Recovery expert reveals how much sleep you need before a game 4 years ago

Recovery expert reveals how much sleep you need before a game

It's a topic that scares every sportsperson: sleep.

How much sleep is optimum sleep? How much sleep is too much sleep? How am I supposed to sleep the night before a big game? Especially when I'm worrying about sleep.

Tom Coleman, a performance and recovery expert who has worked with world champions and Olympic medalists, believes the importance of sleep should not be understated.

Coleman is a co-founder of My Nutrition and has been working with professional athletes in his sleep workshops. We caught up with him to find out more about how sleep can impact your athletic performance.

"It's about optimum recovery," he said. "Most recovery occurs when you're sleeping and it's about understanding the cycles of sleep and how they relate to performance. Growth hormone secretion takes place when you're sleeping so it's crucial for recovery that you're getting sufficient sleep.

"Especially if you're travelling, athletes need to understand the importance of maintaining sleep. It has an impact on your psychological and emotional level. Memories are embedded when you sleep so it has an effect on your short term memory and therefore your tactical performance."


Coleman has been spreading this message to sportspeople all over the world. Just last week, he was working with Conor McGregor's coach, John Kavanagh, and delivering the same workshop.

For travelling, for time zones, for recovery and performance, he wouldn't play down the value of sleep.

So what habits should sportspeople get into when it involves some good old-fashioned shut-eye? How much sleep should you take in the night before a game?

"You should be looking at it over a week, as opposed to one or two nights before a game," he said. "You want at least five 90-minute cycles - that last cycle is when you dream. The cycles go from light sleep to deep sleep, to deep, deep sleep and it comes back to light sleep again before you wake up.

"Ideally, five cycles would do but many pro athletes go through six cycles which amounts to nine hours. Eight to nine hours is ideal.

"If you sleep too much, it will impact on the following night's sleep.

"Some people get nervous before a big match and might find that they can't sleep as well and that's perfectly acceptable. The workshops have tips for dealing with that too, for getting to sleep if you're struggling so you can go through the required cycles that will help optimise your recovery and performance."

Eight or nine hours? It's a lovely idea but not terribly realistic. Finally we have an explanation for why we never made it as elite athletes.