There are so many popular options to help players improve their games, whether it is in-depth books, strategy videos, or one-on-one tutoring sessions with mental game specialists. What if, though, you spent hundreds of dollars on improving your strategy, yet one essential requirement was missing? Your game could very well be far from its full potential.
Sleep: A condition of body and mind such as that which typically recurs for several hours every night, in which the nervous system is relatively inactive, the eyes closed, the postural muscles relaxed, and consciousness practically suspended.
I’m writing this as I finish up work in Colombia for the PokerStars.net Latin American Poker Tour and forcing myself to remain awake until my shuttle picks me up at 6 a.m., in just two hours. The idea of not sleeping all night is certainly not an easy one unless it’s a rare occasion involving a pair of dancing shoes, vodka and amazing music. As my night at work progressed and I got more and more tired, I could feel myself becoming more forgetful, irritable and demotivated. It made me think of the players sitting at the final table after more than 12 hours of play, and then of all the online tournaments that continue through all hours of the night. This enticed me to look further into the affects of ripping ourselves off of our nightly slumber.
“When we miss sleep in order to keep up with our 24/7 world, we pay a price with our ability to learn, our health and safety, and our quality of life.” — Harvard Medical School
A Harvard Health Publication explains that getting enough sleep for your body assists in learning and memory.
Without that, what hope do you have at the table?
An article in Issue 143 of Wellbeing, Australia’s leading health and living magazine, goes into detail about how sleep is essential for mental and physical health. When you sleep, you rejuvenate your prana (life-force energy). When your prana runs low, not only do you feel lethargic, but your mental state is negatively affected, allowing you to become prone to negative emotions such as sadness, depression, frustration and guilt. It's hard enough to control tilt as it is, imagine how much more susceptible we are after a late night? After renewing your prana with a solid night of sleep, you naturally feel more positive and enthusiastic about life in general.
Further studies even show that long-term sleep deficits can lead to all sorts of serious physical and mental illnesses. The following diagram, courtesy of mDhil, outlines these affects.
How Much Do You Need?
I only just figured out my optimal length of sleep recently. If I sleep for too long, I feel just as bad as if I hadn’t slept enough. If you haven’t already figured out how many hours your body requires, then it’s basically through a process of trial and error. Adults are recommended to have between seven to nine hours of sleep per night. On days that you’re not obliged to get up at a particular time, gauge how many hours it is that you naturally wake and how you feel. On some other nights, set your alarm to give you seven hours, eight hours, and so on. In general, if you wake up feeling like life sucks, you haven’t had enough sleep. If you wake up feeling really dull and lethargic, you’ve had too much. I realized that when my alarm goes off after seven hours of sleep, my eyes are wide-open. When I convince myself to stay in bed for another hour, I then wake up on that eighth hour feeling so low in energy and it’s even hard to drag myself out of bed.
How Do You Get It?
Sleeping is a sensory experience and should only happen in a dark, cool, quiet room. If you’re having trouble with falling, or staying, asleep, then here are some tips how to achieve your ultimate slumber:
Yes, this is almost impossible for a poker player, but sticking to a schedule helps your body set its internal rhythm and your body will become "trained" to know when it's time to sleep. Ensuring that you sleep only at night will help you achieve the perfect sleep environment of darkness and silence.
There are countless health benefits to exercising. Apart from the obvious, helping you sleep is one of them. This is the recovery time for your body and the more you exert it, the more it will crave rest to recoup. Just be sure to not exercise too late at night.
“Exercising vigorously right before bed or within about three hours of your bedtime can actually make it harder to fall asleep. Vigorous exercise right before bed stimulates your heart, brain and muscles — the opposite of what you want at bedtime. It also raises your body temperature right before bed, which, you'll soon discover, is not what you want.” — Discovery Fit & Health
On the other hand, there is one form of exercise that is beneficial right before bed: yoga. There are plenty of free resources on the Internet to learn some basic poses, including this YouTube video I found that is specifically for before bed:
Ensure that your last meal of the day is not less than two hours before going to bed. Not only will that help you prevent putting on those extra pounds, but this allows for digestion to be done and dusted by the time you want to rest your body. Also, if all of the reasons in The Right Grind for Your Grind? edition of Stay Stacked weren't enough for you to avoid caffeine when hitting the felt, then perhaps knowing that it disrupts your ability to sleep at night, will.
Turn Off Electronics
It’s safe to assume that most of us reading this article are guilty of sitting on the laptop in bed until the last minute before you fall asleep. Either that, or watching the television. Not only does the light from our favorite devices suppress melatonin production, but television can actually stimulate the mind, rather than relaxing it. Try listening to music instead, or pick up book!
Check out Stay Stacked: Breath Away Your Tilt for more information on the benefits of meditation and breathing techniques to reduce stress. The breathing technique outlined in the article is a simple, yet incredibly effective one to do when you’re lying in bed.
If you have a lot on your "life" plate and find yourself waking up throughout the night with thoughts, worries or ideas, then keep a pen and notebook next to your bed and write these thoughts down each time they disrupt your sleep. That way you won’t worry about forgetting the idea or concern, and can be confident that you will handle it with clear vision in the morning.
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*Lead image courtesy of depositphotos.com