We all know sleep is vital to our ability to function during the day. And I’m a gal that has a love affair with sleep – it’s one of my favorite things to do. But these days, it’s not happening so much and man am I cranky about it!
Just how important is it for our running and is this why I feel I can’t progress? I did just a wee bit of research and I’m going to venture out and answer these questions now myself: Extremely and absolutely. The baby’s teething (again) so my husband and I have been up multiple times a night for the past week. Prior to that we had a week and a half of good sleep (as good as you get when you have an infant – maybe one good 5-6 hour chunk a night). Teething, growth spurts, comfort nursing, whatever it is it all means that we’re running on E. It’s got to impact our exercise, we start off with far less in our energy tank these days. Let’s take a brief look into this further.
Running Research News published an article entitled How Running Affects Sleep (and vice versa), in November of 2011. It can be found here: http://runningresearchnews.com/News_And_Events.php?cid=1&iid=157
The following information about the stages of sleep was found in this article. (I just think it’s fascinating)
Stage 1 Transitional, light sleep, with slowing down of the brain activity and vital signs, and dreamlike thoughts.
Stage 2 Lighter deep sleep and slower vital signs, lasting about 30 minutes in adults. We spend about 50% of our sleep time in this stage.
Stage 3 & 4 (Slow-wave, delta sleep) Deep sleep with depressed vital signs and slow, low frequency, high amplitude brain activity (delta waves), leading to Rapid Eye Movement (REM). During REM our eyes dart about rapidly and we have vivid dreams. General protein synthesis, cell growth and division, and tissue repair and growth take place during all four stages of sleep, but mainly during slow-wave delta sleep. The release of growth hormone for cell growth is at its circadian peak during delta sleep, and most scientists agree that delta sleep activity reflects the metabolic activity and energy expended by the athlete during the previous day (Shapiro et al. 1984).
Oh wow, I think my husband and I have probably lived in Stage 2-some 3/4 since the baby was born. Not good. Okay, so without even being a scientist I can already conclude that sleep deprivation will negatively impact running. In addition to messing with mood and cognition, sleep deprivation also creates chaos with the endocrine and immune systems. UGH. So while it seems like one or two bad nights of sleep won’t wreck you on race day (thanks to adrenaline), long term sleep disruption will definitely make running feel more difficult and it will take longer to recover from runs because of elevated stress levels (thank you cortisol – wish I had a sarcasm font).
On the flip side, running seems to impact your sleep in a positive way. Runner’s World published an article (coincidentally entitled the same as above) in which a small study was conducted to look into the best time of day to run to get the best night’s sleep. http://www.runnersworld.com/running-tips/how-exercise-affects-sleep-and-vice-versa
Interestingly enough, this study found that a good run in the morning facilitated a better night sleep that night. The link also has video embedded of several elite marathoners discussing their pre-race sleep, or in some cases, lack thereof. Pretty good stuff.
The blog, Shut Up and Run has a great post about sleep as well: http://www.shutupandrun.net/2012/07/got-sleep-deprivation-some-info-and.html
So what do we do to fix this?! Here are my thoughts on getting a better night’s sleep:
1. Send all babies and children to grandma’s house every night for bed.
2. Stick to a bedtime routine. Humans love routine. The human mind and body love routine.
3. Be aware of caffeine and alcohol consumption too close to bedtime. Both of these throw sleep cycles for a loop.
4. Keep a pad of paper and pen on the night stand. If your mind keeps racing with work thoughts, worries, “things to remember tomorrow” (which you won’t), write them down! This will help to quiet the mind.
5. Get the laptop, iPad, and TV away from your face. Screen time = not as good sleep.
6. While preferred temperatures vary from individual to individual, a good guideline for ideal temperatures are between 65-72 degrees.
7. Try white noise to create a soothing environment or block distractions.
8. Lavender and Chamomile induce relaxation. Try them as scents in lotions or drink tea.
9. Make someone in your house give you a massage. Preferably with lavender lotion.
10. I really just think #1 is really what would work the best.
For more information, check out The Sleep Foundation for more great tips: http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/how-sleep-works/the-sleep-environment
Happy Shut Eye!
– Mama ZZZZZzzzz