Gareth Bale: Why sleep is crucial to my game

Real Madrid star Gareth Bale explains why rest is so important for his game, the advice he received from a sleep expert and how he recovers on the road

Why is recovery and sleep so important to your performance?

I have always been brought up with the idea that sleep is the best form of recovery so the more you can sleep the better you will feel and the better you will perform. I’ve spoken to a sleep expert and he's told me to always try to go to bed and wake up at a similar time every night and morning. However, getting this consistency becomes difficult when you’re flying back from away night matches. A company called SIMBA have created an aeroplane seat for me which contains a mattress just like the one inside my bed at home, which has been a great help.

More after the break

Have you changed your recovery and sleep routine since moving to Spain?

The staff at Real Madrid are meticulous in how they prepare for games – there’s a real belief that every detail should be taken into account. So while there are some more obvious things such as training and nutrition that they provide guidance on, there are smaller details like sleep that they have stressed are incredibly important.

Madrid have looked at my individual sleep patterns – I’ve never been a morning person. Apparently that’s largely due to my natural body clock which is why I naturally fall asleep and wake up at later times. My energy levels tend to peak in the afternoon so the team here help me to plan my rest accordingly.

Is sleep an integral part of your recovery?

Our sports scientists stress the importance of sleep to both preparation and recovery. I normally aim to get 8-10 hours sleep to maintain concentration and make sure I stay on top of my game.

Research has shown that a good night’s sleep can help performance and apparently a few restless nights can weaken your immune system and reduce power and strength which is a key part of my game.

When we’re playing a number of games in a short space of time sleep can also reduce the risk of strains and tears.

You've been out injured recently - has that affected how much you sleep?

I think when you are injured you probably sleep more. When you are out for a while you may get bored and maybe stay up slightly later watching a film or television – I think your routine changes slightly because of boredom but when you know you are close to coming back you get back on track and into your normal routine.

You have two young children - has that made it more difficult to get a good night's sleep?

As every parent knows it is pretty difficult at first. But before games my fiancé was really understanding and she would allow me to get the sleep I need to perform at my best.

In the first year it’s pretty tough for every parent but regardless of what time of night it is, it’s amazing. My fiancé was great though as I had to be well rested before games - she’d always take over so that I could do my best when I stepped out on the pitch. 

In Spain, people like to have an afternoon siesta - is this something you now do?

I don’t take a siesta. I like to get 9.5 hours a night. I don’t sleep during the day because I won’t then sleep at night.

We have a hotel at the training ground and we all have our own rooms. It is important to relax and get the rest you need before a game and I have a Simba mattress to help me do that which is nice because it’s the same as my bed at home.

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