Sleep

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Sleep is so important to our heath for a variety of reasons, but I’ve often found that people who train a lot tend to struggle getting to sleep. staying asleep and feeling like they have had a good quality sleep on a regular basis.

I recently did a podcast in relation to this topic where i delve into a bit more depth into some practical solutions for dealing with this.

Heather’s Podcast

 

I Hate Mornings

I really hate getting up early.

I do it, I teach at 7 am three days a week and then start work early the other two days.  Even on a Saturday I have a class at 9 am so don’t get a massive lie in.  But I hate it.  Sunday is the only day I can get up when I want and on that day I tend to lie in until around 9, 10 even 11am.

This really isn’t what sleep people advise as a good sleep habit.

Sleeping in longer on Sunday as a way of ‘catching up’ on sleep means that I find it harder to switch off at a decent time on Sunday night which then makes me groggy on Monday morning.  Getting up at the time needed for my day’s diary rather than at a set time each day means I don’t find getting up a habit and it pains me (it really does).

I actually know that I’d be better off getting up at 5 am even on days I don’t need to and letting my body clock settle at this, I could after all always nap at some point in the day if needed (at the weekend at least!) and I would probably find going to sleep at the same time each night easier if I did this too.

This is one of the things I’m working on – having a set morning and evening routine.  It’s tough when you work long hours as you need to find things in of an evening and the urge to snooze the alarm is strong of a morning!  I’ve got a list of strategies to help me get into the habit and am getting it right more often than I used to, albeit with a lot of slip ups.  That’s to be expected though – I know changing and creating habits doesn’t happen overnight.  I know that as you create habits progress isn’t often linear and you often have set backs along the way.

Three things.

First, try to go to bed and get up at the same time every day.  This will help the quality of your sleep long term and make getting up and getting to sleep easier.

Second, knowing what you need to do doesn’t make it easy.  Knowledge is all well and good but it is the application of that knowledge that makes the difference.  If you know what you need to do but are still struggling find someone to help you apply that knowledge- coaching and support doesn’t have to only be for those who aren’t sure where to start.

Three, don’t be put off if you don’t manage to hit your new goals straight away.  It might take several attempts to get something right or you may make progress and then hit a road block and need to get moving again.  That’s a normal part of change and not letting that make you feel like you’ve failed is the key to getting past it and creating that change.

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.