I recently read a great article about Tom Brady in Business Insider. As a loyal Peyton Manning fan it is hard for me to admit this but I do admire Tom as he is undoubtedly one of the best players in the game and has had some impressive staying power. In the interview Tom discusses his love for the game and his desire to do what it takes to continue to play for as long as he can. One of the biggest factors Tom attributes to his ability to play the game for so long is sleep. Tom is in bed early most nights and likes to get up early each morning. You can read his interview here.
Sleep is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your running. So many great things happen to our bodies during the night that we cannot see, but make a huge difference both mentally and physically. Every person is different but the ideal amount of sleep time tends to come in around 7-9 hours per night. I personally do my best with eight solid hours but seven works well too. Anything under that and I am foggy and a bit cranky.
When we sleep our bodies go into repair mode. All of those muscles you stress and ask so much of during the day work to refresh themselves while you are in bed. Tissues get repaired and a growth hormone is released to help our bodies heal.
Our metabolisms are also affected by our time catching up on Z’s. When we deprive ourselves of sleep our appetites get out of whack. Our ability to metabolize carbohydrates doesn’t work well on inefficient sleep. This can cause us to gain weight and also impair our ability to convert carbohydrates to glycogen. That right there is a recipe for disaster on your long runs, causing you to hit that wall faster and experience more cramping. When we exhaust our bodies and don’t give them proper time to heal we are more susceptible to injury.
Elite runners are early to bed and early risers. They know the value of a good night’s rest and often times take an afternoon nap too. I like to use this as a perfect excuse to live like an elite and nap whenever I get a chance!
Over the years I have gone from being a night owl to a bit more of a morning person. It wasn’t always easy for me. I spent years staying up late and waking up exhausted each morning. I would swear every day as I dragged myself out of bed that I would get to bed earlier that night. Of course, I would stay up late and continue this viscous and exhausting cycle. Now I enjoy getting some extra rest and prefer my mornings. When I sleep in I feel like I waste valuable hours of my day. However, I am definitely not in bed at 8:30pm each night like Tom.
If you find that you struggle to get that extra sleep or to fall asleep in he first place, there are a few things you can do to help the process. The first thing is to turn off technology an hour before you plan to go to bed. Put away the laptop and cell phone. Relax on the couch and watch the news or read a book. Enjoy a nice warm cup of decaffeinated tea to help you unwind.
Make your bedroom a sacred sleeping place. You won’t find a television or computer in my bedroom. The only thing I do in there is sleep. Over the years I have upgraded to a nicer mattress and bed linens. When I go into my bedroom at night I look forward to crawling into my comfy bed. That right there is a game changer. When you watch TV or do work in your bedroom it confuses your mind and body. By making your bedroom simply a sleeping room your mind knows it is time to sleep when you walk in there.
Try some essential oils like lavender. I love the scent of lavender and it has proven effects on helping you to relax. Try a small dab on the back of your earlobes or on your temples. The scent alone will send you into relaxation mode.
Don’t panic. If you lay in bed for awhile and sleep isn’t coming to you, try to relax. I often do deep breathing just as I would in a yoga class. Usually when I do this I quickly drift off without even realizing it. But if sleep still isn’t coming to you, instead of panicking go ahead and pick up a book and read for awhile. Just keep relaxing and it will happen.
Sleep is such a powerful tool for your running. We spend so much time pushing and working all of our muscles. We really owe ourselves those extra hours to keep our bodies functioning at their highest capacity.
What are your techniques for getting to bed at night?