Upgrade your Sleep

Sleep is integral for any grappler wanting to excel on the mat. 

Improved cognitive function, improved performance, better body composition, more energy, better health – the list goes on and on! 

I’ll keep it short and sweet. 


I’m going to lay out exactly how you set up a sleep routine to maximise recovery, increase gainzzzz and optimise performance.


Step 1 – Things to cut down on our out



1. Exposure to a lot of light pre-bed time

Around an hour before you intend to sleep it’s a good idea to cut down on how much light you’re exposed to. Now most of you already will have heard about ‘screen time’ and it is true, excessive exposure to blue light can disrupt sleep – its worth trying to peel that phone or tablet out of your hand a little sooner (even if its in night mode)

But, I’ll go even further – even being in an excessively bright room can potentially disrupt your sleep – bright bedroom or bathroom lights last thing at night should be avoided. 

How to action this – try to make your bedroom (at least at sleep time) a phone free zone (I know its tough you’ll miss a lot of tic toc dances) but if you can leave your phone outside of your bedroom. Once you’ve dimmed the lights, try using a low energy bulb on a smaller lamp to read rather than a main light.


2. Drinking Coffee or alcohol close to bed time

Drinking any highly caffeinated drinks close to bedtime should be a no brainer but often because of training later in the day (back when we were allowed 🙁 ) a lot of grapplers will have energy drinks etc close to sleep. High caffeine or other stimulants close to bed will lead to sleep issues, caffeine has a half life of about 4-6 hours meaning that a coffee close to bed is not a smart idea. Caffeine mainly effects sleep time, efficiency and quality often by disrupting slow wave sleep.

Alcohol although often associated with ‘dropping off quickly’ actually can negatively impact REM sleep and usually interrupts later sleep cycles. 


3. Additional Stress and Anxiety

This can be a tough one, as often when you lie in bed at the end of a day your brain can go into over drive. The body and mind like to be in a ‘safe space’ to sleep – just like an animal nestling in a burrow or den away from predators. They like to be safe, so they can switch off and you do too.

Hopefully, you’re not worried about being eaten by a predator but you may well be worried about bills, your partner, kids or other life stressors. Nah lets be honest – you’re probably more worried that blue belt caught you in a head and arm again!! Again often grappling later in the evening can leave your mind in a heightened state and make sleep tricky. 

A tactic I like to use myself and with clients is to create a list called a brain dump’ before bedtime (not whilst in bed). This is kinda a to do list, but also can contain anything going on in your brain. Getting it down on paper can help get it out of your head temporarily and make you feel like you’ve actioned things. It could be as simple as writing – ‘google a head and arm escape’. The brain dump list serves as an excellent way to clear the mind before sleeping.




Step 2 – Things to increase or introduce 



1. An established routine

Your body likes routine, and a sleep routine is no different. Having a consistent bedtime and wake time will make a huge difference in your sleep quality. 

Simply setting a bedtime that suits your schedule and corresponds well to when you need to get up will help start to ‘signal’ your body that it is time to sleep. Just like you get hungry at certain times, you will also get tired.

Extend this routine with a series of mini-routines like a phone cut off time, final feeding, reading a chapter of a book etc. Taking your body through these various steps and stages will help to prepare your mind for sleep. 


2. Create a ‘sleep cave’

Creating an environment that encourages sleep was a game changer in improving my own sleep quality. The main factors that can help to create a winning sleep cave are darkness, noise reduction and temperature. 

Having an overly light room is not helpful for good sleep, try black out blinds, heavy curtains and no artificial light sources to really make your room dark.

Try reducing the noise in your room (even consider ear plugs) to really help keep disturbances to a minimum (yes there are some practical considerations). 

 Finally, try not to let your room get too hot most research shows 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18.3 degrees Celsius) to be around the ‘perfect’ temperature to encourage sleep. Turning your heating down, using air con or a fan, the type of bedding can all contribute to keeping your room at a temperature to promote quality sleep. 

3. Don’t Power Nap

Power naps can often be a popular idea in grappling circles, and occasionally for athletes with an incredibly demanding schedule they can be useful tools. 

However, for most off us mere mortals, napping in the day can severely impede our ability to get quality sleep at night time. 

if you find yourself yawning and taking impromptu naps during the day its likely you need to increase the length of your night time sleeps. 




There you have it – try implementing a few of these and gradually building to really improve your sleep. 


When we get quality sleep we literally become better athletes over night. We grow better, we recover better and we function better – all essential if you want to become a Grapple Machine.


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