by John Stanton
How is your “sleep hygiene” these days? This term refers to the practices and habits needed to achieve high quality sleep and full daytime alertness. If you’re not getting the rest you need, it might be time to clean up your sleep habits.
Sleep is vital for runners, as it gives the body a chance to recover from its latest workout. While we sleep, our muscles repair at the cellular level and our slowed metabolism leads to deep relaxation.
The average runner needs seven to eight hours of sleep every night, and many of us fall short by a couple of hours. Here’s the good news, though: compared to non-runners, runners report that they fall asleep more easily, sleep more soundly and wake up feeling more refreshed. Just as we become better and stronger athletes through running, we also become more efficient sleepers. However, any sudden increases in your mileage should be accompanied by additional sleep.
You can assess your sleep hygiene by considering the questions below. Ideally, you should be answering “yes” to each one.
Do you wake up and go to bed at the same time every day?
This is easier said than done, but a consistent sleep/wake routine (even on weekends) is best for your internal body clock.
Do you limit your caffeine consumption to the first half of the day?
To prevent caffeine from interfering with your sleep, it is wise to reduce your intake of coffee, caffeinated tea, soft drinks and chocolate during the afternoon and evening.
Do you keep your late-night snacking to a minimum?
Late meals or big snacks can interfere with relaxation, as your digestive system deals with the large quantity of food.
Do you have a home environment that is conducive to sleep?
Your bedroom should be dark, cool, quiet and comfortable. At bedtime, reduce distractions by keeping pets and electronics out of your room as much as possible.
Do you have a screen-free way of unwinding before bed?
Turn off the TV, set your phone to “Do Not Disturb” and let yourself calm down after your busy day. Try some easy stretching, herbal tea, a warm shower or bath, soft music, or light reading.
Do you place a high value on sleep?
If you recognize the important role that sleep plays in your overall health and performance, you’ll make it a priority. If you do, your next day and your next run will likely go that much better.
John Stanton is the President and Founder of the Running Room. He is the author of 10 books about running, walking and family fitness.