Food & Fitness

Why Sleep is Critical For Runners


Getting a good night’s sleep seems to be an impossible task for everyone’s busy schedule, but try adding working out to it. 

Sleep is one of the most important activities our bodies do. If you think that your body is resting while you are sleeping, you are mistaken. Our brains and bodies are quite as active as when we are asleep as they are when we are awake.

But good sleep hygiene is especially important for athletes, be it a professional or amateur. An Olympic triathlete Jarrod Shoemaker said, “Sleep is half my training.” And this should be true for anyone, not only high-performing athletes.

What are the consequences?

Do you ever notice that when you do not get enough of good-quality sleep, the day after seems like a nightmare? Meaning, you are very sleepy, you feel like your brain is not functioning properly, and you have a hard time focusing on anything? 

Well, that is what is happening. In the short term, lack of sleep can impair your cognitive functions, as well as your mood. But these are the things that are easily restored when we do get some rest the following night.

But what about the long term consequences of sleep deprivation? 

Sleep is a vital component of our immune system because while we are sleeping, it produces infection-fighting substances that help our body defend against diseases. Lack of sleep does not allow the immune system to build its protection, leading to poor overall health.

The lack of energy from sleeping too little can cause the vicious cycle of ‘too tired to exercise’ routine. Which is something runners should try to fight. Bad quality of sleep can cause us to be more impulsive and can trick our body into eating more, which leads to weight gain and other diseases linked to obesity. 

How to improve your sleep hygiene?

Did you know that even our sleeping positions affect the quality of sleep and the impact it has on health? 

Sometimes you can’t get enough sleep (which is 6-8 hours for most adults), but you still feel tired when you wake up as if you had only 4 hours of sleep. Well, that is because the quality of sleep is almost just as important as its duration. Uninterrupted sleep is crucial to feeling energized the next morning. 

Here are some tips on how to achieve a good quality of sleep, as well as a healthy duration. 

The mattress matters. If you can feel when your partner turns or gets up, if your mattress is moving underneath, it is going to interrupt your sleep’s, so check here how to deal with it Having a good quality mattress that fits your preferences is the first step into getting the night-time rest that you need. 

Another important thing is creating the right sleeping environment. The perfect bedroom should be dark, quiet, and tidy because these are things that can potentially stimulate our brains and hurt our sleep’s. But the room does not have to be too quiet; some people like to listen to white noise or ambient music when they are sleeping because it is the perfect sound to mute the noise that comes from the outside, but it is quiet enough not to disturb our sleep.

We all heard that our devices could also contribute to our poor sleep’s hygiene. The artificial blue light they emit stimulates our brain, so we tend to have a hard time falling asleep. That is why it is recommended not to look at our devices at least two hours before going to bed. Also, if we get any notifications, the sound can wake us up, which is definitely not ideal.

We are creatures of habit, so having a night-time routine is probably the best way to get back to the healthy sleeping pattern and keep it that way. 

You can create any routine that you find the most relaxing, but keep in mind that high-intensity exercise should not be a part of it. Even though your body is exhausted from the exercise, your brain is drowning in adrenaline.  Although exercise should help to improve our sleep quality, sometimes our busy schedules can interfere with that perfect plan. But there are ways you can improve your sleep quality and get all the benefits that regular sleep gives to our brain, bodies, and athletic performance.

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