Better Sleep Case Study: Amy Cokayne, England and Harlequins Rugby Player

Mammoth caught up Amy Cokayne, just as the England and Harlequins Hooker was preparing to head to England training camp ahead of the Rugby World Cup in October 2022. We chatted to Amy about getting into rugby at an early age; why England still aren’t the finished article despite their incredible run of victories; treating herself to a Mammoth Excel mattress; and why the 21 hours away from the pitch are every bit as important as the time spent training on it.

“I actually started playing rugby when I was 5,” says Amy Cokayne when Mammoth dialled in to chat with her on a sunny Friday morning. “My older brother played rugby and I was always being dragged down to watch him at the weekend. Eventually, I think they just got annoyed at me trying to join in and my parents pointed out to me that I could go and join kids in my own age group. I suppose I haven’t stopped since, really.”

After returning from a stint living in New Zealand from the age of 9 to 17, Amy quickly found herself picked to play for England Under 20s. Now a fully-fledged international with the Red Roses, Amy has enjoyed great success since making her debut in 2015. Already a veteran of the World Cup in 2017, Amy has been an integral part of the squad that has notched up a 23-game winning streak over the past 4 years.

Looking forward to the coming weeks and months, Amy will be spending the rest of the summer in England camp in Bath, before heading down to New Zealand for the World Cup which begins in October. Amy is quick to point out how beneficial it is for the Red Roses to have this crucial preparation time ahead of the tournament – being able to focus solely on international duties through the summer and early autumn.

“We’re very lucky to be able to go into camp now and have a good few weeks to get fit, build connections as a team, develop our game plan, nail the detail and have our workload managed carefully. I’m not sure what the situation is with some of the other nations but we will definitely have had the best preparation we could have by the end of this block.

“Those players lucky enough to be selected for the final squad will then fly out to New Zealand in mid-September and have a couple of weeks to acclimatise before the pool games begin.

“After the World Cup, we’re again lucky that our workload is managed carefully – all England players will be getting an enforced 3 weeks off before returning to club duty. That all comes from good lines of communication between the clubs, country and also the RPA (Rugby Players Association).”

That focus on player welfare is important to see, particularly at a time when the sport is coming under increased scrutiny for the regularity and severity of injuries suffered on both the men’s and women’s side.

Asked for her appraisal of where this unbeaten England team are in their evolution, Amy says, “It’s not as if we’re 100% happy with our performances. Yes, we’ve had good results in the 6 Nations and in the Autumn but we know there’s still a lot to work on. We’ll have to be better if we want to be in with a chance of winning the World Cup.”

Training, rest and recovery

As Amy and the Red Roses prepare for the World Cup, their training schedule will be carefully managed by the England strength and conditioning staff. Initially, this will entail around 4 on-pitch training sessions a week and 3 gym sessions, as well as strategy and tactical sessions in the classroom.

In addition, Amy says that the squad have really benefitted from specialists coming in to camp to assist players in taking control of their own day-to-day routines.

“We’ve had sessions with experts talking to us about things like nutrition and also menstrual cycles. One of the key takeaways from all of these extra sessions is the importance of paying attention to detail in the ‘21 hours’ – basically the time that we aren’t on the pitch or in the gym.

“I’ve definitely noticed that, since going fully professional, being able to dedicate time to those 21 hours is what’s had the biggest impact. Without a full-time job to juggle, I can focus on doing the right kind of recovery work or rehab to get my body and mind in the best place.”

One of the extra features Amy has built into her own routine is to eat a protein yoghurt every evening when in camp to ensure that her body has all the nutrients necessary to carry out repair work during sleep at night.

Sleep is, of course, one of the most critical areas for an elite athlete like Amy who needs her body to recover and repair effectively from day to day. Asked about her own sleep routine, she says,

“I’m actually quite a good sleeper generally. So, whether it’s in England camp or back at Quins where we tend to train late into the evening and it’s harder to wind down, I don’t tend to find it as difficult as others to switch off and get a solid 8 hours in.”

In fact, Amy suggests that her ideal night’s sleep is closer to 10 hours. This extended period helps her to wake feeling fresh and sharp for another day’s training.

“I’m also quite careful to create a nice dark, cool room to sleep in. Getting that environment right is really important to me.”

Of course, one additional challenge that can’t be underestimated is the impact of having a room-mate when in camp. Asked about her own experience with sharing hotel rooms, Amy says:

“I tend to room with Hannah Botterman and I’d say she only occasionally snores. But if she does, I don’t mind giving her a whack and then we can both go back to sleep!”

 Despite being a good sleeper already, Amy says that upgrading her existing mattress to a Mammoth was all part of her efforts to optimise those 21 hours still further.

“I heard about Mammoth through the RPA,” she says. “I know of a few other players who’d bought Mammoth mattresses and really rated them. So, I thought it was probably time to treat myself. I spend over a third of my life asleep so it’s an area I know I should invest in.”

Follow Amy Cokayne on Instagram @avfkcokayne

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