Post By: Nastasja Minja | Friday, June 19, 2020

sport psychology performance STRESS SLEEP

Injured and devastated?

Feeling the pain and anger for not being able to return to the training grounds?

What do you think is the easiest method to do something about that? To speed up your recovery and feel great again?

The title is the spoiler alert itself – put on your most comfortable PJ's and go to SLEEP!

I am devoting this piece to athletes or performers who are currently recovering from physical injury. It's going to be a useful and somewhat peculiar read on one of the most neglected things in our everyday everynight life that can provide us with tons of important benefits, one of which is speeding up the injury recovery process.

Despite that the context of this article will be focused on injured individuals, I encourage the rest of you to do a quick read on this as well as you will discover some of the most bizarre facts about your sleep that can encourage you to apply some positive changes to your sleeping routine.

Let's begin!

Sleep has been one of the most mysterious research topics for scientists and psychologists throughout the history. There are tons of intriguing and scientifically backed up findings published up to this day. However, there are certain mysteries on sleep that even experts, who have devoted their whole lives to this, can't quite put their finger on just yet.

But here is what we know in relation to sleep and everything that has to do with physical injury:

1| Sleep is the alchemist for your tissue repair potion.

In order to recover from an injury you need a certain amount of your growth hormone (HGH – human growth hormone). If you are a professional athlete and have experienced injury in your career, you are probably familiar with HGH and were most likely also taking it at the time to speed up your recovery process. Since you are not allowed to do that anymore, because it is currently on the Prohibited list of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), I present to you the best alternative… you guessed it – sleep. HGH is secreted during sleep. The more high-quality sleep you have, the stronger the HGH shot.

2| Sleep is the natural painkiller and toughness source.

We all know it is not the easiest thing in the world to sleep with physical pain, no matter the location on your body and how severe it is. Your sleep will most likely be disturbed and you might be obliged to find some way to alleviate the pain at least a little bit before hitting the bed. Well, here's some encouraging news! Let's say you have recovered and are out and about again, going through your everyday routines pain and injury free. If you devote some time to nourish your sleeping routine, your pain tolerance will significantly increase! That means that you will be able to recover easier, if you get injured again in the future. Note that you don't need to get injured to reap the benefits of this. Your pain tolerance will apply everywhere in your life, training and sport challenges. Remember – it will hurt less, if you sleep on it.

3| Sleep is the creator of your own personal invisible protective gear.

Turns out the more quality sleep you get not only helps you recover from injury and bear with the pain, but also creates a protection from potential future injury. According to Matthew Walker - sleep expert and author of the book Why we sleep, sleep is the best risk-mitigating insurance policy when it comes to injury. If you take a look at the book, you will see that chronic lack of sleep across season predicts a massively higher risk of injury. Therefore, make sure to create the best possible conditions for getting some quality sleep, even when you're not injured. Keep on reading, because I am about to give you some simple tips on how to do that.

Top 5 drills to get some quality sleep

*Digital fast drill

Switch off your smartphone, laptop, TV, tablet, computer or anything that has a shiny screen at least 1 hour before you go to bed. It will add to the stability of your circadian rhythm or in help you fall asleep faster. This will be the perfect lullaby for your brain.

*Oxygen drill 1

Open up your windows for 10 min before going to bed to get some fresh air inside. If you spend a lot of time in one room, you sometimes don't even notice how the air gets stuffy. You need a certain amount of oxygen in order achieve uninterrupted sleep. If you have a huge bedroom, make it 20 min.

*Oxygen drill 2

Find a good position so that you enable your nose to do all the breathing during the night while your mouth stays neatly shut. It is logical that your position will depend on your injury as well, but if possible, try to avoid inadvisable sleeping positions for nasal breathing, such as lying on your back. Following this drill will increase the level of oxygen reaching your tissues during the night and contribute to your recovery process.

*Pain management drill

Add the appropriate pain management procedure before going to bed (ice, heat compress, breathing exercises, stretches…) while playing some relaxing music in the background. This way you soothe your body and your mind at the same time.

*My drill

Create an effective sleeping routine by consulting your sleep physician or other experts that you can reach out to. You can also try to include some of the things mentioned in this article or look into more details and interesting tips on sleeping elsewhere. I listed two books below that you might find interesting and useful sleep and recovery-wise.

I will wrap things up with a quote from a professional triathlete Jarrod Shoemaker:

“Sleep is half my training.”

After everything we mentioned today, don't you agree?

Have a good night!

Recommended books:

Walker, M. (2017). Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams. New York: Scribner.

McKeown, P. (2016). The Oxygen Advantage. New York: William Morrow Paperbacks.