I started paying attention to my sleep quality when I started Hansons training. For me at least, it would be impossible to handle that much training stress without enough sleep. I was diligent in getting a minimum of eight hours of sleep a night, sometimes more, and would be in bed at 8 p.m. for my 4 a.m. wake-up. That was very hard to do in the summer when it’s still light out!
I’ve felt fortunate that I’ve never had problems sleeping and often joked that I could fall asleep anywhere, any time, even on a hardwood floor in the middle of a party. But last summer during marathon training, that changed. Even though I was training hard and tired at night, I started waking up between 1 and 3 a.m. and wasn’t able to fall back asleep. It’s an awful feeling to know that your alarm clock will go off in an hour and you’ll have to run a long, hard training run without enough sleep. Joanna, who I was running with at that time, gave me a tip that changed my life: the Deep Sleep with Andrew app. Andrew puts you in a deep state of physical and emotional relaxation and guides you into a very deep state of sleep. I found that even when I woke to use the bathroom (most nights), I was able to easily fall back asleep. My sleep problems vanished when I started using the app. Even though I don’t have those same problems now, I continue to use the app about once a week because I love the way it relaxes me. I call it my “quality time with Andrew” and will tell my husband, “I have to spend time with Andrew now!”
I recently watched a webinar about sleep and got more tips. We all know how restorative sleep is, but I never understood just how important it is for our health. I learned that our brain releases proteins and toxins, which sleep (essentially) washes away. If we don’t get enough sleep, the toxins aren’t removed and can build up and result in many health problems, including possibly early death! I also learned that you gain weight when you’re sleep deprived, and getting enough sleep can help you lose weight.
I also learned how to tell if you’re getting enough sleep. Most people need between seven and eight hours of sleep a night. Some people need nine, and some only need six. Sleep needs are genetically determined, and you can’t change them.
Signs That You’re Sleep Deprived
- You fall asleep while watching TV, trying to read, or within seconds of lying down in bed.
- You need an alarm clock to wake up.
- You’re tired upon waking.
- You need a lot of caffeine to feel awake.
The first one is totally me. But, I usually wake up before my alarm clock and usually am not too tired when I wake up. Still, I want to try to get a little more than eight hours—which is my minimum—and see if that helps. To get eight hours, I have to be in bed by 8:40 since my alarm goes off at 4:45. I hate the idea of getting into bed earlier, right after 8 p.m., especially now that the days are getting longer…and especially when I’m not in an intense training program! For now, this is a work in progress.
Here are the other tips I learned in the webinar.
Tips for Improving Sleep
- Try to get interrupted sleep. Fragmented sleep isn’t good for you.
- Avoid naps more than 20 minutes.
- Try a white noise app.
- Get a new mattress every 10 years.
The counselor who gave the webinar said his number one tip if you’re having sleep problems is to be consistent with the times you go to bed and wake up. He said most sleep issues will fall away when your sleep patterns are consistent. I know that can be hard for a lot of people because our patterns change during the weekend, but for me I can’t stay up late ever, even on weekends, so it’s not too much of a stretch for me.
What’s your sleep quality like? Do you have any of these signs of sleep deprivation? Have you tried any of these or other tips? I am guilty of having a very old mattress and should really get a new one.