Sleep Struggles

Recently I traveled to Scotland from Manchester twice in four days.  14 hours on trains in total with two 3am wake ups.  In between I was obviously in Scotland for specific events so was busy all day meaning I got very little rest across the week.  That week I didn’t train.  Now to be transparent I had also been ill in the run up to these trips and was still poorly during them so the travelling in itself wasn’t the only reason for my lack of training – one day I really could barely move so wouldn’t have been able to train regardless!  Had I been healthy however I can say with confidence that I probably still wouldn’t have trained because across the week these two journeys meant I didn’t get as much sleep as normal, my sleep patterns were disrupted and the travel made me more fatigued than normal.

Disrupted sleep patterns and lack of sleep over time can affect your training regime.

Chances are when you’re tired (to be differentiated with fatigued because you are ill) you will still manage to get through work and all the absolute essential tasks but training will often be one of the first things to be dropped.  If you do manage to get to the gym the chances of a positive training session are less likely.

Enough sleep and a regular sleep routine are essential to a strong training routine.

Studies with groups of athletes have found that when test subjects increased the amount of sleep they had over a three week period the subjects saw marked improvement in performance (speed for example), endurance levels, lower heartrates during exercise and a reported feeling of having had a better workout.

If you flip this study it is reasonable to conclude therefore that lack of, or poor quality seep could have the opposite effect.  If nothing else having less energy is likely to mean you have less to give when your train and so have a lower intensity workout.

In addition rest allows your body time to recover from workouts and aids muscle repair and growth.  A lack of sleep has also been found to be linked with increased cravings and increased appetite therefore your diet may be start to be affected by poor sleep patterns over a long period of time.

Some weeks a disrupted sleep pattern can’t be helped and short term a week of less sleep will have limited impact on you and your training but it’s useful to be have good habits most of the time  surrounding your sleep (Doctors call this sleep hygiene).

Try to go to bed around the same time every night / wake up at the same time each morning

Studies suggest that having a regular bed time ad wake up time assist in a good night sleep.

Have a night time routine

A set routine sends signals to your brain that it’s time to start switching off ready for sleep, meaning you may find it easier to get to sleep once you get into bed.

Turn off electronic devices

Not looking at the bright lights of your phone / the TV for about an hour before bed will help your brain wind down ready for sleep.

Track your sleep

There are free apps which will monitor your sleep cycles and help you wake up at the best time within a sleep cycle as close to when you need to get up as possible.  This can make you feel much better rested than a sharp alarm first thing does.

Track your habits

Keeping a track of when you last had coffee before bed, exercised before bed, your mood and then how you slept can help you identify patterns and establish whether a specific action negatively affects your sleep, allowing you to make adjustments to improve your sleep.

Don’t make up for lost sleep

It’s tempting to have a lie in to make up for some short night sleep in the week but this has been shown to make you feel worse longer term.  A nap in the day may be more beneficial than having a long lie in.

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