All the research around the brain and how the brain works and how you can optimize it tells us that rest and rejuvenation is very important. And yet most poker players, at least in the United States, under-sleep and under-rest. That’s a huge hidden detriment to a lot of players’ games.
Avoiding losing sleep for online playing sessions
A typical scenario might be that you’ve been up since 5 A.M. from your normal job or from your children and then here you are running deep in an online game until midnight or 1 A.M. That’s a very long period of time and you want to be able to make good decisions.
A nap doesn’t have to mean an hour or two
One thing I would suggest players do is if you know you’re going to play poker late is you could at all get a nap in earlier in the day. A lot of times when people hear “a nap” they think, “Oh, does that mean sleep for two hours?” No, I mean a 15 or 20 minute catnap. I think that could really help you out a lot for late playing session. It’s really tough to play when you’re sleep deprived. It’s just a hard thing to handle.
Use your breaks wisely during tournaments
The other thing is really making the most of the standard breaks you get during online poker tournaments. During the five minutes:
- get up
- get the blood flowing
- get a drink of water
- do some deep breathing
That hopefully can help you get your mind a little bit more on point and back to the game.
Hypnosis and meditation could help your game
Another thing you might consider doing while you’re on public transportation or waiting for an appointment (or even just at home) is listening to some hypnosis. You could do a little meditating or a little hypnotherapy. I find that to be very energizing.
If I know that I’m going to be up late, or have a late poker session or something, I find going through a meditation track is almost as good as having a nap.
Keeping naps short
The key with naps has to do with how long you’ve been sleeping for. Once you get beyond a certain amount of time, you will get into a certain stage of sleep that when you do wake up you’re going to feel groggy.
So that’s why it’s important that you keep the nap time short. So, a lot of times if you do fall asleep for a short nap and then you end up going way past that window, what that really is a sign of is that you’re probably sleep deprived.
You need to be getting more sleep at night, which can only increase your poker profits when you’re making better mental decisions.
Be careful of what you eat before long tournaments
You can also be very aware of you’re eating for your meals because some foods are going to be very heavy and the digestive process is going to fatigue you as well. I’m very cautious about what types of foods I’d be eating right before I play poker tournaments.
Also, if you’re playing at nighttime on coffee or energy drinks and you’re caffeine sensitive then that might interfere with the sleep that you’re going to get after the tournament. That’s something to think about. Natural caffeine in moderation actually cane have some benefits.
The balance of caffeine-fueled poker
Caffeine can certainly be a negative if you drink an excessive amount to get through a playing session. I personally do not do caffeine myself but if you said that you like to have a couple cups of coffee a day I don’t have a problem with that. I think it’s fine unless your doctor says otherwise.
The sun is the best natural stimulant
If you want purely natural stimulants you can go out in the sun. This is especially important for players in a casino or indoor cardroom. Go out in the sun for a few minutes in the morning, that kind of gets things going and that can be for a lot of people a really good kick-starter.
Indoor poker time can mess with the day-night cycle
I know as poker players we spend a lot of time indoors and that’s not really that great for the sleep-wake cycles because of the way the brain operates. The sun causes the certain glands and hormones and things like that to get working to let you know, “Hey, it’s daytime,” and then, when it’s dark out, again the same types of hormones are released to let you know it’s sleep time.
Unfortunately in modern times, we either don’t get out during the day or we have our digital devices on at all hours which simulate the sun and so sleep-wake cycles can get really messed up because of that.