Improve Your Sleep For Rugby Players: Our 5 Top Tips

We always hear that sleep is important but we often just pay it lip service! In this article we show relevant research highlighting the negative effects of impaired sleep and then give you 5 tips to improve your sleep so you are crushing PRs in the gym and dominating the opposition on the rugby field!

Effects of Sleep Deprivation

Increased Risk of Infection

Nobody likes man flu! And research shows the less sleep you get the higher the chance of picking up an infection. In fact those who sleep less than 5 hours per night are 4.5 times more likely to have a cold than those who sleep 7 hours. Obviously you don’t want to catch anything because it prevents you from training and if you’ve read much of our work at Rugby Renegade you will know how important consistency is for your training in the gym and on the pitch.

Reference: Behaviourally Assessed Sleep and Susceptibility to the Common Cold by Prathger et al. in Sleep September 2015

Increased Risk of Injury

Yes we all hate injuries. They are the enemy of gains and can ruin your season or even career. And no matter how much injury prevention work you do if you’re not sleeping enough you will still be at a greater risk. Research has shown that athletes who sleep on average less than 8 hours per night have 1.7 times greater risk of being injured than those who sleep greater than 8 hours. So it sound like when it comes to sleep more is more!!

Reference: Chronic Lack of Sleep is Associated With Increased Sports Injuries in Adolescent Athletes by Milewski et al. in J Pediatr Orthop 2014

So hopefully we’ve highlighted why getting enough sleep is important and some of the science behind it so now your begging to know how to get more and better sleep?! Well here’s 5 tips to do just that:

1 Dark Room!

Make sure your bedroom is completely dark. There can be no light coming through the curtains and no electrical devices on that emit any form of light. That means no night light anymore! This is a throwback from our hunter gatherer ancestors as your body responds to light as if the sun is rising and you need to get up and about to avoid being eaten by a cougar! Get yourself some decent curtains and switch off any electronics.

2 Same Sleep/Wake Time

Your body loves routines and patterns, so if you wake and go to sleep at different times it finds it difficult to adjust and thus bad sleep is the result. Get into the practice of going to sleep at the same time and waking up at the same time everyday and eventually you’ll find it easy to get off when you want to. If you want to have a lie in every now and then still get up at the same time but only for a short while and then go back to bed for a nap.

3 Don’t Use Electronic Devices in the Last Hour Before Bed

We already know that the light from phones and ipads are a no no when trying to sleep but even using them in the last hour before bed is disruptive to your sleep. It’s not just the light but the effect they have on your nervous system and various hormones that get stimulated by their use. 1 hour before your set sleep time (see last point!) put your smartphone down and try something to unwind. Good options are reading, stretching and/or a bath. At least get one of those apps or adjust the brightness of your screens. (we know in this day and age this is probably the hardest bit of advice for you to take!)

4 Napping No Later Than Mid Afternoon

Naps are a great way to top up your sleep hours but don’t over do them or they will make it harder for you to get to sleep at night. Aim to have your naps earlier in the day if possible and use 2pm as a cut off time.

Listen to our Podcast with The Sports Sleep Coach

5 Avoid Caffeine

Caffeine is an awesome supplement to improve rugby performance but we’ve all experienced the effects it has when struggling to sleep after an evening kick off! Caffeine obviously boosts alertness and will keep you awake longer. So it’s common sense to minimise caffeine consumption in the afternoon so as to get a restful nights sleep.

Wrap Up

So if you want to prevent injuries, reduce illness and therefore improve training and performance you must optimise your sleep. Try out these strategies and you will soon be sleeping like a baby. A big, explosive physical baby!!

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