Sleep Better, Run Faster
Sleep is an essential part of training for runners. Adequate sleep allows the body to best maximize recovery time between workouts, produce HGH (human growth hormone), maintain a healthy metabolism and manage pain and inflammation.
How much sleep do you need? Most sleep experts claim that 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night is ideal for adults, but that there is a lot of individual variation. Many elite athletes sleep upward of 9 hours a night, and also take naps. Personally, I feel great on 8 hours and fully functional on 7. My life as a distance runner and full-time working mom of three makes adequate sleep a challenge, but also a priority. If I get less than 7 hours of sleep for multiple consecutive nights, completing workouts becomes a real challenge, and I need more coffee just to stay focused through the day.
In tracking my sleep with SleepIQ® technology, I’ve noticed that I feel best if I get over 7 hours of “restful” sleep. Depending on how many times my teething toddler wakes me up, it could easily take 7.5 hours in bed to achieve that. With limited time to sleep, I need to make sure every minute counts.
- A Few Sleep-Hygiene Tips That Can Help You Make More of Your Nighttime Schedule
- Back into a bedtime. Determine what time you need to wake up to complete your morning routine (and your run, if scheduled). To determine your planned bedtime, count back for the amount of sleep you need to feel rested. If you have a morning workout scheduled, bedtime moves earlier accordingly.
- Plan for your pre-sleep wind-down. Whatever your routine, determine how long it takes and when you need to start to stay on track.
- Avoid caffeine for at least 4 to 6 hours before bed. Caffeine late in the day interrupts the HGH (human growth hormone) production during the first three hours of deep sleep.
- Avoid alcohol. Although an evening glass of wine may make you feel sleepy, it interferes with sleep quality.
- Build a sleep ritual. This is incredibly important to establish for children, and a grown-up sleep ritual can help prepare your body for sleep as well. It could include a warm bath, quiet reading, stretching or meditation. A bath encourages sleep as your body cools after you exit the warm water, and other quiet activities help calm the mind.
- Choose comfort. Sleeping on high-quality mattress with comfortable sheets can help you doze off faster. I love the cozy feeling of soft, warm sheets in the winter, and adjusting the setting on my Sleep Number® bed to support my tired muscles after a long day.
- Avoid blue light from electronics for at least an hour before bed. The blue light affects the sleep hormone melatonin, and can make it more challenging to sleep well.
- Avoid eating a heavy snack or meal shortly before bedtime. If you eat a bedtime snack, choose a light and easily digestible snack with healthy carbohydrates and fat to keep your blood sugar stable overnight.
Without adequate sleep, motivation wanes, and runners often experience a loss of “executive function” – the willpower to stick to workouts and nutrition plans. By prioritizing your sleep, you give yourself the best chance not only to recover from workouts, but to stick to them. To learn more about the power of sleep, check out the Sleep Number blog.
Sleep well, run fast!
Rebekah Mayer is the National Run Training Manager for Life Time – The Healthy Way of Life Company.
Like diet and exercise, quality sleep is essential for optimal health and performance. Because everyone’s sleep needs are different, Sleep Number® beds with SleepIQ® technology inside adjust to your ideal level of firmness, comfort and support. SleepIQ technology tracks how well you sleep each night, giving you personal insights into your sleep so you’ll learn how life affects your sleep and how sleep affects your life. Find your Sleep Number® setting for your best possible night’s sleep.