Sleep for the Win

There’s a famous principle in boxing that goes like this: “train hard, fight easy.” And it’s a mantra that can easily be related to other sports, too. Between putting in those gruelling hours in training and stepping out onto the tennis court, there's a window of time where nothing else can be done. Or can it? Today we're talking about the importance of sleep.

The one and only Roger Federer prioritises not just training well, but sleeping well too. Inspired by this, today we're getting serious about snoozing- particularly that final night’s rest before a big match. What follows are 4 tips we can all use to get the best night's sleep possible. With them you can be at your best on court the following day.

Tip 1: Think in sleep cycles, not in hours

Sure, it’s important to get a decent number of hours sleep. But it’s equally important that you are mindful of your body’s natural sleeping rhythms. One sleep cycle lasts 90 minutes, and to get an optimal 5 cycles of sleep in the night, you need to sleep for 7.5 hours, safely waking up at the end of the fifth cycle.

Therefore, if you want to wake up at 06.30 and get 7.5 hours of solid sleep, you should be falling asleep (not going to bed) at 23.00. Taking a scientific approach to the hours and cycles you can fit in will encourage you to wake up naturally and feeling fresh. Waking up before or after that time will mean interrupting a sleep cycle, which makes waking up more exhausting than it needs to be.

Tip 2: Get lots of natural light during the day

Getting exposure to sunlight is another way to keep your body in rhythm. Reminding your mind that it's daytime will make it easier for you to switch off later in preparation for sleep. Sunlight also increases the production of serotonin, which will help you relax. There are plenty of ways to spend some of your day outdoors without physically exerting yourself or risking injury. Going for a walk is one fantastic way to relax, shake off that nervous energy and get plenty of exposure to fresh air and sunlight.

Tip 3: Don’t drink too much, do drink the right stuff

This one should be obvious. If you want to have a solid, uninterrupted 7.5 or 9 hours of sleep, the last thing you need is to be getting up to use the toilet.

During the day, aim to stay well hydrated. That means not packing in loads of liquid right before you head to bed.

In terms of what you drink, caffeine and stimulants are okay in moderation during the morning, but best avoided after midday. The half-life of caffeine is about 5 and half hours. So to be safe, avoid coffee or caffeinated products after around 12-1 o’clock.

Use the same caution with sugary drinks. A great alternative in the evening is warm milk or a herbal tea - anything like this can help you get sleepy before bed without giving you a buzz for the rest of the night.

Tip 4: Create a relaxing bedtime ritual

There's a reason why scientists think we have a sleep epidemic going around. The world is now more full of distractions and things to do than ever before, and unfortunately, they aren't conducive to a good night's sleep. Your best bet is to create a relaxing bedtime routine and stick to it. Especially if you want to perform on court the next day. 

Around 90 minutes before going to bed, begin to wind down. You should have already eaten your last meal and drunk your last proper drink by then. Now is the time to put away your devices and give your mind a rest.

Blue light waves from electronics have been shown to suppress the production of melatonin in your brain and upset your body’s circadian rhythm. If you cannot avoid looking at a screen (which is silly, everyone can), make sure you switch it onto night-time mode.

You might also want to have a warm bath or find other ways of signalling to your body and your mind that it’s time for bed. Keeping your bedroom peaceful, uncluttered and relaxing is an easy way to create calm so that sleep arrives naturally. So light those candles and hit play on your Michael Buble album!

Final thoughts

On the eve of a big game or tennis tournament, don’t be fooled into thinking there is nothing more you can do to prepare in the last 24 hours. Instead, use the time you have left to stay relaxed and prepare for a good night’s sleep. If you follow the tips above, you’ll give yourself the best opportunity to compete at your best level on the tennis court. 

Already a master of sleep? Maybe you just need some tennis training instead? Have a look through the Top4Tennis services to see if there's a class or service that's right for you.