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  • Writer's pictureJason St Clair Newman

Is your poor sleep routine affecting your performance on the pitch?

Updated: Mar 16, 2023

Stop fooling yourself - not getting enough sleep just doesn't cut it

There has been a lot in the media in recent times about the importance of sleep.

Not only from a health point of view but also from a performance point of view.

From issues such as brain fog, diabetes, balance issues, increased chances of disease, poor performance, increased chances of injury, hyper irritability, and food cravings the list goes on.

Whether you are on board with this or not the facts are in - it’s damn important so don’t screw it up

If you still aren’t convinced try not sleeping for a couple of days and then go play your sport and let me know how you feel and perform.

For a while, it had been pumped out by the same media outlets that the most successful people were up at 4 am doing their stuff and then going to sleep at 12 am and repeating this.

I was always on the other side saying what a load of rubbish - if they think that’s an optimal way to work they are on the fast train to heart attacks and disease.

We as humans are designed to recover when we sleep, deep sleep is one of the if not the most important ways for us to recover from what we do physically and mentally when we are awake - who would have thought nature had this sorted?

The Sleep Cycle

Our bodies have an internal clock that helps regulate our sleep-wake cycle, which is also known as our circadian rhythm. Hormones play an important role in this cycle.

When we wake up in the morning, our body produces cortisol, which is often referred to as the "stress hormone". Cortisol helps us stay alert and awake throughout the day by increasing our blood sugar levels and blood pressure.

As the day progresses, our cortisol levels naturally decrease.

In the evening, our body starts to produce more melatonin, which is the hormone that helps us feel sleepy and prepare for sleep.

Melatonin is produced in response to darkness, so it's important to minimise exposure to bright lights in the evening to help our body produce enough of it.

Unfortunately, technology has allowed us to trick our brains into thinking it’s still daytime and disrupting the natural cycle of our hormones

With the invention of the good old light bulb, we started out being able to work into the night longer and fool our brain into thinking it was still daytime.

This in turn has disrupted our hormone sleep cycles

Cortisol is released for longer and melatonin releasing later and later.

Unfortunately, this has gotten even worse now people have screens that are stimulating brain activity long into the night.

Fortunately, a lot of really intelligent people have worked out ways in which we can help negate this.

Most of which is fairly easy to implement - requires next to no money to do and only requires you to be disciplined about it.

This has been termed ‘sleep hygiene’ by the community or basically how to get good sleep.

Here is a list of things you can do immediately that will help.

12 ways you can improve your sleep

1. Turn off your damn phone and keep it turned off a couple of hours before bedtime.

Just do it, stop being sucked into the world of social media addiction and switch it off.

2. Keep a journal for yourself doesn’t need to be for anyone to see, and before bed write out everything that is going on in your head no matter how stupid it feels just do it.

This helps your subconscious download and not think about things you must remember or dwell on stressful things.

Surprisingly you may find you actually start coming up with answers on how to deal with these the more you write them down. Make this a physical journal of paper and a pen.

3. Before you go to bed in that same journal try to fill a half page with everything you are grateful for.

Often we get caught up in that negative spiral of what’s not going well and forget all the good things that are in our life.

4. Make your room dark.

Light stimulates your brain to wake you up. This is possibly the only part that may cost something especially if you have rubbish curtains and outside light is coming in.

5. Read an actual book before bed - not on a tablet but an actual book with pages, often a good fiction book is better than a reference book - it lets your brain relax and you don’t go into learning and remembering mode.

6. Stretch - this is a good one for everyone not only athletes.

Stretching helps to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system which calms you down - being calm before bed is a good thing.

7. Breathing techniques.

I picked up some great breathwork techniques for the Art of Breath crew,

Something as simple as nose breathing for timed breaths can do wonders.

Try this

Lay down on your back - hands on your stomach - breathe in through your nose and feel your belly rise and breath at and feel it fall.

Once you have that now add timing to it.

Breathe in through your nose for 5 seconds.

Hold for 10seconds

and breathe out through your nose for 5seconds

Repeat this 5x

8. Try to avoid drinking too many fluids close to bedtime - this often results in you waking up in the night and going to the toilet - disrupting your sleep cycle.

9. Go to sleep at the same time and get up at the same time - this can be tricky but just try your best.

Aim to be in bed before 10:30 pm and lights out by 11 pm latest.

Preferably this would be 30min earlier for each but I’ll be realistic.

Everyone is different but it seems the general consensus is 7-8 hours of sleep is around optimal, there are always outliers and often teenagers will sleep longer, but not sure if this is just because they are up later.

10. Eat healthily and stay hydrated

If you don’t know what’s healthy to eat there’s a thing called Google that you should be able to use to find references for healthy foods.

Drink water throughout the day if you are active you will need to make sure you are replacing lost fluids.

Side note: do you know dehydration will often lead to a higher incidence of injury and lower performance?

11. Stay away from stimulants.

Coffee, energy drinks and the like are not good options.

High caffeine and sugar doses aren’t top of the list of sleep-friendly substances. Cut them out after 1-2 pm as a rough guide, possibly even earlier depending on how they affect you.

I think the half-life of caffeine is around 12 hours so if you still have that floating around in your body at 10 pm at night your body is still being stimulated by it in a low-grade way.

12. It seems that a room temperature of around 18-20 degrees is what the body likes for sleep - again there are hot and cold sleepers so work out what’s good for you but being too hot or too cold will cause you to be restless in your sleep which will interfere with your sleep cycle as well.

There are a number of things on the list here that you can try as I mentioned most of these can be done without spending any money.

However, it does require some discipline to get going.

Start with one or two and then add a new one each week as you move along.

My top 3

My personal top 3 are as follows

  1. Cut the screens

  2. Grateful journal

  3. Breathwork

Get your sleep sorted and get it consistent and you will notice the difference within a couple of days.

Do the basics better is a key concept of my philosophy in training

Getting your sleep sorted is a basic biological process that is in your control and taking simple steps to do this is within the reach of most people - you need it to recover and you need it to perform at your best - the rest is up to you.

Do the basics better

Be consistent

Be prepared

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