The club teaching their players how to sleep

Championship club Brentford are using a sleep expert and cutting technology to help their players' sleep. The Bees' head of athletic performance, Chris Haslam, explains all...

Why is sleep so important?

Nutrition is hugely important but if you get sleep right it gives you so many big wins compared to nutrition. Quality sleep means players are more compliant in training, analysis and gym sessions. It means they’re sharper, they’re brighter.. If you get it right over a prolonged period of time, you develop players better.

More after the break

What happens if a player doesn’t sleep properly?

We sleep in 90 minute cycles, so if a player is getting up multiple times every night or is going to bed late, he won’t be going through enough cycles to maximise his recovery. This also means he won’t produce enough growth hormone and testosterone, which is essential for repairing the body, while his risk of injury and illness will be greater.

What exactly have Brentford done to help improve players’ sleep?

We selected 10 players to take part in a sleep project with a company called Five Ways West. We then did a screening of all the players to measure their sleep quality and they’ve since worked individually with a sleep consultant. We also use a piece of wearable technology developed by Whoop, which monitors daily activity and sleep quality.

What are the most common factors that disrupt players’ sleep?  

A lot of players use gaming and technology for their escape, which is fine, but it’s about using it at the right time. Staring at screens before bed can affect sleep. Night games can also be a problem. Players will often take caffeine before and during a game, which means they feel wide awake for hours afterwards. Players are also on a high after a game, so winding down can take longer. 

What do you do to counteract this problem?

If we’re playing away from home we encourage the players to turn off their screens once we’re about two hours into the journey home. We turn the lights down and make sure the coach is cool. These are three simple little things, which will encourage a more relaxing environment and put them in a better position to sleep. We also advise them to avoid gaming once they’re back home.

Do you encourage players to have a lie-in before an afternoon game?

We tell the players to follow their usual routine. We don’t want them to have an extra two or three hours sleep as this could affect their circadian rhythm – the time each player naturally wakes or falls asleep. We find younger players need more guidance on this, whereas the older players with families have a more established routine.

Do away games provide other issues? 

If we stay in a hotel the night before, that provides different challenges, as they’re in a foreign environment, with different beds etc. We try and eat relatively early, we don’t want them to have a big meal and then be stuffed before bed. They have an option to have their own room or share. We try and create the best environment as possible for each individual.

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