I spend a lot of my time talking about sleep, helping people to sleep. My husband says I'm obsessed with sleep. I call it fascination.
How will the German and Argentinian footballers will sleep on Saturday night before their big game? Will they fall effortlessly into deep, dreamless sleep as soon as their heads hit the pillow or will they lie awake in bed, tossing and turning, thinking about what lies ahead?
I have worked with a number of athletes and Premiership footballers who experience difficulties getting to sleep the night before a big game. 'Sleep initiation' is one of the main sleep problems I encounter in my work, along with 'sleep maintenance' in which the sufferer wakes in the early hours - typically between 2 and 4am - and can't get back to sleep. Both problems are maddening - and sometimes literally - as I see in my work at the clinic.
Sleep is vital for so many reasons and not just for world class athletes. There must be good reason why we spend over a third of our lives doing it; when we sleep, and sleep well, the body undergoes a series of physiological and hormonal changes which enables it to repair, grow stronger, realign and rebalance from the exertions of our waking hours. The circuitry of the brain is cleaned up and reorganised - vital for memory, learning skills and technical abilities. Good sleep replenishes us on every level - physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. So it's vital for top athletes to get good sleep on Saturday night. Or is it?
Whenever working with anyone struggling with pre-event insomnia (my label), and this might include students sitting exams, stressed out City workers giving big presentations and the aforementioned athletes, I reassure them that if they don't sleep the night before an important exam/ presentation/game they're still capable of performing at their best the next day.
The body is very clever; we have this innate resilience and ability to cope with poor sleep every now and then - we just need to trust that ability. Trust that sleep is only one way of replenishing our energy and restoring health. Albeit an incredibly important way, but we do have such high, and sometimes unreasonable, expectations of our sleep. So I see people who are abusing themselves with caffeine, sugar, technology, alcohol, toxic relationships overwork and worse and complaining about their sleep - 'I need more of it' or 'Why am I so tired?' Actually no amount of sleep is going to do it if there is work to be done in other areas of your life. That's the long and short of it.
So sleep is only one way of nourishing your energy. We need to eat well, rest well, move well, hydrate well, think well, and love and care about what we're doing in life. These are the true, sustainable sources of extraordinary energy. And extraordinary energy is what our athletes are going to need to be on top of their game.
So my advice to those players (and to you if you suffer from pre-event sleeplessness) - don't worry if you don't sleep on Saturday night. Let go and trust your energy and resilience