Most people know that getting a good night’s sleep can be incredibly beneficial for you in your day to day life. If you’re at school, in work, or even just spending time with your family, being well rested allows you to concentrate for longer periods and be more attentive. Taking all that into account, I’m guessing you won’t be surprised to hear that a good night’s sleep can have a hugely positive impact on your performance during a cricket match too!
In this post, I’ll tell you how long cricketers should be aiming to sleep if they want to achieve peak performance. We’ll also look at the opinions and habits of some professional cricketers, before finishing with some tips that may help you to sleep a bit better! Let’s get into it!
So, how much sleep do cricketers need?
For optimal performance, adult cricketers should be aiming to get an absolute minimum of 8 hours of sleep. Younger cricketers require more sleep than adults because at these young ages their bodies and minds are developing quickly! As a result, I’d recommend that teenagers aim to get a minimum of 9 – 10 hours of sleep consistently, and children who are younger than this aim for 10+ hours of sleep each night.
Sadly, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach when it comes to the amount of sleep each cricketer will need. Once you reach a certain age you will be aware how much sleep is too little for you, and what amount is perfect to leave you feeling refreshed and energised. You simply have to listen to the messages your body is giving you! For example, if you get 6 hours sleep per night and you constantly find it hard to focus the next day, you get headaches, and you feel low on energy, then you should probably start planning to increase the amount of sleep you get.
Once you find an amount of sleep that you’re happy with, get into the habit of sleeping that much every night where possible. Routines like this are good for your body and should help you to feel well rested most days!
Why Is Sleep So Important For Cricketers?
Getting an appropriate amount of sleep is vital for all people regardless of what job they do or what hobbies they engage in, but sleep is particularly important for cricketers due to a variety of reasons!
Spending long days playing cricket can be very stressful. Time spent in the field, bowling, and batting can take a lot out of you physically, and it also can have a big impact on you mentally, which is a side of cricket players often overlook. There are many cricketers that become overwhelmed by the mental side of the game and find themselves too stressed or mentally drained to deal with the demands of the sport. Making sure you’re getting enough sleep is a great way to guard against this!
If you’re interested in some specifics about how sleep can benefit your cricketing performance, have a look at these points below:
- Helps to lower your reaction time – The more sleep deprived you are, the longer it will take your brain to read and react to things that happen during a match. This could be disastrous, especially when it comes to things like facing fast bowlers! Make sure you’re sleeping well to ensure you can react quickly to the line and length of the ball.
- Improves your movement co-ordination – A lot of cricket skills, like batting against a short ball, rely on you being able to quickly identify memories in which you have faced similar situations before. For example, when batting against a short ball, your brain needs to quickly recall previous short balls that you have faced. Once your brain has selected a memory, it enacts a suitable response based on what has been successful for you previously, and begins to move your muscles in a specific way so that you can play the appropriate shot. This whole process happens in the blink of an eye, but if you’re not getting enough sleep this could delay the process slightly!
- It can help you play faster – Various scientific studies (like this one linked here) suggest that getting plenty of sleep can help to enhance your quickness/speed on the field of play. This could be vital to you as a cricketer! Finding a way to increase your by a few percentage points could turn a very good bowler into an extremely deadly bowler, and it could also help you perform better in the field, and when running between the wickets.
- It can help you recover – As most of you will know, playing cricket can take its toll on your body. Certain forms of cricket can be incredibly tiring and you’ll need to be physically fit to compete at the highest level. By making sure you get plenty of sleep, you’re giving your body time to rest and recuperate. This happens because when you’re asleep, your body isn’t expending as much energy as it is whilst awake, and therefore that excess energy can be used to repair things like your bones and muscles!
- It increases your ability to concentrate for long periods – Being able to concentrate for long periods of time is key in cricket, particularly whilst batting or fielding. One momentary lapse in concentration can lead to a dropped catch, or a dismissal while you’re batting! Cricketers who are sleep deprived will not be able to focus their attention as effectively, which makes it particularly difficult to face deliveries from fast bowlers or skilful spin bowlers. Playing against these types of bowlers require a batsman to focus intensely on the ball and look out for small subtle movements of the bowlers hand or wrist. If you get enough sleep this will be a much simpler task!
- It can improve your mood – Cricket is a collaborative game, especially when it comes to fielding. A more cohesive team will create a more upbeat atmosphere in the field, which can distract opposing batsmen and boost the morale of the bowlers. Many of you will be aware how hard it is to be loud and jovial if you’re running on no sleep, so if you want to contribute to an upbeat atmosphere in the field alongside your team mates, then it’s probably a good idea to make sure you’re well rested!
What Do The Professionals Do?
At this point in the post I thought it would be useful to look at the sleeping habits of a few professional cricketers to see if there’s anything we can learn.
Firstly, Steve Smith. If you’ve been watching cricket at all in the last few years, you’ll probably know who this guy is. He’s one of the most successful test batsmen the game has seen, and is definitely someone that all batsmen can learn from in certain respects. However, you may be surprised to hear what his sleeping habits are!
In this article, you can read about how Smith really struggles to sleep the night before a test match, and each night during the test match. He apparently only gets 4 hours of sleep per night, which is pretty shocking for a professional athlete! Instead of sleeping he spends his night tossing and turning thinking about how he is going to bat the next day and how he is going to attack each bowler.
Secondly, I read an old article about Kevin Pietersen this week (click here to read it) where he claimed that his normal sleep routine is to go to bed at 9 or 10pm, and get up at 8 or 9am. That’s 11 hours in total! This is the sort of figure that I was expecting , and is one that I would probably try to achieve if I was a professional cricketer.
I also read an article about T20 star Liam Livingstone recently (find it here), where he claimed that life in the bubble due to Coronavirus has led to him sleeping 12 hours a day! Bubble life can be dull for many sportsmen, but it does make me wonder how long Liam sleeps for when he is playing cricket normally back in the UK!
In the last 20 years or so, the level of professionalism in international, county and state cricket seems to have risen exponentially. Many older players from the 70’s and 80’s will tell tales about how they would regularly go out drinking on evenings when they were meant to be playing cricket the next day, and wouldn’t end up getting much sleep because of it!
This is much less likely to happen in modern cricket, with the vast majority of professional players placing a much larger focus on their physical and mental health. The difference in approaches between the two eras shows you that there are multiple ways to be successful in the game of cricket. However, for modern players who want to make it to the top levels of the sport, you should definitely be prioritizing things like sleep and minimising your alcohol intake.
How You Can Get Better Sleep
Whenever I speak to someone who is struggling to sleep, they never seem to know what to do about it. Thankfully, there are a few simple tricks that can easily help you to get a few extra hours of rest in, and here I will share some of those with you. If you’re a cricketer who is getting something like 6 hours sleep per night or less, I’d consider taking note of some of the tips below!
- Avoid Things Like Caffeine or Alcohol at Night – People who regularly drink alcohol or drinks containing caffeine before trying to sleep are setting themselves up to fail. Alcohol can lead to sleep disruption because the body needs to break down the alcohol, and caffeine is a stimulant which helps to stop feelings of tiredness. I’d suggest staying away from caffeine or alcohol 4 hours before bed time if you’re struggling to sleep – especially if you have a cricket match the next day!
- A Comfortable Mattress & Pillows Will Help – It’s no secret that you’ll need to be comfortable if you want to have a really good night of sleep, and everyone has different things they find comfortable! Some people prefer a hard mattress, and some people prefer a softer memory foam one. Some people like to sleep on one flat pillow, some people like two thick pillows. Finding out what you prefer and investing in some good quality stuff to sleep on is a sure fire way to improve the quality of sleep you get! For me personally, I know I need two pillows and a nice soft mattress – so that’s exactly what I invested in!
- Make Sure Your Sleep Environment is Suitable – It seems to be a general rule that people find it easier to sleep if they are in a dark room, that is relatively cool in temperature and very quiet. If you have a window with a street lamp right outside and a blind that doesn’t block out the light, it may be worth investing in some proper blackout blinds. If you live in a hot country and your room is so warm it’s uncomfortable to sleep, you may want to keep a window open (if appropriate) or think about installing air conditioning/buying a fan. If you have a lot of things in your bedroom that make noise and distract you from sleeping, it may be wise to move these out of your room before you go to sleep.
- Get into a Settled Routine – A good way to improve your ability to sleep is by getting into a proper sleep schedule. People who go to bed at a different time each night and wake up at different times every day may find themselves not being tired by the time they get in bed, or they may end up too tired through the day and end up napping. All of this can mess up your sleeping pattern! Instead, set yourself a goal of what time you’re going to sleep and try to stick to it for a week. Then, if you manage this, try to extend it to a month. Before long, this will form a healthy habit and you will sleep much better because of it.
- Exercise During the Day – As cricketers we should all make sure that we are exercising and practicing our cricket skills regularly. Doing a little bit of physical activity like going for a walk, a run, or engaging in resistance training each day can help you to sleep better when night time rolls around. The harder you work during the exercise sessions, the more it should help you sleep!
- Relax and Settle Down Before You Go to Bed – As night time approaches, you should start to get your body prepared for sleep by relaxing both mentally and physically. For me, this includes avoiding bright screens, and maybe doing something like reading or listening to mellow music instead. Other people may prefer to do something like have a bath or a shower, or have a hot drink. Basically, find something that helps you to relax and de-stress, and do it regularly before you go to bed!
I hope this post has given you some insight into what sort of sleep levels will be beneficial for you if you want to make it as a professional cricketer. In my opinion, the more sleep you can get, the better! Your body and your mind will certainly thank you for it.
Remember that there is no one size fits all approach to sleeping patterns – you have to find something that works for you and do your best to stick to it! Some people can achieve peak performance whilst only getting 6 hours of sleep, whilst others (like me) need closer to 8 hours in order to feel refreshed and energised.
I wish you good luck on your quest to achieve the perfect night’s sleep!