Guest writer Christine J. Jones, a researcher at Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine Center, is back to show The Football Educator how players can survive the rigors of preseason Training Camp (College or Pro).
What To Do Now: Preparing For Preparation
Training camp is a grueling preseason preparation vital for achieving peak performance during the season. The key to making training camp a success is not just surviving multiple intense workouts a day for several weeks, but thriving and growing from them. This success depends on several measures that are in the hands of the player.
Sleep is one of those crucial keys. While sleep often does not come to mind as a preparation tool, it is potentially one of the most important and easiest provisions to capitalize upon. A few days to a week before camp begins, start extending nightly sleep. Prioritize sleeping longer.
More sleep can be accomplished by either going to bed earlier or sleeping later. Either method is effective but syncing pre-training camp wake time with expected wake time during training camp is ideal. Ways to entrain a new sleep schedule include using light exposure, food, and exercise.
Once adjusted to the new schedule, keep it consistent and sleep debt from the previous week can gradually be eliminated. Improved concentration, memory, mood, and reduced daytime sleepiness are some of the benefits to look forward to.
During Training Camp: Nap For Energy
A strategy to help the body and mind recover between training sessions is a quick nap. A 30-minute nap mid-day can help boost energy levels and reduce daytime sleepiness in anticipation for the second training session. Some teams are setting up rooms for this exact purpose. If your team doesn’t have a recovery room, find a quiet, comfortable, dark space to rest in around lunchtime. Set an alarm for 30-minutes and recline to as level a position as possible.
Avoid the risk of waking up groggy from a deeper stage of sleep by keeping the nap short. Taking a nap during the same time of day each day also helps the body anticipate sleep and adjust accordingly. Extending total sleep time has been shown in research to improve reaction time among other performance measures.
Our recent research has found that the most successful young football athletes take naps and have longer total sleep time than their peers. Immediate effects that can be measured may include sharper, quicker responses to afternoon drills!
To Keep In Mind: Vigorous Exercise Impacts Sleep
Feeling stressed about sleep problems can be doubly detrimental. Worrying about sleep frequently results in apprehension at bedtime and in turn insomnia or delayed sleep onset. Avoid this trap and instead, turn attention towards improving sleep hygiene.
Intense exercise can increase core body temperature hours after a workout. Turn up the air conditioning and keep cool during the night by wearing clothing made of breathable material like cotton. Remove heavy, warm bedding and comforters. If you find yourself searching for the cool side of the pillow, don’t be afraid to get creative. Roll pillowcases and/or hand-towels and place them in a plastic bag in the freezer and take them out for use at bedtime. There are also many commercial products available that can help maintain a very cold sleeping environment.
These extra steps to procure as much quality sleep as possible are worth the time. The benefits will be visible from now through the end of the season.