Football performance is affected by a combination of technical (ability to execute football skills), tactical (decision making), physical (body’s ability to execute the demands of football), and mental (functioning of the brain to affect behaviour) factors.
Those four factors are greatly affected by the quality of sleep.
Football requires excellent coordination to enable players to perform the complex movements that are required to execute football skills, and the physical demands of football like agility, leaping, endurance, physical speed etc.
Quality sleep greatly improves the movement of neurotransmitters from the brain to perform reflex and non-reflex actions that affect coordination.
A football player that has quality sleep will have improved coordination and the opposite is also true.
Football has many situations that constantly change every second which requires excellent learning ability and a good memory that enable quality decision making in responding to these situations.
Quality sleep greatly improves the brain’s capacity in learning and memory. Learning and memory are often described in terms of three functions; acquisition, consolidation and recall.
Deep sleep is what enables acquired information to get stored and consolidated in the long-term memory which enables the brain to recall that information when needed.
A player that consistently gets quality sleep is capable of being able to recall football situations and respond appropriately.
Football matches and training sessions are mentally and physically draining which requires recovery sessions to enable an individual to return to a state of being able to perform better in the next training session or match.
If all the other recovery methods like adequate hydration, timely nutrition, and quality stretching are followed then quality sleep enables the repairing process of muscles, bones and tissue to be complete.
This repairing process enables footballers to have more energy reserves the next day and to reduce the probability of getting muscle related injuries.
A football player that doesn’t get enough sleep will struggle to train or practice at their best capacity which affects performance in matches because you can only compete the way that you train/practice.
Football matches present problems that requires cognitive speed and reaction speed to solve. Cognitive speed and reaction speed are affected by concentration, attention, and focus.
Quality sleep greatly improves concentration, attention and focus which helps footballers to improve on the awareness required to respond faster to situations that happen during training and matches. This means; avoiding tackles that could get you injured, avoiding being reckless, and having the ability to punish mistakes made by opponents or recovering to correct the mistakes made by team mates.
A football player that doesn’t get enough sleep consistently would struggle to recognize how to solve the problems presented to them in football matches.
HOW TO IMPROVE THE QUALITY OF SLEEP?
It’s important for parents to monitor the quality of sleep especially in teenagers because that’s when they usually lose their discipline to sleep due to a lot of changes in their lives.
Footballers should target sleeping for 8-10 hours at night and avoid using electronic gadgets 60-90 minutes before sleep because the light from the gadgets affects the brain’s ability to release sleep hormones and the activity on the gadgets might cause stress or anxiety that will delay sleep.
For individuals that train in the evening, it’s important to target having a nap in the afternoon.