Here are 10 effective practices for you to sleep better and ensure a tip-top energy level before hitting the road. Lets get started.
If you find your post-marathon muscle strains taking longer than usual to recover, it could be due to a lack of sleep. After a marathon, your muscles are broken down and contain small micro tears. While your body is more than capable of repairing those tears, the catch is that it mostly happens during sleep. By allowing yourself to get that 8 hours of sleep, you're giving your body more time to repair your muscles.
Lay off the Booze and Cigarettes
It's safe to say that the majority of runners don't indulge in either, but if you do, try to avoid them altogether close to bedtime. Alcohol, for example, disrupts sleep when it is metabolised by your body, which causes arousal. And of course, you wouldn't want to turn up for the race nursing a hang-over, would you?
Have a Regular Sleep Schedule
It is ideal for you to have a fixed bedtime and wake up time each day - even on weekends. Doing so helps regulate your body clock, so your body knows when to feel sleepy and when to rouse from its slumber. When done properly, you won't even need an alarm clock to wake you up.
Have you ever found it more difficult to sleep right after you've done something vigorous or stimulating? Well, your body does need time to shift into sleep mode. Like a car, you'd want to gradually slow your body to a stop instead of slamming the brakes. To facilitate this, you may want to engage in something relaxing for about an hour or so before bed, such as reading. Avoid looking at electronic devices such as your phone or laptop during that time, as the light emanating from those devices stimulates your mind instead.
Stock Up On Sleep
There's a common belief that getting as much sleep as possible the night before a race will help boost your performance the next day. However, that isn't always viable because of pre-race jitters - a combination of nerves and excitement that hinders your sleep. To combat this, start sleeping well at least 2-3 days before a race.
Also, a study now shows that as long as you've done the above, one bad night won't hurt. So start stocking up.
Optimise Your Bedroom Ambience
An environment that is quiet, dark and cool can help promote sound slumber. There are several hassle-free steps you can follow to achieve the ideal sleep ambience. You may minimise outside noise with earplugs or "white noise" appliances or applications, use heavy curtains, blackout shades, or an eye mask to keep light out. The temperature of your room should also be relatively cool, at around 20-27 degrees, depending on your personal preference. Try to keep your room well ventilated, too.
Utilise Natural Light
It is important to expose yourself to natural light (a.k.a. Sun) during the day as it helps keep your internal clock on a healthy sleep-wake cycle. A good way to go about doing this is to allow light to enter your room first thing in the morning, and if you have to be cooped up in the office during the day, excuse yourself and get out for a sun break.
Lighten Up on Pre-bedtime Snacks
Going to bed hungry can lower your blood sugar levels, which will lead to a lack of deep, consistent sleep. In addition, it can also hinder your body's muscle repair process during the night. To counter this, don't go to bed hungry, but don't eat too much either. Recommended types of food include cottage cheese, which contains casein, a slow-digesting form of protein, or your regular protein shake.
As a runner, exercise is probably second nature to you. The good news is that daily exercise, when done at the right time, helps you fall asleep more quickly and to have a deeper sleep. However, exercise is also known to stimulate your body to secrete the stress hormone cortisol, which helps activate the alert mechanism in your brain. To prevent that from clashing with your sleep, finish your exercise at least three hours before bed.
Keeping yourself hydrated before bed can help prevent you from having to wake up in the middle of the night thirsty. Help yourself to a glass of warm water before bed to achieve that. On the other end of the spectrum, however, drinking too much water before bed can cause you to wake up in the wee (pun intended) hours to answer nature's call. The point is, don't get too carried away with pre-bed hydration!
"Like a car, you'd want to gradually slow your body to a stop instead of slamming the brakes."
Also, head over here to find out more articles from our reader (Thanks Alisa!) on how you can sleep better!
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