Many squash players report problems sleeping after playing late as the physical and mental high of the game carries on past a healthy bedtime. So if you’re a player who can’t snooze after squash then read on.
Characteristics of squash
Squash is a high-intensity game that requires agility of the body and the mind to plan and play every hit and predict each return. As a result, it’s a fantastic calorie burner which gives players an all over body workout. Added to which it’s indoors, so it can be played all year round whatever the weather. It’s popular for all these reasons and appeals in the main to busy, working people who can only really get together to play in the evenings, sometimes finishing very late at night.
The power of sleep
Sleep is important for everybody because during sleep the body rests and repairs. The average person requires 7.5 hours sleep per night while athletes (regular squash players included) need more every night, which can be up to ten hours in some cases. While a person sleeps their muscles repair thanks to the release of human growth hormone, the body rehydrates and moisture levels in vital organs like the kidneys are restored. A good night’s sleep also aids weight loss as it rebalances hunger hormones and, in addition, concentration levels are improved – crucial for all everyday activities as well as playing squash.
How does squash affect sleep?
While there is no formal research, there’s plenty of empirical evidence to suggest sleeping after squash presents a challenge to many. The key issue is not the type of exercise but the time of the exercise. Those who play in leagues and, in particular, teams will not be strangers to a late finish. Yet is seems counter-intuitive; surely a tiring game late at night will promote a rapid arrival in the land of nod and a long stay there to boot. Sadly not. Just as sleep releases certain hormones, so does vigorous activity like a good game of squash. Adrenaline and noradrenaline are released during exercise and when the exercise is intense these hormone levels are high. The purpose of these hormones is to bring the mind to a more alert state and the body to a condition where it’s ready to react at speed as they drive more blood around the body and elevate the heart rate. Of course, this is great while you’re playing but once you stop the hormone levels remain high. So, at the end of the game even if you’re feeling shattered your body is still on red alert.
Strategies for ensuring a good night’s sleep after a good evening’s play
To help restore your hormone levels and ensure that crucial sleep there are a number of things you can do to calm the mind and relax the body. Immediately after a game, take a rest in a Yoga pose: legs up against the wall pose (Viparita Karani) works wonders. Lie on the floor in the squash court, tuck your tailbone against the wall and rest your legs up against the wall. This pose will calm the mind and the nervous system and signal to your body it’s time to rest.
Avoid additional stimuli, don’t have the radio on during the drive home, don’t pop the TV on when you get there and avoid checking your email and social media accounts on your phone. The lights and sounds of these everyday devices keep the mind alert and hinder the ability to sleep.
If you need to eat, eat light. Try to get a good meal in before your game to avoid feeling hungry afterwards. If you do need to eat, avoid complex carbohydrates, caffeine and sugar as they’ll give you an unnecessary energy boost. Opt for simple carbs like oatcakes or a protein shake.
When you’re home, take a relaxing bath if you have time or introduce a relaxing scent like lavender as early as the car journey home if you can to give your body a subtle signal that sleep is coming. Stick with this after every game and you should find a restful night comes a little easier. And it’s well worth it. Successive research has found that athletes who sleep for longer, perform better mentally and endure more physically than their less snoozy rivals.