Years ago, a coach asked me how much sleep I was getting each night, after a spell of subpar workouts. The question seemed strange to a young athlete, and I could not wrap my brain around why he would ask such a question. I think I answered, “around or less than six hours a night.” The key was that until that point, I never thought about how sleep actually affected my racing and training. It’s one of the first things we cut short when we are training and trying to fit in all our responsibilities, but it’s one of the few things we can control when it comes to athletic performance.
Since learning how important sleep is to performance, I have made it a priority. It’s even a section in my training journal. Sleep is a restorative time for your body. It allows muscles to regenerate, lowers stress levels, aids digestion and even helps to facilitate weight loss. A lot can be said about waking up and starting the day refreshed and ready to go. However not all sleep is created equal! Here are a few ways to help make your sleep count.
1. Dark Room – Studies have shown that people who sleep in blacked-out conditions achieve deeper, more restorative sleeps. If you live on a bright street, think about investing in light blocking blinds.
2. Reduce Noise – Try to cut any excess noise out of your sleeping areas. Put your cell phone on night mode, turn it off or leave it in another room while you sleep. Also, try a fan or sound machine to drown out city noises.
3. Cool Temps – As we sleep, our body actually cools down. Sleeping in cooler environments allows for your body to stay at a comfortable state. Added bonus…it can cut down on heating bills in the winter.
4. Stop Evening Binges – An easy rule of thumb is no food after 9:00pm. Your body should have a few hours to digest food before hitting the hay for the night. If your body is digesting food while you sleep, it’s harder to achieve a full restorative state.
5. Alarm Clock – People who have a reliable alarm clock are more apt to sleep soundly than those worried about if they set it correctly. Having a reliable alarm system not only eases the mind, but the body as well.
Keep track of your sleep for a month to see if you are sleeping enough—a rule of thumb for most adults is 7.5 – 9 hours. A few changes in the bedroom can correlate into noticeable gains in racing and training sessions! That’s the dirt for this week. Next week we look into how salt is used in endurance endeavors.