With travelling between countries as a performance coach for USA7s team, I can never seem to get used to jet lag and lack of sleep. Sleep is one thing I have a fleeting relationship with when at training camps because my day can often start at 4 a.m. and not finish until around 10 p.m. I do ponder that this is similar to most parents of young children, except that I do have a finish time!
In sport, and life in fact, sleep is crucial to our wellbeing and recovery. From a scientific perspective we still do not fully understand the importance to humans. We just know it makes a huge difference to all of our systems.
Good Quality Sleep is Vital
In rugby we use sleep as the primary recovery tool for our players. It is during this time that the body and mind repairs itself. There is a process of detoxification and sleep allows us to reboot our energy systems and grow. I think we can all be guilty of overlooking sleep or not taking it seriously as a crucial part of a training regime. This can be due to the reality of how busy our lives can be, especially if you are an athlete and hold down a busy career too. This hectic period can prevent us from getting enough sleep, but these busy periods are exactly the times we should be striving and disciplined. Having high quality sleep will allow ourselves to function properly. Sleep, or lack of, impacts all aspects of our lives, work, home and health. We always encourage players to switch off and have no electronics prior to bed as this stimulates our brains and doesn’t allow us to fully shut down. The knock-on effect to this is disturbed sleep, which means that the brain does not complete the full complement of sleep cycles it needs to fully benefit. USA7s players use relaxation techniques prior to bed such as reading, meditation and breathing exercises. These are all effective methods so test out which work best for you. Evening visits to the gym or classes such as Yoga can help too. See what is available local to you and give them a try.
Cortisol Levels are Affected
The consequences of poor quality or lack of sleep is increased cortisol levels (stress hormone), increased muscle wastage, fat storage, memory loss, mood swings, poor coordination and decision making and risk of injury to name but a few. Aim for a good 6-8+ hours of sleep every night to allow your body to restore itself and to protect vital organ functions.
Get the most out of yourself by giving sleep the respect it deserves as a recovery technique!