ I thought, I’ll take the same approach to the Trail Blazers,” he says. “So I said, ‘Stay on Blazer Time.’”

His work for sports teams doesn’t require him to provide special lighting equipment, but he does pour over the endless airline itineraries, scheduled events, media appearances, and late-night dinners wedged into their increasingly populated schedules across time zones, then engineers the best sleep-friendly schedule he can. And his biggest no-no for everyone, especially athletes, is the red-eye. “It’s impossible to get uninterrupted sleep,” he says.

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