Improving Jiu Jitsu Through Sleep

Published on by Samantha Faulhaber

You Need More Sleep

Want to get better at life and Jiu-Jitsu? I do too. Motivation/life-hack guru Tim Ferris says in his new book "Tools of Titans" that he made big changes when he made health #1. One of the ways he implemented that goal was to prioritize sleep over anything, including cancelling morning meetings if he didn’t get to bed early enough the night before. Somehow sleep has become first on the chopping block for more and more people. We seem to view it as wasted time, when in fact it is absolutely crucial.

It’s like having extra time

When you get enough sleep, your body is healthier. When you get enough sleep, your brain works more clearly. When your brain works more clearly, you get things done faster and better which makes the waking hours of your day more productive. Even though you might think you don’t have time for more sleep, chances are that it will be worth it and you’ll accomplish the same goals. You also save time that you may have spent on illness since your body has a chance to recover from physical and mental stress. Relationships improve. Aches and pains go away. Sleep is absolutely no joke.

Exceptions bleed into the rest of your life

If your response is, “I try…” when someone asks you if you’ve been doing something, realize that’s not a real answer. You do or you do not, there is no try. I think I’ve read that somewhere before. How much sleep are you actually getting? Mean what you say and track it until you know what you need.

As soon as I say “I’ll try to get to bed before midnight every night”, I know I’ve given myself wiggle room that will leave me scrolling endlessly at 2 am. The same self-discipline happens when cutting weight for a tournament. Up until the moment I decide to stop making exceptions to my diet, I make exceptions. The results of both things are exactly what you’d expect – diminished or sabotaged entirely.

You have trouble getting to sleep or the sleep you have is low quality

You want to feel good when you wake up. If you’ve set your sleep times up and still feel like crap, give some of these options a shot.

Try ritualizing your last hour or so before bed and think about doing the same for the first hour you wake up. If that seems too long, build incrementally with a ten or twenty minute window to start. Or commit to one THING before bed, like “don’t look at your phone once the lights are off”. Rituals are important things when putting children to bed, where the consistency and habit help signal to the body that it’s time to wind down. We need these since the whole “sun going down” thing doesn’t cut it any more in this modern age. There’s no rituals can’t help adult you as well.

Try a body scan. The version I like best is to close your eyes, take deep breaths, focus every inhale on some part of your body, then try to relax that part on the exhale. If you make your exhales take longer than your inhales it can help access your parasympathetic nervous system and get you unwired. A personal trainer friend of mine once taught me that putting your tongue on the roof of your mouth can help with this too. Body scans will increase your body awareness and I’ve never gotten through my whole body before falling asleep.

Can’t stop thinking? Get it on paper. Try journaling before bed. Word vomit. Don’t edit yourself and see what comes out while you work on your handwriting. Once you run out of things to write you’ll be much better able to focus. Plus you’ll have all of those great ideas written down to visit later. Organize your thoughts as you read back over them, if you ever read them. Remember, if it is that important at night, it will still be important in the morning. You will often find many things don’t seem as important come morning.

Try some meditative movement, mindfully moving in ways that feel good to you.

Take a look at your diet and vitamin intake.

Consider getting rid of parts of your life that are stressing you out.

Care about yourself

Can you call something you’re number one priority and let other things get in the way of it? Technically not. You do need some balance, and few things will be truly number one ALL of the time. When weighing your options, remember the classic airplane safety guide: you need to put on your air mask before you help anyone else with theirs, because you’re sure not helping anyone if you die or pass out (or are irritable or unwilling to help) beforehand. Stress management is huge, and sleep is one of the best ways to manage it.