For soccer (or football if you're reading this from anywhere other than America) fans everywhere, today marks the beginning of a month-long party that has been building up for the last four years. The 2018 FIFA World Cup begins today in Russia, as the host country kicks off the tournament against Saudi Arabia.
The World Cup is considered to be the ultimate prize in the footballing world, with players pouring their blood, sweat, and tears out for their countries. The skill-level among the 32 team competition is at an all-time high. As you might guess, the importance of sleep plays an integral role in preparation for the tournament.
From preparation leading up to the tournament to in-between matches, sleep is one of the common denominator for success -- no matter the country of origin.
In fact, the emphasis on sleep can be traced back to World Cup qualifying.
Following a qualifying playoff match in Honduras, the Australian national team (The Socceroos) had a grueling 24-hour flight back to the land Down Under. In an effort to regulate their sleep patterns, the team utilized innovative light therapy glasses. This nifty tool emits a blue-green light that suppresses the production of melatonin, which our body produces as its getting ready to sleep. And it worked, as the Socceroos are participating in their fourth consecutive World Cup this summer.
Back at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the English national team changed up their sleep environment in order to prepare for matches that were set to be played in higher altitudes. The Three Lions partook in games that were played 5,000 feet above sea level. In order to mirror this atmosphere, the team slept in tents that pumped in 100 liters of air a minute.
Furthermore, the lack of sleep causes a lack of fatigue. This means a lowered sense of awareness out on the pitch, resulting in impaired running, passing, shooting, tackling, and more. Proper sleep is even more important considering that the 2014 World Cup in Brazil featured 104 total injuries, an average of 1.68 a match.
Even though the United States missed out on Russia, it'll be fun watching the top talent from around the world play in the most massive shared human experience -- the World Cup. As a country etches its name into eternal glory, one thing will be certain -- it won't have been for a lack of sleep!