Yesterday on my morning run, my running partner and I had a conversation about the trouble she was having falling asleep, then a few hours later I had a weekly call with one of my athletes and she wanted to discuss her issues with sleeping and how it was affecting her performance. And while we were chatting, another athlete started a Facebook discussion about how he has rethought his outlook on the importance of sleep and it has been a game changer. I would say that when a topic comes up three times a day, it must be one that we should tackle for others as well.
Here is the deal - there is no greater (legal) recovery tool than sleep. You sacrifice sleep - you will sacrifice your performance and you run the risk of getting ill or injured.
Here is the other deal - we live in a world where people attach value to the more you do the more you get done (I am guilty of this for sure). We pack our lives and kid’s lives and on top of that we see images on social media of people constantly on the go, swimming, biking and running all the miles.
You cannot hack sleep. Lack of sleep will catch up with you.
I can tell you, all high level endurance athletes are amazing sleepers and guard their sleep furiously. For professionals it is part of their job to sleep, just as much as it is to train. And yes, I know what you are thinking, well I can’t get all my training in and work and be a parent or a partner and also sleep for 8 hours a night.
I am here to tell you, that if you want to perform to the best of your ability you need to be a sleep miser, and if there is a will, there is a way.
First things first, let’s examine where in life you are wasting time or setting yourself up to stay up too late.
Ask yourself the following:
How many hours of TV are you watching at night?
Do you have a consistent evening routine which will get you to bed on time?
Are you consistent about the time that you go to bed each night?
Are there any extraneous commitments that you can cut out?
Are you working out too close to your bedtime?
Of course we have athletes who’s jobs dictate that they have a less than desirable sleep schedule and our coaches work to create workout weeks that optimize rest when at all possible. And we would always advise that if an athlete is simply exhausted that they skip or modify a workout for the sake of rest over depleting an already taxed system.
Sleep is essential!
What if you are getting in bed on time and yet you are unable to fall asleep - here are some suggestions that we offer to our athletes:
Be consistent with when you go to sleep and wake up each day (even on the weekends)
Remove your phone and other electronics from your room.
Read before bed
Drink a warm cup of tea
If you have a lot on your mind, try writing down and organizing those thoughts (this is a huge one for me)
Finish your last workout at least 4 hours prior to your bedtime
If you find yourself waking up in the night (I have this issue) make sure that you do not reach for your phone, instead I work on meditation techniques. If I wake up with a lot on my mind, I will write those thoughts down to get them off my mind and if I really cannot sleep, then a cup of tea and a book are my solution.
If you do find yourself sacrificing sleep on occasion we suggest that you can get away with this for one day, but after one night of poor sleep, you will either need to modify your workout - think recovery ride or run, or you should rest instead.
Of course we will all have restless nights, but our goal with our athletes is to help them to be the best “recover-ers” that they can be and sleep is an essential tool to accomplish that goal.