© Ella Ling

Miami 2012 - Nadal

How to sleep your way to success in tennis


How to get a good night’s sleep on tour.

Professional tennis players spend a lot of time travelling. This means different countries, time zones, hotel rooms and beds. They have to contend with each of these elements, and many more, and still get a good night’s sleep so they can perform on the court.

One simple philosophy with regards to improving your sleep is to make your room like a cave: dark, cool, quiet with fresh air.

Limit the amount of light that enters your room. Close the curtains. Block the light from coming in under your door. Ideally turn off the alarm clock/radio, or at least, cover it. The aim is to make your room pitch black.

On a similar note, try to decrease the amount of light you are exposed to in the evening, in the hours before going to bed, particularly light emitting from a TV screen or laptop monitor.

Research shows that we sleep best when our heads are cool and feet are warm. If your room has an air conditioner, and you are in a hot environment, set it to 17-19 degrees Celsius. On the other hand, if you are in a cold environment, ensure your bed has sufficient warmth. Plan ahead, otherwise you could wake up a 4 in the morning hugging yourself in an effort to keep warm.

Noise is something that we don’t seem to accommodate to. It raises our stress levels, which is obviously not good for sleeping. If your room is close to a busy road, or there is a nightclub nearby whose music is keeping you awake, then aim to sound proof your it by closing the windows and using towels to barricade any gaps.

Once you have exhausted all of your options to block out noise, you might want to resort to ‘white noise’. Using a fan would help dampen the sounds entering your room and allow you to sleep better.

Fresh air
Sleeping in a room with stale, stagnant air is one way to ensure that you’ll wake up feeling drowsy. On the other hand, waking up after sleeping in a room with fresh air will have the opposite effect.

Where possible, open the windows and door so that there is a gentle breeze blowing through your room. Or use a fan to circulate the air, without feeling like you’re trying to sleep through a hurricane.

Of course, some of these suggestions might seem contradictory (e.g. close the door to block out noise; open the door for fresh air) but, as a travelling tennis professional, it’s up to you to decide what is the most important aspect you need to improve in each room you sleep in.

Just remember, make your room feel like a cave. Sleep tight.

Grant Jenkins is the Physical Performance Coach at the National Academy Queensland in Australia. He oversees the physical development and rehabilitation of all the NAQ athletes. He also manages the Sport Science aspect of the program. Follow him on twitter @Grant_Jenkins or email gjenkins@tennis.com.au.


  • Scambers

    Nice piece. Grant – do you have any tips for how to avoid waking up with a stiff neck? Tennis players are more susceptible to that than most and obviously it can ruin their chances if they have a match that morning and can’t massage it out.

    • http://twitter.com/NA_Queensland Aus Tennis Academy

      @9121114357b3dda253d1b7319079a86b:disqus The first step would be to try to find a pillow that is suited to you. A common suggestion is a pillow that will allow your head to be close to horizontal while sleeping on your side. This prevents the muscles from being stretches or shortened; and the joints from being compressed or distracted.  If you travel a lot, like my players do, I recommend taking your pillow with you. Alternatively, ask the concierge to bring a few pillows to choose from. Select the one that most resembles your home pillow. 
      Hope that helps, Grant

      • Scambers

        Good stuff. I wondered if players travel with their pillows – good to know that many do. They do have the luxury of being able to get a massage beforehand, unlike amateurs, but it’s a vulnerable area.