10 Best Practices to Improve Sleep Quality for Runners
Posted on October 11 2018
As runners, we often push our bodies to the limit, which means that we need more sleep than the average person. But this is often easier said than done. Keep reading to learn our top 10 tips for improving sleep quality for runners.
Benefits of Adequate Sleep for Runners
Before we review the best practices for improving sleep, let’s take a look at the importance of a good night’s rest for runners.
Adequate sleep can help you reach your full potential as a runner. In fact, a sleep study at Stanford found that athletes who “increased their sleep time ran faster sprints and hit more accurate tennis shots than they did while getting their usual amount of sleep.”
Regulates hunger hormones
Did you know that if you shorten your sleep, it increases your appetite for high-calorie foods? Of course, one night of missed sleep won’t set you back too much if you’re training for your next half marathon but if sleep deprivation and overeating become commonplace, then it’s probably time to re-evaluate your sleeping habits.
Helps boost recovery
Natural deep sleep is a major factor in the release of HGH which stands for human growth hormones (HGH). These hormones assist in muscle repair and converting fat into energy, while also helping to strengthen bones. According to Lance Walker, M.S., P.T., “Without proper rest and restoration, you start degrading muscle growth and recovery, and your central nervous system stops recharging, so you feel tired, unmotivated, and weak in your workouts, causing a negative feedback loop that can start a vicious cycle.”
How Much Sleep Do You Really Need Each Day?
One question you might be asking is “how much sleep is enough”? The truth is that, there is no one size fits all in regards to the total number of hours each individual needs. However, for runners, you will need to add 1 minute per mile you run each week to your regular daily sleep schedule. For example, if you are now running 50 miles per week, then you need to add 50 minutes to your regular sleep schedule each day.
How to Get Better Sleep as a Runner
It’s important to note that when it comes to adequate sleep for runners, quality is just as important as quantity. Here are our top 10 tips to help you get a good night’s sleep on a consistent basis to boost performance, endurance and recovery:
Start tracking your sleeping habits. As the saying goes, you can’t improve what you can’t measure. Many fitness trackers such as Fitbits allow you to view a report of the sleep stages you cycle through each night. The Fitbit app even makes recommendations on wake up times and other suggestions to improve your sleep habits.
Set a specific bedtime and stick to it. Just as you created a schedule for training you also need one for getting adequate rest. It might take a few weeks to reboot your sleep cycle but your body will thank you in the long run.
Reduce caffeine consumption. We know this is a tough one! But trust us, after a few days or even a week, you will begin to notice differences in the quality of your sleep. As a rule of thumb, try to limit caffeine consumption to the morning hours, switching over to water and other caffeine-free drinks as the afternoon progresses.
Wear blue light glasses at night. Our TVs, laptops, tablets and phones can really disrupt our sleep cycle. That’s because they give off short-wavelength, or “blue” light, which has been proven to hurt our melatonin production. Not ready to invest in a pair of blue light glasses? Then, consider switching your devices to “Bedtime Mode” which will regulate screen brightness automatically every evening.
Try yogic sleep. Also known as yoga nidra - this is an excellent addition to your nighttime routine because it can actually be done in bed! Check out these 2 free sessions offered by 5809 Yoga.
Limit alcohol consumption in the evenings. Many of us enjoy unwinding with a glass of wine before bed. However, alcohol consumption does impact the quality of our sleep but not in the way you might expect. According to The Sleep Doctor, “In the body, alcohol disrupts circadian functioning, directly interfering with the ability of the master biological clock to synchronize itself,” affecting sleep and other systems in the body.
Avoid training too close to bedtime. When we workout, our heart rate increases making it difficult for us to fall asleep. As much as possible, try scheduling your runs in the morning hours before work or in the afternoon so that your body has adequate time for your heart rate to recover. Note that if you choose to exercise in the mornings, this should be balanced by an earlier bedtime to ensure that you get enough restful sleep.
Wind down an hour before bed. However, be sure to choose an activity that limits screen time like reading a book, enjoying a warm bath, listening to music or a podcast. You can also consider journaling, meditating, praying and creating your to-do list for the next day.
Set the stage. Ensure that your bedroom is set up for the most restful sleep possible. You can consider investing in light blocking curtains, a white noise machine and a comfortable, yet supportive mattress. In addition, regulating the temperature in your bedroom will help you to remain relaxed throughout the night.
Consider natural sleep aids. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you may still need a little extra help falling asleep and staying asleep. There are many natural supplements on the market like melatonin, valerian root, magnesium and lavender to help you get a better night’s rest without any concerning side effects.
What are your top tips for improving your sleep quality as a runner? Share them in the comments below or join our online community on Facebook and Instagram. Be sure to use #crazycompression!