Ever had to play an important match the day after you’ve not slept very well? Yeah, it sucks.
Professional athletes know how important sleep is to their success and they treat it with the utmost respect and importance. They prioritise their sleep and take steps to ensure they sleep for long enough and most importantly - make sure they get a good enough quality of sleep.
A key factor in being a successful goalkeeper is your ability to stay focussed on the game and be able to predict when the shot is going to come at you and where. You need to be on top of your game and, preferably, wide awake.
Getting a bad night’s sleep can throw your whole game completely off. Sometimes, there’s nothing you can do about it - some nights you are going to get terrible sleep no matter what you try. But most of the time there are things you can do to ensure that you get all the rest you need to perform at your highest level.
Avoid caffeine like the plague - Caffeine is the enemy of sleep. If you have trouble sleeping the first thing you need to do is cut caffeine out completely. Even in the mornings. When you drink caffeine regularly your body builds up a reliance to it and eventually you won’t feel right without it. Once you cut it out, your body will eventually go back to its normal rhythm and will naturally provide you all the energy you need (provided you also eat right).
Turn off the screens! - The blue light emitted by electronic screens can disrupt your bodies ability to produce melatonin - the chemical that makes you feel tired and sends you to sleep. You need to shut off any screens at least an hour before bed. Try reading an actual book before bed and you’ll sleep like a baby. I prefer fiction as it allows my brain to rest and not have to think too heavily. I also leave my phone outside of the bedroom so that there’s no risk of temptation and as such getting a dose of blue light just as I’m about to drop off.
Don’t eat too late at night - Eating too late at night can disrupt your ability to get to sleep. Your body is too busy digesting all that delicious (and healthy...) food that you just devoured. This can make it difficult to fall asleep and also to get the quality of sleep that you need to feel rested for the next day. Allow at least 2 hours for digestion before you hit the hay.
Perfect your sleep environment - Your mattress is super important to getting a good night’s rest. You’re supposed to change it every 5-7 years. But I bet yours is older than that, right? Is it time to get a new one? Test a few different ones out and find the comfiest one for you. Too soft or too hard can cause back problems so bear that in mind. Also consider getting blackout blinds for your windows to eliminate any light pollution from the outside world. You probably don’t think it makes a difference, but it does.
Relax your mind - We’ve all spent nights lying awake worrying about stupid things that we have no control over. The best thing you can do for your body is to relax and try not to stress about things too much. If that’s too hard, try meditating using an app such as headspace. This is a great way to clear your thoughts and relieve the worries of day to day life. Trust me, you’ll thank me for this one when you’re sleeping like a baby!
Avoid alcohol - If you’re old enough to drink, don’t drink before an important match or training session. In fact, consider dropping alcohol altogether (a big ask, I know) or as an occasional treat. Your body will love you for it - and you’ll feel so much better. When it comes to sleep though, whilst alcohol will knock you out for the count - you’ll get terrible quality of sleep and you won’t feel rested the next morning. Add that to a nasty hangover and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
Most people underestimate the importance of sleep. Don’t make that mistake and take the necessary steps to ensure that your body is getting all the rest and recuperation it needs to allow you to grow stronger, faster and more mentally prepared for when the shot comes your way.