Posted by: pursuingsub17 | February 17, 2016

Good night’s sleep just as critical as a good training session


I think we’ve all seen the Tylenol commercial – the one where the woman lay in bed, wide awake, at 3am, singing childhood tunes that are locked away in memory during the day or wondering why the word “abbreviation” is so long. She looks at the clock. It’s 3am. She looks at her husband. He’s fast asleep.

If there’s one thing that’s going to hamper my training this year, it’s my mind that won’t shut off at night. Sometimes it’s stress (worrying about money for instance), but many times, it’s nonsense. It starts off innocently; gradually waking from a dream and suddenly a song I listen to regularly on my iPod or a commercial jingle plays in a continuous loop while I wonder about a movie or a show I’ve seen. I decide maybe I’m wide awake because I need to go to the bathroom. So I go. I come back to bed and lay on my other side, thinking that maybe my sore shoulder is what’s keeping me up. I try and relax but I can hear my heartbeat. After some time goes by, my hip starts to feel stiff, so I roll over again, wondering if I slept at all in those few moments. Has only a few minutes passed or an hour? I then start doing the math, counting how many times I’ve flipped over. Usually I turn over every couple hours. Okay, then I’ve rolled over twice. So I must have had 4 hours of sleep. But remembering the first time I woke up I felt like I slept longer than that. So maybe I’ve had 5 or 6 hours??? That would mean I have 1-2 hours left before my alarm goes off. Good. I’ll just settle down and relax and sleep for another 2 hours. My mind starts churning again, thinking about something funny that happened on the weekend or something I have to remember to do this week. When was the last time I gave the dog her allergy pill? Was that last night or the night before? Did I pay the cable bill? Crap. That reminds me – my loan payment comes out tomorrow. Must remember to transfer money from my account to cover it. Oh yes, and I have to remember to top up my RRSPs with a loan before the end of the month. Did Marc do his taxes yet? I wonder if it’s going to snow tomorrow morning. I remember hearing something about snow. I have to get gas before I go to work. I’m pretty sure there’s only a quarter tank left. Well, never mind. I can think about that later. I still have 2 hours to sleep. That’s when my alarm goes off.

Sometimes I’m lucky and this doesn’t happen – but there are times that I’ll go 4 days with only 3 hours of sleep per night. And while I LOVE shows like the Walking Dead, I certainly don’t like feeling like a zombie at work. I can usually make it through work but it is one hell of a time trying to convince myself to hit the gym or go for a run after work when I can’t even stay awake at my desk. By 4:00, I’m texting my cousin and my husband that I can’t make it to the gym today. I told my co-worker today I won’t be joining her run group tomorrow – I won’t have the energy.

I’m thankful if I only have one bad night – I can usually bounce back the next day. But if it’s a week of insomnia, like this week seems to be turning into, I have to skip the training. Some people might slug it out. I can’t. And if it is a full week of getting a grand total of 10 hours, I’ve blown a week of training and when the weekend comes, I can’t get out of bed early enough to make it to any morning spin class.

Last year I read an article in Running magazine that if in doubt, sleep is just as important as getting training workouts in. If you have a bad night, you’re better off skipping the early morning training session and get some sleep.

Now here I sit at my computer at work, with eyes that feel like they are about to slip out of their sockets, I remember a blog I wrote about shift workers and what they need to do to ensure they are getting enough sleep. I should re-read it. It would seem I have completely forgotten the tips from that blog on how to get a good night’s sleep.

So if you’re in the same boat as me (and I’m sure a lot of us are – especially as we get older and have to deal with more stress), try these tips (adapted from the “Fatigue” fact sheet found on the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety):

  1. Determine your personal sleep needs and try to keep that as a regular habit. We’re all different. Some of us only need 6 hours, while others need 8 to 9 and that can change over the years. There are many factors that influence our sleep requirements.
  2. Do not overindulge in food and exercise only a few hours before bed time. Try not to schedule intense workouts late in the evening or you will have a restless sleep. If you need to refuel before bed, try a light snack or protein shake (do not scarf down a burger and fries right before jumping into bed).
  3. Leave any stressful activities for the daytime. Going to bed after looking at your bank account while determining if you can afford another race fee might cause nightmares!
  4. Try not to watch TV, check your phone or look at your tablet within 30 minutes of bed time. It’s been proven that the light emitted from these LED screens messes with your melatonin levels (the hormone that tells you when it’s time to sleep).
  5. Limit coffee, alcohol and other stimulants before bed.
  6. Make your bedroom a sleep sanctuary! Keep it strictly for sleeping (not doing homework, texting, work projects or scheduling your workouts) and keep it cool, dark and quiet. I wear ear plugs and I cover up all sources of light. It works for Dracula – it will work for you!

Of course my disclaimer is….do as I say, not as I do. Because as much as I already know these things, putting them in place and making them a habit is another thing.  Swimming, biking and running 3 times a week became a much easier habit then looking after my sleep habits. But the best thing to do is keep reminding myself that sleep health is just as important as being fit.

Now…off to make my ONE cup of morning java! Early to bed tonight. Tomorrow is a new day.

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