Ex-England women’s football star Anita Asante has revealed her top tips for the current Lionesses to get an uninterrupted and peaceful night’s sleep as they bid for sporting glory at Euro 2022.
Anita, who earned 71 international caps and represented Britain at the 2012 Olympics, is currently working as a pundit for the BBC as part of the channel’s Euros coverage – as England look to win the tournament for the first time!
The 37-year-old was runner-up with England at the 2009 competition, and won the Women’s Premier League, FA Women’s Cup, FA Women's Premier League Cup, and Champions League, during a club career that saw her play for Arsenal and Chelsea.
Anita says solid sleep was integral to her success, and has teamed up with Silentnight to reveal her top tips to get all the shuteye she needed for peak physical performance, from getting a sound nine hours of kip each night, to travelling around the world with her pillows from home.
According to sports scientists, sleep is a vital tool for elite performance, as it facilitates recovery and ensures athletes are both physically and mentally match fit.
Hannah Shore, Sleep Knowledge & Researcher Manager at Silentnight said: “Sleep and sport go hand in hand. Studies have shown there is a clear link between sport performance and quality of sleep.
“But in the lead up to big events, athletes often have a reduction in sleep quality because of nerves, anxiety, and stress.”
Here are Anita’s tip five sleep hacks…
Get your head in the game. In this day and age there are 101 distractions that can easily take your attention away from what you should be focussing on. At the very top of the list is technology, whether that’s your phone, iPad or the TV. In my days playing for the England women’s team, I made sure I switched everything off 30 minutes before bed. That was valuable time to help me dial in on what I really need to focus on at the end of the day – which was usually going over plans to stop a pacey forward running around me.
Routine, routine and more routine. As an international footballer there was often an awful lot going on at once, from media duties to training and family, so developing a reliable routine that I could depend on night after night was key. I always tried to get to bed at 10.30pm each night and wake up around 7.30am each morning, giving me a solid nine hours of sleep – which I found was the perfect amount to perform at my peak.
Calm before the storm. As a professional sportswoman I spent half of my life on the road, staying at different hotels across the world. This could very easily have taken its toll on my sleep schedule. However, I avoided that by always making wherever I was staying feel homely and zen, by adding personal touches like bringing my own pillows and spraying my lavender mist. I’m sure today’s Lionesses do the same and many of them will have their own home comforts in their hotel rooms now.
Soothe that stomach. To perform at your physical peak as a professional athlete, it’s vital to get a long, uninterrupted sleep. As we all know, booze and junk food can wreak havoc after the light goes out at night. That’s why the evening before a big game I avoid alcohol and rich food. If today’s Lionesses are like me, they will dine on pasta with some sort of protein before matches at this year’s EURO 2022.
The great outdoors. Sadly, I’ve suffered a few injuries during my career, and I can tell that being cooped at home with an ailment does no good for your sleep routine. I noticed that not spending time outside the house left me feeling agitated, especially at night time. So, try and get at least 30 minutes of fresh air every day, even if it’s just popping out for a stroll.
Hannah added: “Anita’s tips, from routines to steering clear of junk food and getting fresh air, prove how important it is to set yourself up for a good sleep well in advance of putting your head down.
“And this isn’t only relevant to athletes, but applicable to everyday life. Have a big meeting at work? Follow her tips and give yourself the best chance of getting a good night’s sleep.”