How Runners Can Get Better Sleep

alarm clock

“I’m too tired” is a frequent excuse for not running. But lack of sleep doesn’t just affect your willpower and energy levels. In her book, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder, author Arianna Huffington stresses the importance of sleep for living a full life and adhering to other positive, healthy habits. “Sleep deprivation reduces our emotional intelligence, self-regard, assertiveness, sense of independence, empathy toward others, the quality of our interpersonal relationships, positive thinking, and impulse control,” she writes.

Sleep is important for anyone trying to live a healthy lifestyle, but it’s especially important to runners because of the demands that we put on our bodies. Successful runners get plenty of sleep so their bodies can recover and they feel refreshed and energized for their next run. Going to bed earlier may even inspire you to run in the morning, rather than later in the day. Getting enough sleep can be a keystone habit that leads to many other healthy habits, such as eating healthier and running more consistently.

Better Sleep Tips

Aim for 7-8 quality hours of sleep a night — the right amount for most adults. If you’re way off from the goal with your current amount of sleep, try to increase your sleep time in small increments. Aim for 20 minutes more a night one week, and then keep adding ten more minutes each week until you reach the recommended amount. If 20 minutes earlier feels like too much, try going to bed five minutes earlier each night. Add five more minutes the following week and so on, and soon you’ll be getting the recommended amount. Once you start noticing the rewards of improved energy, increased productivity, and better mood, you’ll be even more motivated to get to bed on time.

If you have trouble falling asleep, follow some of these tips:

  • Avoid caffeine after 2:00 p.m., so there’s time for the effects to wear off. Stay hydrated with water instead of having coffee, tea or soda in the afternoon. If you’re in the habit of an afternoon coffee or tea, opt for decaf.
  • Try not to run too close to bedtime. Although regular exercise during the day will help you sleep better, it’s ideal to complete your workout at least a few hours before you hit the hay.
  • While you shouldn’t go to bed hungry, you should avoid eating a heavy meal before bedtime. Digesting all that food may can keep you awake. Try to finish eating two to three hours before you go to bed.
  • Avoid alcohol right before bedtime. Although you may think a glass of wine will help you fall asleep faster, alcohol interferes with deep sleep and increases sleep arousals, so you won’t get a restful night’s sleep. If you want to drink alcohol, finish it a few hours before you go to sleep so your body has time to metabolize it.
  • Try to stick to a consistent bedtime. If you don’t have a deadline for going to bed, it’s easy to lose track of time and keep keep working , watching television, or something else that keeps you from going to sleep.
  • Make sure your bedroom is comfortable and conducive to sleep. Create a room that is dark, quiet, comfortable and cool for the best sleep possible. Evaluate if anything in your bedroom is no longer comfortable and needs replacing. Pillows should be replaced every two to three years and most mattresses are good for 10 years.
  • Establish a relaxing pre-bedtime routine, such as taking a warm bath, sipping some decaf tea, or reading a book or listening to soothing music.
  • Try not to watch TV or be staring at your phone or computer right before trying to fall asleep. If you have a hard time resisting your phone alerts, set it to go into silent mode an hour before bedtime. Use a real alarm clock, not your phone, so you’re not tempted to check it when it’s on your nightstand.

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