Post in collaboration with TEMPUR®
I LOVE sleeping. It’s strange, as when we are young, we want to stay up late, we pull all nighters and an early night is basically the worst thing in the world. Nowadays, I long for an early night and I seem to have a never-ending list of stuff that I need to do. Of course, what happens is that I get caught in a never-ending cycle of being too tired to achieve what I need to do, stay up to do it, don’t get it done, wake up tired, rinse, repeat.
Add training for a marathon into the equation and that cycle can get worse. I remember when training for the 2015 London Marathon, Rose was still a baby, I was working, I was tired, and it had a massive impact on my training which in hindsight, probably led to me being run down and picking up flu.
And that’s where prioritising sleep comes in.
Do you prioritise sleep enough?
I am flying out to Estonia tomorrow where I was supposed to be running the Tallin Marathon. I’m now not running due to the ankle sprain I suffered a few weeks, which is a pity as training was going reasonably well, despite that heat wave. One of the reasons I think it was going fairly well was that I was making an effort to go to bed at a reasonable time the day before and the evening of a training run.
So why is sleep so important?
I used to be a competitive tenpin bowler. I used to bowl better in competition when I was in bed by 10pm, read for a bit and then went to sleep. I was well-rested and relaxed and that was what I needed when playing. My mind was rested and would make me more alert and that meant that I could keep up with the moves I needed to make during competition play. In terms of running, all my personal best times have followed a relaxed night and a good sleep. There’s a reason that professional athletes value sleep so much – Tom Brady goes to bed at 8:30pm during the American Football season!
Sleep gives our minds a chance to relax and switch off. We’ve all suffered the feeling I’ve described above of never catching up because I’m tired, yet not getting enough sleep to deal with it. This is something that I need to change and work on. It’s difficult to focus the mind when we’re tired and to perform well in a race, we need to focus.
Sleep is also really important for runners because that’s when our bodies recover from the day’s activities. It promotes muscle growth and repairs the muscles, which is why those aches and pains after a workout always seem much better in the morning. If you don’t sleep, you don’t give your body a chance to repair itself.
How can we improve our quality of sleep?
Everyone has experienced that horrible feeling of being dog-tired, going to bed and not enjoying good quality rest. Unfortunately, this happens sometimes but there are steps we can take to improve our chances of good shut-eye.
The first thing to consider is your sleeping environment. Is your mattress suitable for your needs? I tend to suffer from back pain when I’m tired and switching to a memory foam mattress has helped to support my back. What about your pillow? Is it comfortable? My husband uses a memory foam one with a cut out to keep his back in alignment. I prefer using soft pillows that I can beat up until they’re floppy so I can put one arm underneath them when I’m asleep. Don’t ask.
How about your room temperature? I hate being too cold when I’m asleep so I use a duvet, but I like the windows open for fresh air. There is nothing worse than sleeping in a stuffy room.
Is your room tidy? Removing clutter can make for a more relaxing environment which can make it easier to drop off. Removing distractions is also helpful and that includes your mobile phone, which is a bad habit of mine last thing before I go to sleep.
Are you getting enough sleep or are you guilty of staying up to fit it all in, yet never quite getting there? Is it time to relax and nap?