Macro Recovery - Sleep

Sleep is one of the most basic human needs and the average person will spend about one third of their life asleep. It is often seen as the most significant aspect of recovery and yet a lot of players pay little attention to their sleep patterns (Venter 2012). Physiological growth and repair of the body does take place throughout the day but this reaches maximal levels when the we sleep. Growth hormone gets released in response to sleep and it is a key muscle building signaller in the body (Venter 2012). There is even research suggesting that skill and movement pattern learning is related to sleep. In rugby, both competition and training involve complex movements and skills so it could be very important to the skill development of our players that they get enough sleep daily, especially after training. This coupled with the research suggesting improved mood, memory, and immune system functioning means that sleep as a recovery tool cannot be over looked (Venter 2012). Disrupted sleep can affect all the benefits mentioned above so not only does the body not effectively heal itself, mind and mood states may not be at optimal levels for training and competing (Fullagar et al, 2015).

The amount of sleep that a person needs is subject to debate. A guideline of 8 hours’ sleep is mentioned regularly and it does seem that this is about right for most people but some could require more and others less (Venter 2012). Recommendations of 9-10 hours of sleep with the majority at night have been suggested (Bompa and Haff 2009). This may be difficult for the non-professional player to achieve due to work and other commitments demanding their time. Napping is a good way of trying to meet sleep requirements and should be recommended. Napping has been shown to increase alertness and reaction time and can be a good strategy to implement if a player has experienced disturbed sleep patterns (Fullagar et al, 2015). It is important that naps are at an appropriate time and not too long in duration so as not to disturb the following night’s sleep.