Help! I Can't Sleep Post Jiu Jitsu

Good sleep is one of the silent wonders of the world. 

There’s nothing like waking up after a good, solid night’s sleep, refreshed, and ready for the day ahead. 

And of all the bad things that exist around us, not being able to sleep easily
ranks as one of the worst of all. 

It’s no wonder it’s been used as a torture tactic for centuries. 

Jiu Jitsu and Sleep

When you train hard, your body revs up it’s engines. Your heart rate steps it up, and your breath attempts to keep up the pace. You start to sweat so that you don’t heat up too much. 

You’re panting, thinking quick, and in the heat of battle. 

This is hard training and you’re fighting, or flying. It may not be either, but it’s how your body perceives the stress of someone trying to choke you, or catch your limbs, whether you’re playing or not.

In this type of training you’re using your sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for these high stress situations. It’s like a car revving in order to keep up with the traffic. 

Slow Down Slowly

When you rev the engine to the lengths required in a jiu jitsu roll, you need to focus on coming back slowly. 

To continue the car analogy, you can’t just stomp on the brakes, screech to a halt, and expect to sleep smoothly. 

You need to respect your engine, and your brakes, and come back to earth slowly and carefully. From fight, or flight, you transition to rest and digest, otherwise known as your parasympathetic nervous system

This is how you sleep best. You need to be aware of this because sleep is critical to your success on the mats and off them. Sleep will keep you from getting unhealthy and sick. It’ll help you stay consistent with training, and you’ll be happier, and saner. 

It's why you need to build good sleep habits with a sleep ritual

Give Sleep a Chance

Your sleep ritual is a predetermined set of behaviours that helps you to make the transition between being awake and being asleep. These behaviours tell your brain: Hey, it’s time to calm down now. Stop thinking about that submission you nailed, and focus on shut-eye.

This is especially important because you can't control exactly how much sleep you actually get. Or how well you actually sleep.

You can only control your sleep behaviours, and be proactive with ritual . And rest assured, this will dramatically improve your chances of good, restful ZZZs.


Here are some tips to get you started.


+ Decide on a bedtime, and work backwards 1-2 hours ahead of it. 

This tells your brain and body to begin relaxation mode. 

+ Limit your caffeine to the morning. None after 2pm!

Caffeine is a stimulant and it stays in your body for up to 8-10 hours. Drinking it too late into the day can leave you tossing and turning of a night time. 

+ 1 to 2 hours before bed, take out a piece of paper and do a "brain dump.”

Whether you’re thinking about that roll you had, the submission you lost, or the next competition, it’s easy to let the brain hampsters run amok as you lie there staring into the ceiling. 

So get the hyperactive, anxious little creatures out of your brain and dump them onto a piece of paper. This is called a ‘brain dump’.

Keep a notebook next to your bed and write down everything that’s going through your head. It doesn’t even need to be legible or understood by anyone, just get those thoughts down on the paper. Now they’re the paper’s problem, and your brain is clean, clear, calm, and ready to relax.


+ Turn off all electronic screens (TV, computer etc.) an hour before bed. 

While you may swear that cruising  Facebook or watching late-night reality TV are relaxing,  electronic media are actually stimulating. They rev up our brain and body even if we don't realize it. Plus, the light from screens can mess up our circadian clocks.

But what should you do if you’re supposed to turn off the electronics?


+ Make yourself some decaf tea, listen to soft music, and read something light.

Tell your body and you brain it’s time to sleep by sipping on some warm, tasty tea, and reading some light fiction. This gets you out of your mind and into a story. It also regulates your
Breathing and tells your brain it’s time to shut down for the night. 

+ Keep your bedroom cool. 

Cooler temperatures tell your body it’s hibernation mode. 


Develop Your Own Sleep Ritual

You don’t have to try everything in one night. Just pick one or two to add to your routine, and get it done. Think of it as your own personal sleep experiment.

Find what works best for you. The benefits of high quality, restful, regular sleep will have you winning on the mats and off.


Further Resources

1. St Pierre, Brian. Hacking Sleep. Engineering a high quality restful night. Available at: 

2. Andrews, Ryan. All About Sleep. Available at:

3. JRE Podcast. Matt Walker #1109. Available at:


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