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Why we all need a bit more of what Roger Federer’s having

I think we can all agree that Roger Federer is a bit special.

Now, I could happily wax lyrical about his balletic grace blah blah but you’ve heard it all a hundred times before. What you might not know, however, is that Federer is no slouch when it comes to the business of sleep.

Did you know that this serial breaker of world records and father of four young kids insists on 11 to 12 hours’ sleep at night?

You see, Federer knows what most of the world blithely ignores: that sleep is fundamental to optimum performance. He understands that achieving the status of an elite champion (not only year after year but decade after decade) isn’t just down to putting in more and more hours of practise. He knows that to be his absolute, blistering best on Centre Court, he needs to be fully rested, fully sharp, fully recovered from his previous match and fully in control of his responses.

As Arianna Huffington quotes in her book The Sleep Revolution, Federer has said: “If I don’t sleep 11 to 12 hours a day, it’s not right. If I don’t have that amount of sleep, I hurt myself.” Hence going to the lengths of renting two houses during Wimbledon: one for him and his training team and the other for his family, just to safeguard that precious sleep.

The ultimate performance enhancer is sleep. Not a vitamin pill, not an energy drink, not some dodgy substance to boost performance. But sleep. So while the rest of us are up till all hours catching up on admin, pootling about on Facebook or binge-watching Game of Thrones, Federer is benefiting from the regenerative power that only sleep provides.

Now, you might be thinking to yourself: “Humph. That’s all well and good for Federer…but the closest I’ll get to a Wimbledon final is watching it on the telly. I have a normal job and I just can’t afford to spend any more of my already hard-pressed time asleep.”

But think again. As The Sleep Revolution chronicles, a host of luminaries – from world-class athletes, statesmen and business leaders to the Dalai Lama – name adequate sleep as one of their non-negotiables. If they can fit all that sleep into their high-achieving lives, isn’t it time to reassess our own priorities and give sleep the respect it deserves?

In truth, Federer’s 11 to 12 hours are a lot more than most of us require. But then far too many of us are not getting the recommended seven to nine hours’ sleep we need to be healthy. Research points to the fact that we’re chronically sleep deprived, with many of us squandering what adds up to an entire lost night a week. High time we ditched the perception that sleep is ‘lost time’ and recognise it for what it is: the key to longevity, health and success.

Want to be at the top of your game? Then make like Federer and put sleep to the top of your to-do list.

Try these tips to improve your sleep:

  •  Make sure your room is completely dark, free of clutter and cool (around 18 degrees).
  • Try to choose a wake-up time you can stick to within an hour every day of the week to support your body’s natural rhythms.
  • An hour before going to bed, switch off all electronic devices, including the TV. If you do have to look at a screen, wear special amber glasses designed to block out blue light (you can buy these online).
  • Don’t have a TV in your bedroom and keep your iPhone/iPad out of your bedroom (if you’re telling yourself you need your phone to wake you up, invest in an alarm clock!).
  • Consider taking a magnesium supplement, a powerful relaxation mineral, before going to bed.
  • Have a hot bath and add magnesium-rich Epson Salts and a few drops of lavender oil.
  • Finish dinner at least two hours before you intend to go to bed.
  • Leave a three-hour gap between exercising and lights out.
  • Try a ten-minute meditation or breathing practice to signal to your body it’s time to rest.
  • Avoid caffeine in the afternoon/evening.

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