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  • Writer's pictureRyan Johnson

Get your Sleep

What happens when we sleep?

When we get into bed and prepare for sleep our bodies begin to move through two main cycles: NREM (Non-Rapid Eye Movement), and REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. During NREM we generally experience three specific phases:

1. We fall into a light sleep, our eyes are closed but it is easy to wake up

2. We are still in a light sleep but your body begins to prepare for a deeper sleep (heart rate and body temperature begin to drop)

3. You fall into a deep sleep and generally feel very disorientated if you are woken up

during deep sleep stages of NREM our bodies begin repairing our muscles, bones and tissues.

This is important for recovering from those hard training sessions. As we continue to sleep and have been in the 3rd phase of NREM for around 90 minutes, we begin to enter the REM phase of our sleep. During this phase our brains are extremely active and mimic the same processes as when we are awake. As a result, we experience intense dreams during the REM phase.

Risk of Injury and Illness

Apart from affecting your performance, chronic poor sleep quality, or a lack of sleep all together, can also increase your risk of injury/illness. A scientific study conducted in 2016 found that young athletes who slept, on average, less than 8 hours per night increased their risk of injury by 1.7 times when compared to those athletes who slept more than 8 hours per night. As the athletes got older, each additional year increased their risk of injury by 1.4. This showed that getting your solid 8 hours of sleep per night was vital to contributing to keeping you on the pitch and doing what you do best. 

Sleep and Session Recovery

Poor sleep has shown to decrease our mental ability to perform at our best on the pitch, as well as increase our risk of injury. So how does it affect our ability to physically recover from tough training sessions and matches and prepare for those mentally gruelling double sessions? A study conducted in 2018 showed that extending your sleep beyond 8 hours (sleeping slightly longer each night, or napping up to 2 hours post-training) can enhance physical performance, reduce stress levels and reduce perceived fatigue associated with training.

Training times and sleep

Have you ever felt better when you train in the morning, but feel tired and lethargic after training in the afternoon/evening? You might be a “morning-type chronotype”. Morning-type chronotypes experience poorer sleep quality when performing HIIT training in the evening when compared to evening-type chronotypes. No change in sleep quality was experienced in either group when the HIIT sessions were conducted in the morning. Therefore it is important to know which chronotype you belong to and plan your additional training sessions at the right time.

Night-time games have been shown to radically impair our ability to get a good night’s rest when compared to day-time games. In a study conducted on elite football players, a decrease in sleep duration of up to 3 hours was reported following night-time games. While the scheduling of fixtures may be out of our control, it is important to plan ahead and put the correct measures in place to counteract the negative effects associated with night-time fixtures.

Bad Influences on Good Sleep Hygiene

We know that poor sleep quality can have a majorly negative effect on our on-field performance. But what kind of external factors can have a negative effect on our sleep quality? Understanding what helps us sleep peacefully, or prevents us from getting the some quality rest, can help us prevent the negative side-effects and improve on our recovery.

· Electronic Devices

Studies have shown that the using self-luminating electronic devices prior to sleeping can suppress the level of melatonin being produced in your body by up to 22% and thereby delay sleep and even reduce the amount of sleep you need.

· Long-haul travel to and from competitions

Long hours of travel impair your ability to sleep properly. Interestingly, traveling eastward has the greatest negative effect on sleep quality following a long-haul flight.

· Anxiety

Anxiety can have a detrimental effect on your quality of the sleep. Match nerves can play on your ability to fall asleep and get those much needed 8 hours of shut eye.

· Environment

A hot, bright environment can also negatively affect your ability to sleep. Maintaining a sleep-supporting environment is key. Still to this day I must sleep with a cool fan on my body.

Make sure there are no disruptive noises that will prevent you from falling asleep or may wake you up.

· If you have access to central heating/cooling, ensure your room remains at a constant 18 degrees Celsius (64-65 degrees Fahrenheit) 

· Establish a consistent sleep routine by getting into bed at a specific time each night, ensuring you are relaxed and wake up at a consistent time to get your 8 hours of rest.

· Avoid ingesting any caffeine or food before you head to bed (except for power naps)

· Don’t use your electronic devices for up to 30 minutes prior to sleeping.

· If you need a power nap to recharge, avoid doing so after midday.

· Ensure your room is completely dark (i.e. blackout curtains) and remove any light-generating items.

Get your rest your body and mind will thank you later.


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