Monday, April 7, 2014

Sleep

We all need sleep and lots of it!  The standard recommendation for all adults is seven-and-a-half to eight hours of sleep per night. Runners, especially those who are training for a marathon, really need at least eight hours of sleep each night.

Sleep is crucial to your recovery from the physical exertion of running.  You must get enough sleep to allow your body to repair itself.  If you are sleep deprived for many days, you will find that your running performance will suffer and you will become run down, making you more susceptible to the common cold and other ailments.

Here are some simple tips to help you get a good night's sleep:
  • Avoid running and other high intensity exercises late in the day.  All vigorous exercise should be completed at least three hours before your typical bedtime.
  • Try to go to bed the same time each and every night and get up the same time every morning -- this includes the weekends!
  • Avoid caffeinated drinks and foods containing caffeine for at least six to eight hours prior to bedtime.
  • Limit or avoid alcohol intake -- it causes sleep disruption during the night.
  • Avoid heavy meals prior to bedtime, but conversely, do not go to sleep feeling hungry!
  • Develop a regular, relaxing routine prior to bedtime.  Some ideas include taking a warm bath, reading in bed, or deep breathing exercises.
  • Avoid watching the news in bed -- most people find the news to be disturbing.  
  • Keep your smart phone in another room when you go to bed -- you will avoid the temptation to read your emails, check your texts, or scan your social media accounts.
  • Make sure your bedroom is dark.  Lights from lamps, computers, televisions, and digital clocks interfere with the normal rhythms of our body and will disrupt our sleep.
  • Invest in a high quality mattress and pillow.
  • Wake up when the alarm first goes off -- avoid repeatedly hitting the snooze button.
  • Avoid oversleeping -- this causes shallow, disturbed sleep.
You are probably investing a lot of time in your training, so why not also invest the time in doing everything possible to get sufficient and restful sleep?  You cannot grossly neglect your sleep and expect good results from your training program.  

Adequate, quality sleep is essential, not just for runners, but for everyone.  Many medical studies have shown that getting the proper amount of sleep reduces your risk of cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.  Sleep deprivation can compromise you immune system and impair your endocrine (hormonal) system.  Sleeplessness can negatively impact your memory, concentration, and cognitive abilities.

So, my friends, rest up and sleep well tonight -- tomorrow, when you wake, you will be able to move mountains!