Not getting enough sleep these days… or nights? Join the club. We’ll probably get jackets. Well, maybe not. We’re too tired to get that done.
Truth is, most of us probably aren’t getting enough sleep. And that’s not good. Not getting enough sleep can be bad for your physical and mental health. It can leave your energy levels sapped, cloud your memory, slow your thinking and your sex drive, and leave you moody, cranky, and short of attention. And yes; a lack of sleep wrecks your training and recovery, too.
“Sleep and exercise are interrelated,” says Dr. Nancy Behrens, a specialist at Novant Health Sleep Medicine – Ballantyne. “Sleep allows the body to recover and perform better, and exercise improves sleep quality.”
The exact amount of sleep you need depends on your age, your overall health, your activity level, and training schedule. But in general, children need more sleep than adults to support their growth and development, and runners need more sleep than sedentary people. If you’re training for an event, or ramping up your mileage, you’ll want to add a even more sleep to your schedule to recover from the extra effort.
When it comes to grading your sleep, shoot for quality over quantity. Slow wave sleep, which occurs about 30 minutes into your sleep time, is when breathing slows, blood pressure decreases and growth hormone is released. Growth hormone leads to cell regeneration and muscle repair. That’s the good stuff!
So how do you get better sleep? Dr. Behrens says there are certain steps you can take to improve your sleep quality and maximize your body’s recovery from training.
- Keep the bedroom very dark, use black out curtains or a sleep mask if needed.
- Avoid cell phone, computer and tablet screens at least an hour before bed and overnight. The bright screens from these devices decrease the amount of melatonin your brain makes.
- Determine your individual sleep needs. Some people feel rested with six hours of sleep while some require nine hours a night. You’ll likely need more sleep when training.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine as both can disrupt sleep. You typically want to avoid caffeine in any form, including tea and sodas, after 2 pm.
- Get a power nap if you need one. If you’re sleepy in the early afternoon, taking a nap for 30 minutes or less can rejuvenate you without making it harder to sleep at night.
As always, listen to your body. Monitor your sleep if you’re having difficulty bouncing back from workouts, feeling slow, depressed, or tired. Try adjusting your sleep habits and see if things improve. If not, ask your doctor or a sleep medicine specialist for help catching those much needed z’s.