The 30 Day Runner’s Sleep Challenge
Runners need more sleep! It may be one of the most overlooked elements of your training. Runner’s World dubbed it “the new cross training.” As important as it is, between work, school, kids, social life or any number of other things, you are probably not getting enough. Training gets squeezed in the early morning or late at night.
For most of us, this means surrendering those precious hours of sleep.
I’ve been sacrificing my sleep a bit too much lately. Traveling for work, family vacation and a teething toddler don’t make a great sleep recipe. If I don’t want to run with a jogging stroller, I need to get out the door by 6:00 am most mornings. Rarely do I compensate by going to bed early. I somehow rationalize doing a hard workout will be fine on less than 6 hours of sleep.
I’m inviting you to join me on a 30 day quest to get more sleep.
The 30 day Sleep Challenge
This challenge is simple; Get 7+ hours of sleep for the next 30 days. If you do that, you’ll have (at least) 210 total hours of sleep. That should be your target.
Research suggests that 7.5 hours is the minimum amount required to repay your sleep debt. Since we sleep in 90 minute sleep cycles, 7.5 hours may be more restful than 8. The more cycles you can get in every night will leave you feeling significantly more rested.
With many of you training hard for a fall marathon, use the next 30 days to re-stock your sleep supply. The 2014 Twin Cities Marathon is about 30 days away. Finish your training cycle strong, and head to the starting line well rested.
If you are running another race at another time, take the sleep challenge the last 30 days before your event. If you can do that, you will set yourself up extremely well for whatever your next race is.
Why Sleep Matters
According to the American Psychological Association, “40 percent of adults experience daytime sleepiness severe enough to interfere with their daily activities.” As runners, we need to be especially mindful of our sleep habits. It is a critical part of our recovery. Each time you run hard, you need adequate recovery and rest to make that training matter long term. Sleeping releases human growth hormone, and aides general protein synthesis, cell growth and division, and tissue repair and growth.
All necessary components of become a stronger runner.
The more you run, the more sleep you probably need. Those who exercise regularly sleep better. However, if you’re training for a big race, you need more sleep than a casual runner. How much more depends on a number of factors. According to one article in Runner’s World, most pro-runners get 9+ hrs a night, plus a mid-day nap.
Racing requires a rested mind as well as a rested body. Sleep deprivation can impair cognitive functions. Ultimately it’s your brain convincing your legs to keep moving.
Five Tips to get Better Sleep
Use these tips during the 30 day sleep challenge to get better Z’s. It’s not rocket science, it’s just really hard to do on a regular basis.
1. Go to bed earlier, or wake up later.
For most of us, getting up later isn’t an option, so go to bed earlier. This is the most obvious way to get more sleep, yet it is so incredibly difficult to do. With a host of distractions readily availability, there’s always something to do.
For this sleep challenge, go to bed just 15 minutes earlier tonight. More if you can. Increase that number until you feel rested.
2. Turn off the phone, TV, tablet, etc.
The light that’s emitted from electronic devices blocks the production of melatonin (the hormone that makes you go to sleep). Experts recommend at least 60 minutes of “no screen time” before bed. This might be the hardest one to do, since right before bed is the best time to check facebook, twitter, etc.
3. Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol
I try not to have any caffeine after 3 pm. Because it lingers in your body up to six hours, it may prohibit you from falling asleep when you want. Similarly, alcohol (too close to bed) initially makes you feel drowsy, but prevents quality sleep. It interrupts your sleep cycle by not allowing you to get into a deep sleep.
4. Track your sleep.
Like logging your miles, use an app to track your sleep. I use Sleep Cycle on my iPhone. While it doesn’t help me get better sleep directly, it shows me the amount and quality of my sleep. This holds me accountable to going to bed earlier.
5. Consistency is Key
Just like running, the more consistent you can be with your sleep patterns, the better sleep you’ll get. Go to bed and wake up at roughly the same time every night. Sleeping in on the weekends is great, but not great for you in the long run. If this sounds impossible because of a crazy work schedule, try to pick something that’s realistic and stick with that.
Join the 30 Day Sleep Challenge
Simply log your sleep here (as well as your miles if that helps), and we’ll send out regular updates to help you stay on track.
What one or two things can you do today to get more sleep?