When rugby players refer to pre-match preparation, they usually talk about diet and training; however, there is one more crucial element that many overlook – rest.
Numerous studies have shown that athletes who incorporate sleep as a pre-match requirement have an improved pace, accuracy and reaction time.
How does this work?
While sleep is often thought of in terms of tiredness and rest, it is also an energy contributor to our brains and bodies. So instead of thinking of sleep in terms of recovery, think of it as an energy producer.
Sleep is also key for muscle and mental memory repair and association, and hormone release; which are all factors to sports performance.
Do you stay up late at night or think that your youth means that sleep isn’t important? Here are a few issues that a lack of sleep may cause.
- Increased levels of cortisol (the stress hormone).
- Less growth hormone release – impacting on muscle recovery and strength.
- Decreased production of glycogen and carbohydrates (for energy) that are stored for exercise.
- A lack of mental stamina – focus, decision-making and information processing.
The result of these reactions to sleep deprivation result in tiredness, a lack of energy and poor concentration during your game.
How much sleep should I be getting?
The average person, who isn’t involved in major athletic performance, needs seven to nine hours of sleep every night. As an athlete, you need another hour of sleep.
It can be difficult to sleep for a solid eight to 10 hours at night, particularly if you are a light sleeper. We suggest making the most of your time after practice, before homework and dinnertime. Take an afternoon nap for an hour, where you can, to revitalise your physical and mental energy.
- The key to getting enough sleep is routine. Go to bed an hour earlier before a game to allow time to cater for pre-match anxiety and insomnia.
- Before you sleep, make sure that the room is dark, cool and that your phone is far away from you.
- Take deep breaths and slow down your thinking.
- Avoid eating meals too close to bedtime.
- Run a hot bath for a quality sleep.