I need 8 to 9 hours of solid sleep to feel at my best. Any less, and I’ll notice I’m not as mentally sharp, my runs are more labored, and my mood and attitude toward life isn’t as positive. I’ve learned I can’t shortchange sleep. Sleep deprivation may be subtle at first, but cumulatively, it will begin to become more obvious over an extended period of time.
Sleep often seems to take a back seat to other healthy habits, such as nutrition and exercise, but I’m a firm believer plentiful sleep is just as important to a healthy lifestyle and is a necessity to run at your best. There may be a few rare individuals who can get away with less than 7 or 8 hours of sleep, but for the vast majority of us, we all probably need a solid 7 to 9 hours a night to be at our best.
The benefits of sleep are well documented – improved memory, longer lifespan, reduced inflammation, improved athletic performance, sharpened attention, lose more fat, ability to handle stress, less prone to accidents, and being less susceptible to depression to name a few. And there are still many other mysterious benefits to sleep we still don’t know about or understand. However, with all these known benefits, much of the world’s population is still sleep deprived. I’m sure everyone has there reasons, good or bad, but the bottom line is a lack of sleep will most likely not result in the best you.
I think it is also important to develop a routine and try to go to sleep and wake up around the same time every day. The time we go to bed is usually within our control. Also, the timing of when you go to bed and wake up is important. In my opinion, the quality of sleep is better the earlier you go to bed. Going to bed at 9 pm and waking up at 5 am is better than going to bed at 2 am and waking up at 10 pm. Although it is still 8 hours of sleep, the deepest and most regenerative sleep occurs between 10 pm and 2 am.
During the weeknights, I try to get to bed before 8 pm and on the weekends by 9 pm. Since I usually wake up between 4 am to 5 am, this allows for about 8 hours a sleep a night. I know this is a too early for most folks, but this routine seems to work for me. Going to bed this early was hard initially, but all I had to do was cut out watching television or surfing the Internet, which were a total waste of time anyway. I’ve been going to bed this early for about 10 years and can conclude it has positively changed my life.