Whether your martial arts’ training is a full-time career or merely a hobby, most people try to stretch their schedule to its limits. During this act of juggling time, it’s easy to forget how important it is to get a good night’s sleep. But if you take time to re-discover how vital this physiological need is to your health, you may find yourself with a higher quality of life — and better martial arts.

Inadequate amounts of sleep or poor sleep can affect your mind and body in several ways. Without proper sleep, your body will not have the chance to repair itself from the rigors of your training. Techniques that you know to be simple can become difficult, and your endurance will suffer. You will tend to make more mistakes than usual, retain less in memory and can be more irritable with your training partners. Also, inadequate sleep makes it more difficult for you to relax – something of paramount importance to achieving a high skill level in the martial arts. These symptoms may be obvious at times but can also be quite subtle, and healthier sleep may help remedy symptoms that are not blatantly obvious.

Good sleep is essential for your training. In general, adults require seven to nine hours of sleep per night to perform their best. The most frequent causes for sleep deprivation include work demands, social activities, improper diet, poor sleep hygiene and sleeping disorders. Sleeping disorders may require the help of a physician, and you should always consult your doctor with serious sleep issues. However, many of these causes you can prevent.

One of the best ways to improve your quality of sleep is to set a regular schedule for going to sleep and waking up. Your body’s “biological clock” regulates changes in your body’s functions based on time of day. These regulations are known as circadian rhythms, a term comprised from the Latin words “circa,” meaning about, and “dia,” meaning day. Your body actually has over 100 circadian rhythms that regulate aspects of your body including pain threshold, body temperature and blood pressure. Staying on a regular schedule can maintain your body’s circadian rhythms.

Also, watch what you consume two to three hours before you go to sleep. Refrain from alcohol, caffeine or tobacco products during this time. Consumed in moderate amounts, alcohol can help you become tired, but your sleep will be of a lower quality. Caffeine, nothing short of a religion for some, can disturb your sleep whether you notice it or not. A light snack (pizza isn’t light) before bedtime may alleviate hunger, which can disrupt your sleep.

Furthermore, create a relaxing sleep environment. Make sure your sleeping area is comfortable and quiet. Remove the phone where you sleep and face your clock away from the bed (but be sure you can still hear the alarm). If you live in a noisy area, use the help of a fan or similar subtle sound to focus on. Also, use your bed for nothing other than sleep and sex.

Some other tips on improving sleep involve adjusting your behavior. Do not nap more than 15 minutes during the day.

Try to develop “rituals” at night that cue your body that it is time to relax, such as taking a hot bath (the drop in body temperature when you get out will make you tired).

If you can’t sleep, don’t get mad — get up and do something boring for 20 minutes.

You will see improved returns on your martial arts training through better sleep. If you find room for improvement, make adjustments for two weeks. Your body will repay you for this investment.

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