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The Importance of Sleep

With winter drawing in, cold dark nights looming, people everywhere are getting into hibernation mode. Everyone except those athletes whose training continues, regardless of cravings for duvets and hot chocolate.

Sleep aids muscle repair, memory conditioning and hormone regulation for growth and appetite. The functionality of the body the day after sleep depends on how long and how well a person sleeps; the average amount for adults is 7.5 hours per night. Say what? Notice that 7.5 hours is for the average adult too – athletes of any level will require more than average rest. Especially if you are one of those lucky sorts juggling work and rugby.

It may seem like I’m stating the obvious but sleep deprivation is one of the most common lifestyle problems in athletes of any sport, especially at amateur level. It’s definitely not something to ignore. Sleep loss contributes to many of the defects athletes experience in their training and performance and can consequently hinder their overall progress as athletes.

There are many side-effects to sleep deprivation – mood swings, lack of concentration, rate of fatigue in training, just to name a few. Work life too, will be affected which can create a spiral of decline in our ability to function at a high level on a daily basis, physically and cognitively.

It’s especially difficult for an amateur athlete to maintain the balance because they’re juggling a whole host of necessary duties day to day. Training, matches, work, family, friends, and down-time are all part of the regular routine of an amateur’s life.

The way I get around this issue is through planning and choices (not sacrifices). I set myself a desirable bed time for every evening depending on what I have the next day.

If I know I’m getting up early for training, it means I can’t go out for dinner with my friends that night in case I get home late; my friends don’t need as much sleep as I do it seems. “What’s the big deal Fee? It’s only dinner with friends, relax!” I hear you say. That’s the approach I used to have too, until I noticed my performance level and attitude in the gym wasn’t my best.

There will be many choices like this for you day to day. Places to be, people to see. Choices are easy to make – generally as human beings we do what we want to do. Sometimes though, you’ve got to put your body first. I use the term choice rather than sacrifice because I believe whatever decision I make now will help towards the bigger picture – world domination.

A little bit of sleep goes a long way and a lot of sleep goes even further. So listen to your body and plan ahead.

If you don’t believe me, sleep on it…then get back to me.

Fee x
@FeePocock


About Fee Pocock

Northampton-born Fiona played for Petersfield RFC from 1995-2006, starting at the age of age of seven. She captained Petersfield U16 for two years and went on to represent England U20 and A teams along the way to gaining 22 full caps and scoring 18 Test match tries – including the first in her country’s 2010 WRWC campaign against Ireland.   She became the Sky Sports HD Woman of the Match, along the way to becoming England’s top try-scorer in the pool stages but missed the final against the Black Ferns through a knee injury. Fiona has also played for Richmond in the Dubai Sevens, appeared in the Amsterdam tournament and represented England at the Nations Cup in Canada.  View all posts by Fee Pocock

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