I’m training for my first Triathlon (it may also be the last, we’ll see), in just three weeks and I’ll be hitting the ocean bright and early for the Nautica Triathlon . My training consists of running, cycling and swimming, along with watching my diet and hydration. Look at any training program and it’s all about the workouts and the nutrition. Very rarely will you see a mention of sleep, rest and recovery, or if you do it’s a one liner regarding a ‘rest day’. It’s unfortunate as sleep is one of the most important training tools we have. Plus it’s free, easy, and you can do it pretty much anywhere.
Sleep like a Champion
Don’t get me wrong I have NO ILLUSIONS of placing in the triathlon. This is purely a bucket list item getting checked off, but I’m not going to lie the training has been fun, brutal, challenging, and educational. Sometimes all in the same training session. I’ll be sharing more insights into the triathlon training in the upcoming weeks. One thing I noticed pretty early on in the training was that I needed more sleep. Rest days are great but they DO NOT make up for lack of sleep. Sleep is when the body recovers, physically and mentally. The effects of sleep deprivation are well documented, so it’s terrible that the average person is lacking in the sleep department. So how much sleep do you need? Well it’s going to vary for everyone, and I really do think quality of sleep trumps the quantity but I know for me I need around 8 hours a night, which is awful as currently I’m only getting 7. I will wake up without an alarm if I get 8 hours regardless of the physical toil on my body. Bob needs more, he’s a 9 hours a night guy.
As you can see above, the benefits of sleep are amazing. I will say that when I regularly get 7 1/2 – 8 hours of sleep each night I sleep better, I wake up energized and I have more mental clarity throughout the day. Not to mention my muscles feel better, more recovered, and my Blood Pressure was amazing when I had it checked last week (107/66!).
10 Tips for better Sleep
- Exercise. Check, check, check. I can attest to this though. On the days I don’t workout (yes those happen) I struggle getting to sleep. Saturday triathlon training I was asleep when my head hit the pillow. Sunday I walked with Pixel and it took me a good 20 minutes to fall to sleep (thanks Garmin for that data!)
- Make a sleep schedule and stick to it. The meme above is only partly funny because I really am going to try and stick to a sleep schedule. I have to be up at 5:15am weekdays so I need to be headed to bed by 9:30!!!
- Avoid naps if you have trouble sleep at night. I generally don’t nap, Bob is the napper in our house. If I nap it’s because I’m sick. I’d rather just stick it out and go to bed earlier.
- Have a bedtime ritual. I find if I brush my teeth immediately before bed the minty fresh taste keeps me awake so I brush my teeth earlier. One night this month I did a sleep meditation, I asleep so soundly I never heard the end of the meditation!
- Create a restful room. So many things can affect our ability to sleep. It’s harder to sleep in warm rooms so cool the room down. Same with light, so get black out curtains. Maybe some lavender essential oil? Freshly laundered sheets? Also listen out for irritating noises. Some people get soothed by a ticking clock, I want to throw it out the window.
- Bed are for sleep and sex. Your brain associates objects with activities. Watching TV in bed, working or reading and you’re setting yourself up for a brain wired to be alert when in bed.
- Limit screen time. There are studies showing the glow from screens can keep us awake. Turn off TV, iPads and phones for 30 minutes before you’re ready to hit the sheets.
- Dim the lights. Even lights in the house should be dimmed. We’re creatures of habit due to our hormones. Darkness means sleep so if you dim the lights your brain will boost melatonin the sleep hormone. Try to reduce the light 2-3 hours before bedtime (to mimic dusk).
- Cut caffeine. It’s a stimulant. After 3pm avoid it so you can sleep soundly. Maybe then you won’t NEED coffee the next morning to ‘wake you up”!
and finally to get you into your routine
- Wake up naturally. Unfortunately most of us have to wake up to an alarm clock, but rather than hitting the snooze button get yourself into the habit of getting up, throwing the curtains open and taking in some sunlight. Light tells your body to get going, and turns the melatonin OFF. I will say personally I do better on the days I meditate first thing in the morning also.
How much sleep do you need vs get?
Can you implement one of my tips above to get more sleep?