“We’re teaching our players: Sleep is a weapon.”—-Sam Ramsden
Did you know that in addition to physical conditioning and conscious eating, sleep plays a major role in athletic performance and competitive results? The quality and amount of sleep athletes get is often the key to winning or losing when it is crunch time. If sleep is cut short, the body doesn’t have time to repair memory, consolidate memory, and release hormones.
A study on sports psychology for football confirms the role of sleep in performance with results that show declines in focus and concentration following poor sleep. Results also showed increased accuracy while rested well.
You use your brain just as much as your muscle during competition. During a game, it’s important that your brain allows yourself to plan ahead and create an overall strategy for what is happening. It’s especially important for the brain to be in tip-top shape during competition when reaction time is key.
A 2010 Stanford University study on the men’s varsity football team determined that by increasing sleep time to 10 hours per night, participants ran faster, increased throwing accuracy, and reported “improved overall ratings of physical and mental well-being during practice and games.”
Developing focus control is essential if you’re going to improve your football mental game.
A major focusing problem with many athletes is that they focus on things over which they have no control. This focus has no value because they can’t do anything about those things. This kind of focus hurts your mental game because it lowers your football confidence and causes doubt and anxiety.
It also distracts you from what you need to focus on. The fact is, there’s only one thing that you can control, and that is yourself, for example, your motivation, confidence, emotions, intensity, and behavior. If you focus on those things, you’ll be more confident and relaxed, and you’ll be better able to focus on what you need to do to perform your best.
Being focused means being able to notice and describe what’s happening in your mind and body – observing rather than absorbing the stress. It enhances your emotional competence because, over months and years, it actually changes the parts of the brain involved in the stress response.
It also helps you find a more compassionate view of the situation, which helps you feel less stressed.
Scientifically, stress is just arousal: a little extra adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol in the body, bumping up heart rate, tensing muscles, which, like caffeine, in proper doses, can help improve your performance.
The trouble comes when stress triggers over-trying and overthinking.
Elite athletes also feel nerves. But, its how those nerves are framed that will likely affect whether the stress harms their performance.
Sleep is an important component of maintaining optimum health. For elite athletes, however, sleep becomes a crucial pillar of success. Reaction times and motor function, motivation, focus, stress regulation, muscle recovery, and overall performance…. sleep plays a part in all of these things.
And sleep, as more and more athletes are learning, has a big impact on performance, wins, and losses.
Download the free mental game assessment and get started on Improving your Mental Game in Football*