Six tips to help optimise sleep and recovery

coaching philosophy Nov 16, 2020

By Callum Metcher

When it comes to an athlete’s recovery there is nothing more important than sleep. Sleep makes up around one-third of an athlete’s schedule so if you’re looking to optimise your performance then sleep is one thing you’ll want to get right. This article is going to give you some quick tips and helpful hints when it comes to improving your sleep. With that said, if you’ve got the best forehand on the court but no string in your racket, it’s going to be a tough ask to bring home the trophy. So, if you believe your sleep-patterns require more attention it’s always best to touch base with your doctor.

Keep it Regular

Our bodies expect and perform best under regularity. We all have an internal body clock that regulates our circadian rhythms. One of these circadian rhythms is our sleep-wake cycle. When we properly align our sleep-wake cycle we prepare our body for increased activity during the day and restorative rest at night. To put it simply, the only routine more consistent than your sleep-wake cycle should be the geographical coordinates of Rafa’s drink bottles.

Keep it Dark

Now this one may seem obvious but keep your room dark. Why Dark? The answer - Melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that gets us feeling sleepy and continues transmitting signals that help us stay asleep. Just like the light hitting our eyes in the morning send our brain signals that generate alertness, we need darkness to generate Melatonin.

So please, dim the lights and close the blinds, we’re trying to set the mood here.

Keep it Cool

It just so happens your body needs to drop its core temperature by about 1 degree to initiate sleep and then stay asleep. To ensure the rules of my house align with science, I personally have implemented a “naked only” sleeping policy – effective immediately. With that said, for those who prefer to maintain good relationships with their neighbours, here are a few more conservative tips:

  1. Aim to keep your room temperature 18 degrees Celsius (65 degrees Fahrenheit).
  2. Stick your feet out 
    • This will cool your body as we lose a lot of heat through our hand head and feet.
  1. Open a window
  2. Drink water before bed 
    • Water acts as a cooling agent and we lose fluid though our breath and skin throughout the night. But remember, to much water and you’ll know about it.

Sleep is such an important part of a tennis player's schedule

7-9 hours is the sweet spot

Getting the right amount of sleep is crucial to performing at your peak. Sleep provides vital adaptation time for the body to recover physically, emotionally and neurologically. Sleep is also incredibly important to maintain a healthy functioning immune system. A healthy sleep schedule allows for 7-9hrs of sleep. There are a few exceptions, when players are undergoing heavy training loads or sickness this number can be extended to around 10hrs. Keep in mind, this is not a case of 'more is better' as oversleeping can cause similar symptoms of tiredness.

Catching up on sleep

We’re all guilty of missing a few hours here and there. After a late night of travel or socialising with friends, there is always a temptation to catch-up on those precious hours lost. However, oversleeping can cause excessive levels of Melatonin which can also leave you feeling tired and lethargic. To avoid symptoms of oversleeping after a late night you should limit sleeping-ins to no more than 1-2hrs more than your regular sleep pattern.

Napping

Who doesn’t love a good afternoon nap? As it turns out afternoon napping (or siesta) can often be a beneficial addition to a person’s day. 

The key to napping? Keep it short. 

A 15-30min nap can have a positive effect on levels of alertness, perception and performance but long naps can result in feeling sluggish, groggy and a lack of energy. Therefore, to ensure we are all napping responsibly, best to set that alarm!

And there we have it! 6 tips to optimise your sleep schedule. If you’ve fallen asleep while reading this article, then perfect, I only ask you reserve me a front row seat at the trophy ceremony of your next grand slam. If you’re still awake, then remember these few tips…

Do This:

  • Go to sleep and wake-up at the same time every day.
  • Keep your room dark.
  • Keep your room cool (18 Degrees Celsius/65 Fahrenheit).
  • Get 7-9hrs of sleep (Up to 10 for growing adolescence)
  • When catching up on sleep no more than 1-2hrs more than normal.
  • Have a nap, but keep it short (15-30min).

Callum Metcher is a professional tennis coach

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