When you need sleep the most is also when you have the most difficult time falling asleep. This is especially true for many fighters the closer they get to the event date. Some may attribute this to simple pre-fight anxiety, but there are often many more factors in play.
If you take a pre-workout too close to bed it is understood that you have made a mistake and you are going to have to suck that up for a while, but vitamins and fat burners can also cause this reaction.
Vitamins such as B6 and B12 can cause vivid dreams, so even if you fall asleep you may have an abrupt wake up. Energy boosters like vitamin D, C and multi-vitamins can also have this affect. By no means should you stop taking them, as they are usually crucial to maintain functionality through the day and boost the immune system. It is recommended that to lessen their affect on sleep, you take them in the morning.
Fat burners are commonly used to take of extra pounds that need to go in order to make weight. Regardless of whether they are synthetic or natural, there is virtually always an energy boost component which is long lasting. This is especially true in the case of thermogenic supplements. It is very difficult to battle this side affect, so being aware of its existence is a good start. When cutting weight is also important to remember that the body losses weight during sleep, so there has to be a balance to achieve the most efficient weight cut.
Pain does not have to be severe in order to interfere with sleep. Headaches, back pain, bruises and cuts may not seem significant, but can affect sleep even if they do not cause you to wake up.
The signals of pain sent out by the body can fragment sleep, which reduces the about of time in deep sleep causing it to be less restful. It may be worth taking a bit of your favorite pain medication before bed, just to at least take off the edge.
Being exhausted is different than being sleepy. Rushing home to sleep after a hard sparring session may feel like the right thing to do at the time, but it is likely that your body is too amped up to be really restful. This is likely to leave you tossing and turning or counting sheep endlessly. Even if you can’t wait to get under the covers, it would be best for you to take some time to unwind.
Don’t take off the water weight until you have too. It is unhealthy to walk around dehydrated for a number of reasons, but one of them is sleep loss. When you don’t have enough water in your body it cannot flush out toxins that build up in your blood. That certainly doesn’t sound comfortable and as a result it creates the kind of fatigue that prevents restful sleep. It can also lead to melatonin deficiency (more on that later.)
Even a small amount of water may be enough to get you through to the next day. You can almost always hit the sauna one more time. If the water weight becomes crucial, bring out the measuring cup and just pay close attention to what you are in-taking, but stopping completely is a bad idea on numerous fronts.
Sleeping on an Empty Stomach
When you are hungry it is difficult to think of much else. Among other symptoms of hunger such as irritability and fatigue, hunger can cause the body to stay up in hopes of food. Going to bed hungry can even cause the body to break down muscle mass overnight. That is certainly counter-productive, though some form of fasting or food reduction is often a crucial element for fighters dropping below their normal weight (which the majority of fighters do).
It is best to continue taking in some form of nourishment all the way through the weight cut, even if it is in the form of liquid such as a smoothie. The weight of liquids usually exits the body quickly after a good night’s sleep.
Stress and Anxiety
Regardless of a fighter’s skill level, the thought of entering a locked cage with a person who wants to inflict upon you, the utmost pain, is likely to cause some level of anxiety. These issues usually present as one of the following:
- Racing thoughts: Thinking about the fight. Visualization of any competition is a good thing, just not before bed.
- Racing Heart: Anxiety can build up adrenaline which causes the body to enter fight or flight mode and it is not easy to come down from. Racing heart can also be caused by themogenic fat burners.
- Muscle Tension: It is important to relax your muscles before bed, either with stretching, a shower, bath, hot tub or something to reduce the firing action they have been focused on. Many fighters find that they spar in their sleep and this increases with the intensity of fight camp. This is more common when your muscles are still in firing mode.
- Needs/Worries: Concerns such as a technique that you still need to master, or weather or not all your sponsors’ names are on your shorts, are things that the mind feels it “needs” to take care of.
Clearing your mind before bed is the best way to battle stress and anxiety. Making a check-list of things you “need” to accomplish may help your mind to let go of them temporarily. Doing something un-fight –related such as reading a book or watching a movie may also help relieve tension.
General Sleep Remedies
Prescription sleeping medication is not recommended for a number of reasons and is banned in some athletic competitions. These are some natural ways to get some Z’s.
Zinc monomethionine and Magnesium Aspartate is a supplement used as a recovery aid. Studies show that it helps the body achieve deeper levels of REM sleep while promoting muscle recovery. It comes in a capsule or tablet and should be taken 30 to 60 minutes prior to bed.
This natural sleep aid is one that may or may not work for your depending on your body’s response (it knocks me out). It is often a good substitute for prescription sleeping pills and rarely has side effects. It is available over the counter.
Chamomile or Sleepy Tea
If you are a tea drinker chamomile or teas specifically marketed for sleep aid may help, just remember not to load up on the sugar or honey. Some brands of tea work surprisingly well.
Achieving some level of mediation daily helps to clear the mind and control what thoughts you allow to flow in and out of your consciousness. Mediation is a tool that has been used by warriors for centuries. For more on mediation check out SciFighting.com’s article on “4 Ways Meditation has been Strengthening Warriors for Centuries.”