The Importance of Sleep

e5f8987028d3f1f97fea26f7e1f2d4b9Ok, I admit it. One of my husband’s pet names for me is “Sloth”. Simply because I really love sleeping! However, sleep isn’t just an enjoyable activity, it’s also an important part of recovery. So this blog is going to look at why it’s important, how it can help your jits and how to ensure you maximise your recovery time through sleep.

It’s pretty much accepted that a lack of sleep isn’t a good thing. Other than feeling really grumpy and miserable in the short term overall effects on health include diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, poor mental health and an increased possibility of obesity (1). It also is a key part of healing supporting the immune system and playing a major role in healing muscle damage (2).

Doggy dreamsResearch into sleep has become a key area for some Sports Scientists in order to get the marginal gains needed to succeed at elite level sport. British Cycling and several Premier League teams have hired a Sleep coach to help try and maximise rest and recovery (3). In terms of performance generally sleep deprivation has been proven to affect reaction times, speed, power output, injury occurrence and mental processing (4 & 5). All of which are important for BJJ.

So what about grappling specific information? Well, unsurprising research into grappling and sleep is limited but there were some studies done on judokas. It looked not just at deprivation but also when it occurred.  Firstly and unsurprisingly athlete were stronger without sleep deprivation throughout the day than those who were deprived. Secondly, sleep deprivation was found to mirror the effects of actually participating in competition not only that but when you got your sleep mattered as well. Athletes who slept earlier in the morning and were woke up early suffered even worse. Performing particularly bad as the day went on which is pretty much common sense but reinforces the importance of trying to rest and relax particularly when you’re scheduled for later in the day (6).

So how can you ensure you maximise your sleep and therefore your recovery and performance? For me it falls into three key areas:

  • Sleep Hygiene – It’s all about the planning – keeping a regular schedule, blackout curtains, setting your alarm, relaxing before bedtime, reducing caffeine before the evening and avoid foods that might disrupt your sleep. It’s also important to sort out your post-training routine as it’s all too easy to stay up late following a great session. The national sleep foundation has more information on basic sleep hygiene (7).
  • Sleep Tracking – I use a free sleep tracker on my phone. You can get more accurate readings from wearable devices but I’ve found using a free app such as Sleep Better does give me a rough guide to my sleep quality and can flag up when I’m not getting nap-effectively-1as much deep sleep as my body likes! It’s definitely a starting point.
  • The Power of Naps – Naps aren’t a magical solution but they can help and are rather enjoyable! I don’t get to nap as often as I would like but it’s an important tool to overcome tiredness. The best napping protocol does vary from person to person but this article outlines napping styles and some of the significant benefits (8).

This blog is a whistle-stop tour on the topic of sleep and recovery and probably one that I’ll touch on further in a later blog. But in the meantime, I hope you find this article and further reading useful. Until the next time happy sleeping!

Further Reading

    1.  How does inadequate sleep affect health?
    2.  Why Does Sleep Help Muscle Injury Recovery?
    3.  Premier League teams employ sleep experts to avoid slipping into slumber
    4.  6 Ways sleep impacts peak athletic performance  
    5.  Sleep & Athletes
    6.  How Sleep Deprivation Affects Athletic Performance
    7.  What is Sleep Hygiene?
    8.  Daytime Napping Improves Performance

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