Poor sleep quality will take a toll in soccer players' performance on the field. Studies show that the accuracy of shots decreases 9% after a poor night of sleep, and the average sprinting speed decreases by 1' per second. In spite of this, it isn't uncommon for athletes to suffer from poor quality sleep, especially before a big match. Training schedules and rotating match times are among the main culprits. But sleep patterns can become even worse when athletes are on the road or traveling with the team, especially if flying across many time zones. This is because the added stress and adjustment to the time change will be likely to disturb sleep patterns. As you take to the road, here are some insights into improving your sleep quality while away from home.
Battling the effects of jet lag
Jet lag is a sleep disorder caused by the sudden change in time zone. Its main symptoms include fatigue, digestive problems and difficulty concentrating. All of these will negatively affect a player's performance, but jet lag itself is unavoidable when crossing many time zones in one day. Instead, athletes can take some measures before and after the flight to mitigate the effects of jet lag. A couple of days before the trip, you should regularly change the time you go to sleep and wake up in order to synchronize with the destination's time zone. Before and while traveling, heavy meals, caffeine and alcohol should be avoided. Once in the hotel or boarding facility, poor sleep is expected because you will find yourself in a new environment. Bringing along personal belongings, a sleep spray or even your own pillow will make a big difference. Anything that makes the room feel more familiar and comfortable will help you sleep better while you are away.
Good nutrition will also improve your sleep
Any soccer player knows how important good nutrition is for athletic performance. However, few are aware of how food they eat can affect their sleeping patterns. After all, the disturbance of the sleep-wake cycle is behind most of the negative symptoms of jet lag. Avoiding some foods and increasing the intake of others will help the body adjust better and faster to the new time zone. Jet lag puts metabolism under added pressure, which can impair energy release and recovery, appetite and even protein synthesis.
In order to help our body adapt to the new time zone, food that promotes sleep regulation should be present in our meals. These have chemicals that improve the sleep function in our brains. Carbohydrate, tryptophan, valerian and melatonin are among the best alimentary sleep inducers.
The effects of jet lag and sleep disturbances during sports tours should never be underestimated. At least eight hours of good quality sleep are needed every night to keep your performance at its best. Minding sleep hygiene and taking steps to gradually synchronize your sleep-wake cycle with the new time zone will make a world of a difference - and this might even be the key in your team's morale and the results of your upcoming matches.