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Sleep and its importance in martial arts

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The human body needs air, water, food, and sleep, to survive. If these are not adequate, then the body suffers. If the bodily limits of suffering are exceeded, then the body becomes unconscious. If still these are not provided to the body, then the body subsequently dies. Thus, these are of vital importance for survival of the human body. Collectively, all these are important, yet individually also they are important. For example, if any of these is not adequate, then also the body suffers and may experience death. Thus, both collectively and individually, the human body depends on air, water, food, and sleep for its survival. Therefore, the importance of these is paramount for human beings. This article briefly touches on the topic of sleep and its importance in martial arts.

Why sleep?

Sleep is necessary because it provides several benefits.

Mayo Clinic video “8 Benefits of Getting Quality Sleep”:

Talks at Google video “Why We Sleep: Science of Sleep & Dreams | Matthew Walker | Talks at Google”:

Harvard Medical School video “Why Sleep Matters”:

What is sleep?

The human body perceives its environment through its senses. Sleep is mainly affected by light and temperature. When the eyes sense darkness, then the pineal gland in the brain produces more melatonin, and the core body temperature drops, which together promotes sleep. On the other hand, when the eyes sense light, then less or no melatonin is produced, and the core body temperature does not drop, which promotes wakefulness.

This sensing of light and darkness by the eyes helps to maintain a biological clock, which is also known as a circadian clock. The rhythm of this clock is known as a circadian rhythm and in mammals, it is about 24 hours, with slight variations in children and adults, and males and females. The circadian rhythm affects all organs of the body and also affects sleep.

OxfordSparks video “What Makes You Tick: Circadian Rhythms”:

A conclusive definition of sleep is not yet arrived at by the scientific community; however, sleep may be stated as a state of the human body, where physical and mental activity, along with interactions with the surrounding environment is reduced.

Neuro Transmissions video “What Is Sleep?”:

Stages of sleep

During sleep the movement of the eyes may be rapid, which is known as Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. Again, there may be no rapid movement of the eyes, which is known as Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM or Non-REM) sleep. NREM may be divided into three stages known as N1, N2, and N3. Generally, both NREM and REM make one sleep cycle of about 90 minutes and around 5 or 6 such cycles are repeated in approximately 7 to 9 hours of sleep. The duration of each cycle and the stages along with their order, vary from individuals to individuals.

Sleepopolis video “The Sleep Cycle: How It Works And Explaining The 4 Stages of Sleep!”:

How sleep affects martial artists

Martial artists experience a lot of strain and stress during training and competitions. Hence, they need to sleep at least 7 to 9 or more hours. Lack of adequate sleep can result in lowered energy, lowered speed, lowered attention, lowered judgement, lowered timing, lowered force. and an overall lowered performance. In training, this means that the body will move slower, lethargically, and the mind will miss parts of the training or not grasp them at all. In competitions, this means that the opponent’s moves, openings, or weaknesses will be missed, which may result in oneself getting knocked out.

Performance Health Academy Network video “How Sleep Affects Athletic Performance and Mental Health”:

Getting enough sleep maximizes performance. In training, this means that everything will be soaked up like a sponge soaks up water. In competitions, this means that powerful punches, lightning-fast kicks, and bone-shattering blocks can be executed with perfect timing and accuracy, resulting in knocking out the opponent.

demodome video “ITF Taekwondo Knockouts and Self Defense Best of v1”:

Making a dream a reality

Everybody dreams about something or the other. A chef dreams how the food will be appreciated. A teacher dreams how the students will become learned and responsible citizens. A mother dreams how her child will achieve greater and greater heights of glory. Olympic athletes dream of winning and a getting a gold medal.

But can a dream be transformed into reality? One may dream of a victory, especially in the REM state of sleep, but it is only a dream and not a reality.  For example, a martial artist can dream that a fight is won, but in reality, when the fight does take place, the martial artist may lose the fight. So, how can a dream be made real? Martial artists have known to make dreams a reality by a technique known as visualization. Martial artists visualize fights and similarly, athletes use this technique in all kinds of sporting activities. In this technique, conscious efforts are undertaken so that the dream may become a reality.  Without deliberate efforts, it is merely dreaming and not visualization.  Therefore, visualization is taking conscious, deliberate and purposeful efforts, to make a dream a reality.

Visualization – the secret video “Visualization used by Michael Phelps”:

Jim Bonfiglio video “Olympic Gold Medalist Visualization.wmv”:

Remaining awake while dreaming

But what if a martial artist, while dreaming a fight, is aware that it is only a dream. Then, this awareness can control the fight, as conscious, deliberate and purposeful efforts may be undertaken, while in the dream, so that the dream may become a reality, and in such a case, would not dreaming be called as visualization? In such an instance, the martial artist would control and win all fights, both in the dream and in reality.

Insider Tech video “How Lucid Dreaming Works”:

In this type of lucid dreaming, where one is aware that one is dreaming, the efforts to control the dream may make the martial artist win a fight. But what if the dream goes out of control? If emotions, especially fear and anger, are not controlled, or subconscious impressions of previous fights arise uncontrollably, then in such a case, the visualization would also go out of control, and might make the martial artist lose the fight, both in the dream and in reality. An interesting scene of uncontrolled lucid dreaming is shown in the following video.

4K HDR Media video “Inception – Ariadne Learns How To Build Dreams (HDR – 4K – 5.1)”:

It is said that monks, including those who practice martial arts, can control their emotions and different states of awareness, and thus, while meditating, they perform something similar to lucid dreaming and thereby, successfully control and win all types of fights, martial or otherwise, both internal and external. It might be their way of using sleep and deriving its usefulness in life and in martial arts.


Martial artists can derive several benefits from sleeping like gaining more energy, improving the immune system, helping the body’s metabolism, and maximizing the overall performance. Generally, switching off electronic screens like a television, computer, tablet, and mobile phone, before an hour of going to sleep, increases the quality of sleep. Maintaining a strict time of going to sleep and waking up, as well as having at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep, can improve performance. Sleep can restore the body and also enable the martial artist to reach greater levels of achievement.


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