Snooze your way to better golf!

By DR NEWELL TAN / Pic By BLOOMBERG

Looking to improving your golf game? Of course you are! While you focus intently on the course, you may want to review what you are doing away from it. How you eat, move and sleep have a great impact on how well you play. Today, we are going to talk about sleep.

Like in most things we do, performance is affected by the quality of our sleep. It’s vital to your game (and your body too!) that you realise the value of a proper slumber when faced with the rigours of what lies ahead.

A regional survey showed that Malaysians average 6.4 hours of sleep each night, below the recommended eight hours of sleep per 24-hour day. Impaired sleep or lack of sleep is found to aggravate health problems and interfere with the body’s natural ability to heal itself. For sleep-de-prived golfers, this will most certainly have a negative impact on their game potential because focus and concentration are affected. Without proper rest, your physical and mental body systems are stressed. Your judgement will be affected too.

As a golfer, if you fail to get sufficient rest and recovery, your ability to develop muscle memory becomes flawed. This happens as you stress to store movement experiences and consolidate them to the brain to solidify your posture and muscle movement patterns during each round.

Golfers are early risers! Waking up too early, or frequently through the night (fragmented sleep), forces you to lose those essential few hours of restorative sleep. Muscle memory is then poorly established, resulting in poor movement patterns, poor muscular elasticity and overall low-grade performance.

Factors that can influence restful sleep include: Room environment, your age, mattress and pillow design and function, your Circadian Rhythm, psychological stressors, alcohol and drugs. Another overlooked issue is your body/sleeping posture, a key contributor to a good night’s sleep. Good sleeping posture ensures that you have a more restful sleep each night, so you can wake up with less pain and a sharper mind.

There are three main sleeping postures, and they each matter: Back-, side- and tummy-sleeping. Although back- and side-sleeping are highly encouraged, experts and scientists also stress that sleep posture should be FREE and NOT FIXED. Sleeping position is an individual decision based on each person’s body history, specific needs and comfort preferences. Recognise the benefits and concerns associated with each sleeping position so you can maximise your sleep time and recovery often.

Sleeping On Your Back

This common position helps to evenly distribute weight and pressure on your spine, joints and sleeping surface. That’s why it is one of the most comfortable sleep positions for people of all ages for better rest, recovery and circulation. Sleep- ing on your back further reduces pressure on the intervertebral discs of your spine, and consequentially reduces sore and achy back.

With that being said, you can’t leave out your neck! Ensure that your neck is well supported with a good pillow system, so your head does not get perched up too high or fall back too low, pulling it out of alignment with your spine.

Remember, try to maintain the natural healthy curves of neutral posture.

Consider placing a small pillow under your legs to support your knees and take pressure off the lower back. Good back-sleeping posture can only be achieved through proper pillow and mattress support. However, back-sleeping posture is highly correlated with higher rates of snoring and sleep apnoea (breathing stops while sleeping) compared to side-sleeping posture.

Sleeping On Your Side

Many chiropractors recommend that the best sleeping position is side posture in a foetal pose (with legs curled and a bolster placed between your knees). Foetal pose helps keep the pelvis level and reduces the chances of lower back pain and stiffness overnight. While sleeping on your side, strive for a comfortable position where your ears are aligned over your shoulders, which are aligned over your hips, while keeping your knees slightly bent/curled (foetal pose).

Keep your neck well supported with a comfortable pillow that does not prop or drop your head causing excess side-bending. Your neck should be supported in a neutral posture. Although side-sleepers benefit from reduced lower back irritation, they tend to experience nerve compression that can cause neck, shoulder and back pain depending on pillow choice and pillow position. If you are trying to combat snoring, or to reduce the effect of acid reflux, side sleeping is the way to go. Left side sleeping keeps the stomach below the oesophagus as gravity helps keep the reflux at bay; however, you may feel pressure on your liver and lungs. Best to alternate your sides when you sleep. Do not “fix” it.

Sleeping On Your Stomach

Despite its many disadvantages, stomach-sleeping actually provides deeper sleep potential than back-sleeping or side-sleeping. However, stomach-sleeping has a negative impact by impairing digestion and blood circulation, while forcing mechanical and neurological stress and pressure on your back and neck. It also puts pressure on internal organs such as the heart and lungs, demanding up to 25% more energy just to fall asleep, which further adds to the complications of sleep apnoea and snoring. If you are a tummy sleeper, consider modifying your sleep posture by easing the transition with side sleeping posture before attempting other positions.

Your body needs to be recharged for every round of golf. Since playing golf and sleeping requires a good setup posture, the only thing you have to lose is a few more strokes off your game! Prevent and protect yourself from the harmful effects of poor sleeping posture by always starting the night in a good sleeping posture. If you wake up throughout the night in a poor sleeping position, put yourself in good sleeping posture and get some more sleep. Before rising from bed, repeat the same to remind your body of the proper position.

Improve your game with healthy sleep patterns as your sleeping posture habits improve too with ongoing practice.

  • Dr Newell Tan is a chiropractor graduated from International Medical University. He has experiences with a wide range of clients from children (pediatrics) to the elderly (geriatrics) and everything in between.