“I think the best way to get a good night sleep is to work hard throughout the day.
If you work hard and, of course, work out.”
William H. McRaven
People sleep significantly better and feel more alert during the day if they get at least 150 minutes of exercise a week, according to a 2011 study of Science Direct.
“It may be easier when you are tired to skip the workout and go to sleep, but it may be beneficial for your long-term health to make the hard decision and get your exercise,” said Brad Cardinal, a professor of exercise science at Oregon State University and one of the study’s authors.
Having a good sleep is what gives you energy, a bright new perspective and a clear head. It keeps you going.
For some it might be 9 hours and others feel good after just a short nap. It’s not so much about the quantity but about the quality of sleep.
“Running God” Yiannis Kouros, the number one Ultra Marathon runner, who has broken more than 160 world records, slept 30-60 minutes per day while studying, building a house, taking care of his family and running ultra races of 12 hours up to 10 days.
Dean Karnazes, an American Ultra Runner, could run a multi-day race without sleeping 3 nights on a row.
When Dean had a regular 9-5 job he slept ca. 8 hours a night. But for him the way to run more was to sleep less.
Now he sleeps 4 hours a night on average.
But, like with every routine, consistency is key. Whatever your sleep pattern is, wether you are an early bird or a night owl, we all need a good night sleep.
Once you find your sleep rhythm, you won’t have trouble to fall asleep or to wake up. At some point you won’t even need an alarm clock anymore:-)
How your daily choices can improve your nights
Taking a walk or run during the day not only improves your day, it also helps to sleep better.
Going to bed with a full stomach or after several coffees or alcoholic drinks can interrupt your sleeping pattern.
Smaller food portions, max 2 alcoholic beverages, and drinking water or herbal tea can make you sleep better.
And having your last drink an hour before you go to bed can save you from going to the bathroom at night.
Especially the day before a race pro-runners recommend to have your biggest meal for lunch and a small, light meal for dinner.
It will help you to wake up fresh and full of energy on race day.
Preparing for the night
It can help to switch off devices by the end of the day because the lighted screens of computers and tablets keep us awake.
But in case you need to do some computer work at night or read a Kindle on your tablet, the F.lux app makes the screen light softer so you’ll get more sleepy nevertheless.
It’s a good habit though to leave the television and devices outside of the bedroom, so you can fully focus on relaxing and mental preparation for race day.
Slowing down by reading a book, listening to music, relaxing exercises like yoga, taking a hot/cold shower, bath or sauna all contribute to a better night rest.
If something is bothering you it might look so much easier to solve after you “sleep on it.”
So why not “park” a problem until the next day and write it down if it keeps your mind busy at night.
There are many tools and apps to regulate the light and temperature, but to keep it simple closing or opening the window, curtains and more or less blankets will do fine.
Rest before race day
For runners one of the most essential parts of training for a race are the final weeks and days, when you slow down your training intensity and consume extra carbohydrates to perform your best on race day.
“However, if you’re not sleeping enough, your body won’t properly store the carbs you’re consuming (leading to less glycogen stores) and the benefits of carbo-loading may be lost. You might even hit the wall sooner than usual because your glycogen stores will be depleted too fast,” says Shelby F. Harris, director of a behavioral sleep medicine program by the Montefiore Medical Center in New York.
Sometimes the perspective of a race can be so exciting that you won’t get your regular amount of sleep in, especially when you got to travel to get there and can’t sleep in your own bed.
But once you’ll feel the energy and support of the audience along the route, you’ll forget your sleepless night straight away.
Resources / further reading:
On the Trail with… Yiannis Kouros
Dean Karnazes: the man who can run for ever
Positive impact of exercise on quality of sleep
Healthy sleep tips
Basic Sleep Hygiene Vs. Sleep Apps and Sleep Hacking
Tapering your Way to Marathon Race Day: 4 carb loading strategies
Five ways how a good night’s sleep can help improve your running