Today, we will discuss one of our favorite topics, sleep. We always discuss the various aspects of training - form, proper gear, nutrition, a solid plan, etc. But what about getting some adequate pillow time?
Today we discuss the role sleep plays in training, what happens to the body when you are deprived of sleep and how to get as much quality sleep as you can. It's a proven fact that improving sleep quality and increasing sleep time leads to better performance and in elite athletes, it's the difference between winning or losing.
First, let's get into some sleep statistics from the pros. Just how much sleep do they get per day?
Usain Bolt - 8-10 hrs/night
Roger Federer - 12 hrs./night
Paula Radcliffe - 9 hrs./night, plus a 2 hr. nap
Deena Kastor - 12 hrs./night
First, let's delve into the role that sleep plays in our training. Your muscles need time to rebuild and the only time this can happen is while they are at rest so almost all of your muscle restoration happens while you are sleeping.
While 8 hours of sleep might be standard for most people to perform optimally in their day to day lives, think about what happens when you add training for an endurance event like a marathon or an Ironman triathlon. Still think you can get by with 8 hours? Probably not.
As physical activity increases, so does the need for sleep. More sleep leads to enhanced performance and well being. Sadly, most people don't even get 8 hours of sleep. So what happens when you don't get enough sleep? The first thing that suffers is your cognitive performance and your mood. Your levels of the stress hormone Cortisol increases, appetite regulation (causing weight gain) and immune function (causing illness) all suffer.
Ever wonder why you see some folks training really hard get a cold or the flu in the last month of training for an endurance event? There's even a name for it... the marathon sniffles. Chances are, they have not increased their sleep and recovery and their immune systems are feeling the pinch.
Guess what also happens? Your production of glycogen is decreased which increases your levels of fatigue and also slows down recovery. Glycogen production is crucial in endurance events so it's not something you want to play around with.
We all have such busy lives - so much to do and not enough time to do it all in. We carve out time for our kids, significant others, family members, work, mealtime, training and we try to fit sleep in there somewhere in that 24 hour day. It's no wonder sleep time gets cut shorter and shorter to make room for busier and busier lives.
So, how do we squeeze more sleep out of an already packed 24 hours? We do it strategically. See if you can find just one extra hour in your daily schedule. - Perhaps you really don't need to watch that tv show or get on the computer before bedtime.
Do you really need to spend the next 30 minutes looking at your smartphone, social media or playing with those apps? We can almost guarantee that you can find an extra hour that can be applied to your overall sleep time if you cut out just those 3 things.
Patrick: When we moved into our place in Rehoboth Beach, we intentionally did not get a TV. It's helped us not only get to sleep at a decent time, but we actually talk to each other, discuss our day or find something else to do instead of wasting the hours watching mindless TV.
You can also make the time you actually do sleep, count. Here are some things to consider to make the hours that you are sleeping work for you and cut down the disruptions.
1) Melatonin, which helps you sleep, is produced in extremely low light. Is your bedroom as dark as it can be? Adjusting the lighting will not only help you fall asleep, but also help you STAY asleep.
2) What is your bedroom temperature? It is almost impossible to sleep in hot humid temperatures. As your body temperature falls you are able to fall asleep faster so adjust that AC if necessary!
3) Noise is a no brainer, but it's sometimes difficult to tune out all those little noises that happen over the course of the night. A ceiling fan or just a regular fan or a sound machine can help create some white noise and help you fall asleep faster.
4) No TV, laptop, or smartphone in the bedroom. Ever.
5) Alcohol is a huge obstacle to sleep. Alcohol, while it seems to make you tired, actually causes disruptive and fragmented sleep. You end up waking up several times throughout the night. This also goes for caffeine and lot's of water. Limit your intake of caffeine within 4-5 hours of bedtime and your water intake so you are not getting up several times throughout the night to go to the bathroom.
6) If you have the opportunity, train in the middle of the day and not late after work. This gives your body enough time to come down from the "high" and get you to sleep.
We'll close with this statement that we hear tossed around a lot "I'll have plenty of time to sleep when I'm dead". That's a true statement. There is plenty of time to sleep when you are dead, but unless you find time time for sleep while you are living, you can kiss your health goodbye and join the ranks of the living dead.
Keep on Running!
Julia, Patrick & Jo-Jo
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