Like rest days, sleep is often an overlooked, but critical component of your training cycle.
While you sleep, your body does some much needed repair work. Did you know that it’s during sleep that the human growth hormone (yep the infamous HGH) is released to help aid muscle repair? Without enough HGH in your system, your recovery is slowed. Did you also know, that when HGH levels are down due to lack of sleep, that cortisol levels are on the rise? Too much cortisol in your system can also disrupt your body’s ability to recover properly.
There’s also the emotional impact of cutting your ZZZs short. Lack of proper sleep can really impact your ability to focus, think clearly and your mood — clearly not a good thing for anything you’ve got going on in your life including your running. I know personally that when I get overtired I become too dependent on my beloved coffee and some times don’t make the best food choices throughout the day. Being overtired also starts to drag on my motivation — hard to get up for that speed workout when your body’s craving sleep!
So how much sleep is enough?
While I’ve read time and again that “experts” recommend anywhere from 7 to 9 hours – most will also say, as with so many other things, that it depends on the person. For me, I’ve found that I’m at my best with 7 hours – that’s when I can wake up sans alarm clock and don’t feel the need to cling to my pillow. I think the lack-of-alarm-clock test is a good one to help you find your “ideal” amount of sleep.
After going into sleep-deprivation last month during the Olympics, I’ve been trying to reel in my late night ways. A couple of things I’ve found that help:
- Stepping away from my laptop at a reasonable hour
- No caffeine after 3 in the afternoon
- No late night snacking
- Stretching and rolling to help wind down
- Consistent bed time
How do you make sure your getting enough sleep?