Ace Your Sleep to Serve Up a Tennis Win - Why sleep should be a vital part of your game
Getting a good night’s sleep before a tennis match could be the difference between being on the winning end of a bagel set, or the losing end. So, if you want to up your game on the court and fire a few cannonballs, it’s time to turn to the power of sleep.
The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) in Britain believes in sleep and its impact on tennis performance so much that they have sleep pods at the National Tennis Centre in London, where players can crash out and catch some shut eye. If that’s what the pros are doing, then shouldn’t we be doing the same?
Roger Federer has said that he needs 11-12 hours of sleep per night, which may seem like a lot, but it has obviously served him well (get it?!) as he’s one of the greatest tennis players of all time. His sleeping ritual is rubbing off on other players too, with many enjoying afternoon naps during tournaments, sleeping for longer and optimising their sleep as and when they can.
Pre-Match Nerves & Sleep
But it seems not every athlete can manage a good night’s sleep. Research has shown that athletes often lose sleep the night before a competition due to nerves, a racing mind or excitement.
Nadal has said that before an important game he sometimes sleeps well and sometimes doesn’t. "At the beginning of my career, I was anxious and now I control it more. Anyways, even if you sleep less, three or four hours, you wake up with the adrenaline rush and compete well.” Sadly, adrenaline only gets you so far.
Serving Accuracy & Sleep
A 2013 study (1) by Reyner and Horne found that tennis players “showed significant impairments to serving accuracy after sleep restriction…” They concluded that “adequate sleep is essential for best performance of this type of skill in tennis players”. Interestingly they found that when it came to serving success “caffeine is no substitute for 'lost sleep' ”.
Competitive Edge & Sleep
The positive effect sleep can have on other types of sports players is evident in many studies (2). One found that basketball players get a competitive edge with a good night’s sleep of at least 10 hours. They discovered the players had faster sprinting speeds, reaction times and better shooting aim.
How Do Tennis Players Sleep?
Karolina Pliskova, a Czech who reached the final at the US Open and is seeded fifth at the Australian Open, takes her own pillow everywhere she goes. This is a nifty and super simple trick anyone can use.
Milos Raonic, a Canadian who seeded third at the Australian Open, pays attention to his sleep habits in an effort to maximize his performance. He makes sure he replicates his home environment and home temperature. Raonic told The Age newspaper that he had figured out his optimum sleeping temperature of 19.4444℃. "I'm a big guy," he said. "I need a little bit more sleep to recover, so if I lose sleep during tournaments or even before tournaments for one or two nights that doesn't come back just through one long nap or so forth."
Top-ranked Andy Murray informed (3) ESPN that there's one thing he tries to keep consistent in his sleep habits and that’s sleeping with the air conditioning on. "I always sleep with the air conditioning on, then get under the covers. I sleep better that way… Normally, during these events, I try to sleep as much as possible. I try and have a nap during the day on the off days because that also helps your recovery." (Hmmm, not all of us have the luxury of an AC unit Murray, but we like your style.)
It’s clear that some tennis players have their sleeping ritual down to a T. But it seems most studies have found that athletes fail to obtain the recommended amount of sleep, threatening both performance and health. While sleep deprivation may not necessarily affect some general athletic abilities such as maximal physical effort and gross motor performance, it can negatively impact various sports-specific skills, the autonomic nervous system, immune system function, and thinking ability, which in turn can affect athletic performance.
Optimise Your Sleep
So what can tennis players (both professionals and amateurs) do to get better sleep in order to improve their performance and gain that competitive edge? And what have we learned from the likes of Murray and Pliskova?
1. Find your optimum temperature
The optimum bedroom temperature for sleep is around 18.3℃ and 65F. As mentioned previously, tennis player Raonic likes his room to be 19.4444℃, whereas Murray likes his room to be cool and air conditioned. The perfect bedroom temperature may differ slightly from person to person but it’s something that’s worth experimenting with. Making minor adjustments such as opening a window, using a sheet instead of a duvet or vice versa, turning the heating up or down in winter or sticking a fan on, can make a huge impact on how you sleep.
2. Mask disturbances
Kokoon’s Nightbuds and Relax Headphones are great for masking external disturbances that could throw you off your A-game. An enormous 84% of wearers have less disturbed sleep after 1 month of usage. So if you’ve got a tennis match coming up and you need a competitive edge, then pop your noise masking Nightbuds in, pick a track designed for sleep from our Spotify playlist and get ready to skillfully dink it over the net, again and again.
3. Mimic a home environment
Pliskova has nailed this. If you’re staying away and have a match the next day, be sure to take your own pillow. As you’ve probably already experienced, hotel pillows and friends’ pillows can be pretty tragic and sometimes it seems like we never learn. This time, make sure you take your closest sleeping companion away with you and nestle into a good night’s sleep.
4. De-stress the night before
Stress can keep you awake, as can a busy mind, which is not ideal the night before a match. Luckily our Spotify Playlists are the perfect antidote to all things stress with its selection of relaxing playlists. Try winding down to our “Relieving Tension” audio to help you de-stress before game day.
The next time your friend asks you out for drinks the night before a match, say no and treat yourself to some game-enhancing sleep instead.
Sleep. Game. Set. Match.