When training, I think one of the things we most often compromise or don’t give it the credit it deserves is sleep. I’m coming to the conclusion that sleep is just as important as how hard you train and what you eat. Not getting enough rest inhibits the recovery process and sub-optimizes the quality of your training runs. I’m planning to improve in this area during this next training cycle by averaging at least 8 or more hours of sleep every night. Normally, I probably average about 7 hours of sleep a night. The amount of sleep is very dependent upon each individual, but for me, when I get 8 or more hours of solid sleep, I feel like a million bucks the next day. My attitude is much more positive, I’m more patient with others, my early morning training sessions seem a little easier, and my thinking is much sharper. Also, sufficient sleep improves the immune system, making you less susceptible of getting sick.
A strange thing is that no matter how much sleep I get every night, I do get drowsy around noon, and usually take a 20 – 30 minute nap. But this little power nap really helps with the energy levels for the rest of the afternoon. Fortunately, I have my own office, so after eating lunch, I close my door, hit play on my iPhone with CNBC’s Mad Money as background noise, lay down on my small couch, and doze off into my little siesta.
There are a few things for me that tend to get in the way of a good night’s sleep, which fortunately is mostly within my control. For example, in the evening, getting on the Internet, reading/sending e-mails, stressing about something from work, just basically doing things that keep the mind engaged that can wait until the next day. Doing these things in the evening tend to bleed into time where I should begin winding down and getting ready for bed, or even worse, get my mind racing where I can’t fall asleep when it is time.
From my experience, here are a list of things that tend to help me get a restful night sleep.
1. I avoid caffeine after 12 pm.
2. Go for a 30 minute leisurely walk after dinner.
3. I do a short easy stretching routine (5 or 10 minutes) about 30 minutes before going to bed.
4. Read a book about 10 to 15 minutes before turning off the lights.
5. I try and go to bed and wake up about the same time each day, including weekends. Normally, because my work starts around 7:30 am and I have a 1 hour commute to work each way, I try to get to bed by 8 pm and wake up around 4 am. I get home from work around 6 pm, which doesn’t leave a lot of time to do much in the evening. But because I like to do my exercise and training first thing in the morning during the weekdays, this seems to be the only practical schedule for me.
6. Ensure the room is comfortable, dark and not too warm.
7. If my mind is racing, I turn on talk radio or go through the minute details of my day from the time I woke up. This seems to calm the mind.
8. Sometimes I have a cup of Sleepytime Celestial Herbal Tea about an hour before bedtime.
9. No television.
The main point is being disciplined and following a ritual to ensure I properly wind down and get to bed before 8 pm. There are so much noise that can grab my attention before winding down and before I know it, it is an hour past my bedtime. When this happens, it almost guarantees the next day to be sub-par as well as longer recovery periods from training.
I don’t plan to obsess over getting to bed before 8 pm every night, this will only add stress to what should be a very relaxing process. But hopefully, most nights I’ll be able to get into a routine where I’m more often feeling rested the next day than not.