A recent research by Dr Guy Meadows of the London Sleep School points to the fact that endurance training instead of making one fall asleep as soon as the head hits the pillow, actually often leads to sleep disorders: He explained that runners:
“Often end up absolutely physically exhausted, but mentally wide awake.”
More than most, runners and trainers need sleep to experience body growth and repair. For example marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe famously enjoys 11 hours a night; sleeping – quite literally – like a baby. How then can those who engage in punishing exercising routines ensure they get their much needed sleep?
Don’t overtrain! One of the classic symptoms of overtraining syndrome is a sense of fatigue but an inability to sleep. So don’t train beyond your body’s natural training and recovery limits.
Don’t exercise within three hours of bedtime. Training leads to a boost of endorphins and adrenaline which ups your metabolic rate and therefore makes relaxation difficult.
Avoid Caffeine after mid-day. Many endurance athletes rely on Caffeine as both an ergogenic aid (performance and enhancer) and stimulant. However the effects of consuming Caffeine may last for several hours hence consider avoiding Caffeine-rich energy drinks if you are having problems sleeping, especially if you run in the afternoon. In the evening you may want to substitute coffee or tea for decaffeinated alternatives.
Regularise your bed time. Muscle repair and fat-burning appear to be linked to the release of Growth Hormone during the first two hours of sleep. To encourage the expression of Growth Hormone set a regular bedtime that allows your body enough sleep. There may be some truth to that old adage your doctor tells you about an hour’s sleep before midnight being worth two after midnight!
Sleep foods. Although it’s true that eating in the hour before sleep is counterproductive as it increases your metabolism and triggers your digestive processes, certain foods may actually aid you in your search for quality sleep. Turkey, nuts or hummus which contain the essential amino acid Tryptophan are a good starting point.
Temperature. A scientific study has shown that entering into sleep is more possible if the hands and feet are slightly warmer that the rest of the body. So don’t throw out that retro hot water bottle just yet!
Nervous tension. Acknowledge the things that are running through your mind and keeping you awake for a few minutes and then dismiss them and let go. Think of all your concerns as ministers in your cabinet and you’re the prime minister- listen to what they have to say and they call the cabinet meeting to a close. Remember, you’re the one in number Ten. American readers scratching their heads at this point can substitute “oval office” for number Ten Downing Street!
Getting better sleep is fundamental to your recovery from training and your overall athletic performance. And as with other running tips, it requires hard work and patience to get it right.