By Karl Morris
You are probably thinking ‘what on earth has golf got to do with having a good night’s sleep?’
You may even be thinking the game has done just the opposite over the years. Perhaps even giving you some nightmares that have actually kept you awake well into the night.
However, bear with me on this because I recently discovered some information that has really got me thinking differently about the reasons why it would be good to play more golf. It would seem we are in the midst of a poor sleep epidemic.
More and more of us are struggling to shut down the mind when we hit the pillow at night and I for one was probably not aware enough of the potential detrimental effects this could be having on my long-term health and well-being.
Research is suggesting the effects of sleep deprivation are not good news.
Your immune system is compromised and the risk of diabetes, obesity, depression and memory loss are all increased, just to name but a few of the more unpleasant by-products of not getting good, restful sleep.
A study reported by the World Health Organisation tracked the results of 657 men over a 14-year period and they found men with poor sleep quality were twice as likely to have a heart attack and up to four times more likely to have a stroke.
I know that so far this is incredibly depressing and you are probably wondering what on earth your golf could do to help remedy the situation.
Well, in a fantastic book called Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson, the author talks about the link between exposure to natural light and the ability to sleep.
Your sleep cycle, which is known as your circadian timing system, is heavily impacted by the amount of natural light you receive during the day.
It may seem completely counter-intuitive but getting more sunlight during the day can directly affect your ability to sleep at night. Not being exposed to natural light, as many of us aren’t, tends to put our sleep cycle out of kilter and the natural body signals to go to sleep at night are impaired.
Now, here is the kicker
According to the research, the most important time to get this natural light is actually first thing in a morning. When it comes to health benefits, all sunlight is not created equal.
The body clock is most responsive to sunlight in the early morning between 6.30am and 9.30am. Could there be a better way of getting your early morning natural light fix than going out onto the golf course for even just a few holes?
I know not everybody is going to be in the position to do this but even if you have a busy schedule, giving yourself permission to get out for a few holes early in the morning a couple of days a week could have massive long-term benefits.
If going through this ritual does help you sleep better at night, could that perhaps have an impact on your overall performance in lots of areas of your life?
For me, it is no coincidence that some of the best sports teams have looked into this area and have brought in specialist sleep coaches to help their players get a better night’s sleep.
Players at Manchester United, Chelsea and Real Madrid have apparently benefitted from the wisdom of sleep coach Nick Littlehales.
We become our rituals and it is so easy to stay in bed because we are tired but the paradox is the longer we actually stay in bed in a morning and deprive ourselves of natural light, the poorer our sleep will be for it.
I have written in these pages before that the game of golf does not sell itself enough to the public on its health benefits.
Golf can literally be a life-saver from a health and well-being perspective.
Could golf make you sleep better?
Absolutely, you just have to do your part of the bargain and get up early in a morning to really feel it.