Why sleep is so important for your health as a professional footballer

Why sleep is so important for your health as a professional footballer

In 2017, neuroscientist and psychologist Matthew Walker published a landmark book titled Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams.

In it, Walker outlines and explains the importance of a good night’s sleep for both mind and body, and why getting enough shut-eye (at least 7 hours a night) is vital for your health.

As a professional footballer, keeping your body in tip-top condition is paramount to your success on the field.

So, find out why sleep is so important for you, as well as a few tips for improving your night-time routine.

Improved athletic performance from a good night’s sleep

Firstly, and most crucially for you as a professional footballer, good sleep has been linked to improved athletic performance.

Multiple studies collated by SleepFoundation.org show that increasing the quality and quantity of your sleep is associated with improved performance in a variety of key areas.

From on-field accuracy in basketball players and tennis players to reaction times for divers, as well as increased mood and wellbeing, research shows an improvement in performance for athletes in various sports.

Meanwhile, a lack of sleep has been shown to:

  • Increase exhaustion
  • Inhibit athletic ability by reducing sprint times
  • Decrease accuracy and reaction time
  • Decrease your ability to learn and make decisions.

So, by treating sleep as a priority, you might be giving yourself the best chance of performing at your top level.

Gives your body a chance to recharge

As well as improving performance, evidence shows that sleep can reduce your risk of illness and injury.

Sleepfoundation.org note that sleep allows your heart to rest, and cells and tissue to repair. Similarly, it promotes production of cytokines, helping your immune system to keep infections away, or fight them if you’re sick.

Matthew Walker notes similar benefits in his introduction article for Masterclass, citing that non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep can help you to physically heal, deal with stress, solve problems, and recover from illness.

Staying fit and healthy is a high priority for every player. That feeling of recharging your batteries after a good night’s sleep is not just theoretical; it’s your body physically recovering and repairing itself.

Benefits for your mental and muscle memory

So much of the modern game is won off the field before matches even start, with both the technical analysis your coaches will show you and the sheer amount of time you spend on the training field or in the gym.

Fortunately, sleeping well can improve your ability to function on both levels. In his Masterclass article, Walker explains that rapid eye movement (REM) sleep improves recall and memory consolidation.

This could be hugely valuable on the field when you’re trying to remember what the coaching staff asked you to do in the week leading up to a game.

This extends to muscle memory, too. Your brain is quicker to recall “motor learning” that you’ve done during the day after sleeping, meaning the skills you were working on in drills are more likely to come back to you.

These little things could be the difference between winning and losing matches.

3 simple changes that could help you improve your sleeping habits

The importance of good sleep and the risks of poor slumber could directly affect your career.

Fortunately, there are things you can do that might help you to sleep better. Here are just three simple changes you can make that might improve your sleeping habits.

1. Create a regular sleeping pattern

Firstly, try to have a regular sleeping pattern and stick to it as much as possible.

We all have an internal body clock known as a “circadian rhythm”, which regulates your time spent awake and asleep.

Waking up at a similar time and having a set cut-off for going to bed can encourage this body clock to naturally make you feel awake and drowsy at the most optimum times for you.

2. Make sure your sleeping circumstances are optimal

Next, you can use methods to optimise your sleeping circumstances and environment. This starts during the day, avoiding caffeine in the afternoon and also limiting how much alcohol you consume before you go to bed.

Consider making your bedroom a bit cooler, too. In Why We Sleep, Walker explains that a cooler temperature can help you to sleep, so having a hot bath or shower and then going to bed in a cool, well-ventilated room could be useful.

You should also avoid your phone for at least an hour before bed. According to SleepFoundation.org, the blue light emitted from your phone can stimulate your brain in a similar way to sunlight, while also suppressing melatonin, a hormone that can make you feel drowsy.

Consider switching your phone off an hour before you go to sleep, or even keeping it in another room so you aren’t tempted to scroll in bed.

3. Get up and do something else if you can’t sleep

If you can’t sleep, the temptation can be to lie there and wait until you drift off. But actually, experts now recommend that you get up and try doing another activity instead.

You could try sitting up and doing something light such as reading a book, or getting up and moving around for a few minutes.

Ideally you should not use your phone for this. Just as you should avoid using it too much before bed, try to resist the temptation to scroll on social media, as this can make you feel more alert and wake you up.

Work with us

One thing that shouldn’t be keeping you up at night is worrying about your financial future.

So, if you’d like help achieving complete peace of mind with your money, please do speak to us at ProSport.

Email enquiries@prosportwealth.co.uk or call 01204 602909 to find out more.