As an athlete, you’re probably aware of the importance of your daily schedule and its impact on your overall scores and endurance.
Sleep is a crucial part of your day, as your body needs it to restore energy and recover. Unfortunately, many soccer players do not get the desired amount and quality of sleep because of an inconsistent tournament schedule.
If you’re one of them, worry not. Here are five tips that will help you sleep like a champ so that you could score better in your sports life.
#1 Stick to a Solid Schedule
Okay, you already have a schedule. But when it comes to sleep, you need to be as strict as possible. A BioMed Central report shows that irregular bedtime can be linked to excessive daytime sleepiness, concentration loss, and fatigue — and none of this contributes to an excellent athletic performance.
So, most young and older adults typically need 7-9 hours of sleep per night to feel rested. This means that you need to set the proper times to go to bed and wake up so that you could meet this recommendation.
After that, you should try to stick to this schedule no matter what. Even on weekends, when the temptation to pull an all-nighter with friends or stay in a bed for a couple of hours more is huge.
The problem is, your body adapts to the routine very quickly, and even small disruptions can quickly mess with your perfect schedule and make you feel groggy for the next couple of days.
When you don’t rest, you won’t be your best. So, try to avoid unexpected twists in your sleep schedule.
#2 Sleep With Comfort
Another thing that contributes a lot to the quality of your sleep is… your bed. Yes, the quality of your mattress, pillow, and even bedding sheets can affect your sleep quality.
● Mattress. A suitable mattress is the one that maintains a neutral spine position and relaxes your body. For most people without any chronic conditions, a medium-firm mattress will do fine. Here's a review of some popular medium-firm mattresses along with some tips on how to find the right one for yourself.
● Pillow. A pillow is another essential part of your bed, as it supports your cervical region. A proper pillow should be high enough to eliminate any awkward angles so that you won’t wake up with a sore neck.
● Sheets. Synthetic sheets are a huge ‘no’ not only for soccer players but for anyone. They aren’t breathable and accumulate heat, which may lead to sleep disruptions. Instead, opt for natural materials, such as cotton or linen.
“Acupressure mats with a prickly surface can also contribute to deeper sleep. Just lie on them for 10-20 minutes before bedtime, and you will help your muscles relax.”
#3 Limit Caffeine and Alcohol
The next thing you want to do is limit any sleep-affecting substances, mainly alcohol and caffeine.
Despite having an impact on athletic endurance, caffeine can boost your alertness in several ways:
● It blocks adenosine receptors. Adenosine is one of the primary inhibitory neurotransmitters; it builds up in your brain during the day, thereby making you sleepy. A cup of coffee blocks the neural response to adenosine and boosts your energy.
● It has a slight diuretic effect. Frequent visits to the bathroom are the last thing you want if you aim to sleep peacefully through the night.
● It may provoke heartburn. Coffee is acidic, so it can increase the acidity of your gastric juices, and cause acid reflux and heartburn.
Speaking of alcohol, a glass of champagne or a pint of beer to celebrate victory is totally fine. But on a regular basis, alcohol works as a depressant. It might make you sleepy but will reduce the sleep quality by lowering the amount of REM sleep in the second half of the night. This won’t help you sleep better, as REM sleep is considered the most restorative sleep stage, so don’t be surprised if you wake up sluggish after the party.
#4 Avoid Screens Before Bedtime
Gadgets are great when it comes to communication and instant reactions. But they can significantly worsen your sleep:
● phone and laptop screens emit blue light, which is proven to be the inhibitor of melatonin.
● along with that, blue light can adversely impact your eyes and cause tension headaches.
● lastly, blinking notifications and beeping sounds aren’t the best companions for good shut-eye.
So, the best thing you can do is cut off the gadgets at least two hours before bed. Completely. You may even put your phone into another room and set the alarm on a table clock.
#5 Manipulate with Light
Natural sunlight is the most powerful regulator of circadian rhythms. It can boost your energy and switch circadian rhythms, which can be especially helpful when you travel to soccer tournaments in other countries.
Here’s what you can do to achieve better sleep using light:
● Expose yourself to the sun in the morning. Greeting sunrise is an effective yoga practice that will help you wake up and stretch out a bit.
● Use a dawn wake simulator. These devices can come in handy for soccer players that live in northern regions and find it hard to wake up during winter mornings. Dawn wake simulators mimic the sunset and sunrise inside your room so that you could feel the same effects on your body as from the real sunrise.
● Don’t forget about the importance of darkness. Along with the light, darkness is another crucial component to help you fall asleep. Dark surroundings trigger melatonin production and can ease your insomnia in some cases. Invest in blackout curtains or use the good old sleep mask to stimulate melatonin in your body.
You can also use red light exposure to help yourself get better sleep. Unlike the blue specter from the screens, red light may improve sleep quality and can be beneficial for treating jet lag and sleep deprivation, which is common in professional soccer players who travel a lot.