Sleep is important for sporting recovery and performance

Sleep tips for netballersDo you want to recover better between games, and perform at your best? Sleep is a secret weapon for athletes, with those who prioritise sleep getting better performance and recovery. Sleep is an important part of any athletes training program, particularly for fast, high intensity games like netball that requires high levels of fitness and accuracy with passing and shooting. So make sleep a key part of your training routine and perform at your best. Here are some tips and facts about sleep to help

Interesting sleep facts

  • Elite athletes like Usain Bolt and Venus Williams recognise the importance of sleep and make sleep an important part of their training routine.
  • Getting enough sleep can be a challenge for athletes, so many make napping their secret weapon for recovery. Australian swimmer Cate Campbell, and US 3-time volleyball gold medalist, Kerri Walsh Jennings both schedule naps in to their day.
  • Waking at night is a normal part of sleep. In fact, until the 1700s, most people slept for 3-4 hours after the sun went down, were then awake for a few hours during the night, then had some lighter sleep until the sun came up.

Sleep is essential preparing for a game

Getting good sleep is important for athletes to perform at their best.  Athletes that are not well rested or are sleep deprived have reduced performance and recovery.  However, it can be hard to get extra sleep on the night before an important game as it is normal to be somewhat nervous and excited anticipating an important game.  Therefore, it is more important to ensure adequate sleep in the days leading up to a game rather than be overly focused on the night immediately before an important game.

Sleep is essential for recovering from a game

Sleep tips for netballersGood sleep is an important part of recovery after physical exertion and injury.  It can be hard to get to sleep after games late at night because of the stimulation involved in exercise and excitement of competition. So, although sleep is important, don’t try to go to bed too soon after a game or exertion. You have to allow enough time for your mind and body to calm down after the intensity of a game or exercise. Aim to sleep a little later the following day to allow more time for rest. “Sleep in and win” is the way to making sure you get recovery sleep after a game.

What if I can’t get to sleep?

If you can’t get to sleep, the key is to not worry about sleep.  It is a difficult balance because sleep is important but if we get too caught up in the importance of sleep we can put pressure on ourselves and make it even harder to sleep. Here are some tips you can try:

  • Do not go to bed unless you are feeling tired even if you feel that you wish to go to sleep to get adequate amounts of sleep, unless you are actually feeling sleepy it is unlikely sleep will occur.
  • If you are awake during the night and finding it hard to get back to sleep, you need to break that cycle. Get out of bed and doing something quiet like reading to clear your head and get back to bed when you feel sleepy.
  • Relaxation and meditation techniques are helpful to reduce anxiety and tension that can get in the way of sleep.  Try not to do them in bed, so if you’re not sleeping, get out of bed, go to a quiet restful place and meditate or relax until you feel sleepy and then return to bed.
  • Don’t lay in bed worrying about the impact of not sleeping on your game the next day.  You can be reassured that athletes, even a poor night’s sleep prior to the game will perform well, as long as they have had adequate rest and recovery in the days leading up to the game.  Reminding yourself of this helps take the pressure off sleep and people can often find that it helps them get back to sleep.

Is too much sleep bad for me on game day?

There’s almost no time where too much sleep is bad for athletes. One exception to that is waking up from a long sleep or nap (more than 45 minutes) too close to game time. It can take 1-2 hours to reach peak alertness after a long sleep or nap. So as long as you make sure you’re not sleeping too close to game time, don’t worry that too much sleep will impact your performance. In fact, sleeping in and napping are great strategies for athletes to ensure they are adequately rested and catch up on sleep that they may miss at other times.

What are the positive and negative effects of napping?

Napping is a great strategy for athletes, who are often a little short on sleep, to catch up on sleep.  Even napping on game day can be helpful but on match day it is important to ensure that naps are not too long, so keep them less than 45 minutes and at least 2 hours before game time, as waking from naps may cause some carry over sleepiness that can take time to clear.  On heavy training days, napping is a really nice way of catching up on sleep and also restoring energy.

One of the Australian olympic swimmers, Cate Campbell, describes herself as “an aggressive napper”, meaning she takes every opportunity she can to nap and catch up on sleep. Cate is a good example of an athlete who uses napping to boost recovery after exertion and during swim meets.

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Need more information about how you can sleep better?

At Sleephub we understand the struggle people endure with sleeping problems which is why we have created a comprehensive FAQs page with information for those seeking information about sleep disorders and potential solutions.

Check our resources or take our Sleep Wellness Quiz for a free assessment of elements that may be keeping you from a good night’s sleep.

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