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Train harder by sleeping better

Let’s face it, we all know the basic benefits of sleep. The more sleep you receive, the more productive you’ll be and the better your mood will be. When it comes to running, you probably know that getting adequate sleep helps running. The question isn’t why, but how does it help and why is sleep so imperative to developing the perfect running skills?

If extra sleep could potentially shave minutes off your finishing time, or help you break your recent record, would you be willing to invest in your sleep? If the answer is yes (hopefully!), then you’d better have a read.

Numerous studies have proven, time and time again, the importance of sleep when it comes to running and exercise in general. A recent study published in the Scandanavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports found that surprisingly, athletes aren’t getting nearly enough sleep compared to non-athletes. The professionals tend to sleep less, only getting 6.5-7.5 hours with a lower quality of sleep.

What does this all mean? Even the best of the best need to work on their sleeping patterns. The same study also found that poor-quality sleep can have an extremely adverse impacts on performance of said athletes. Test subjects took a cycling test after a night of partial sleep loss, and results showed that heart rate and oxygen intake increased more than usual; the exact opposite of what anyone doing morning exercise needs or wants!

As runners, we know that we need more sleep than most. When you train hard, your muscles need time to regrow and recharge overnight. As we sleep, our bodies release growth hormone that stimulates muscle regeneration, as well as building muscle and burning fat. This is essentially what allows you to wake up every morning and still feel fine to smash out your daily run. Whether it’s 5km or 50km, this rest period during sleep is what enables you to continuously run without your muscles collapsing.

When you’re sleep deprived, you can’t release as much growth hormone as required and your muscles won’t repair like they should. This will leave you feeling sore and sorry for yourself after your normal run, and can lead to injuries and negative thoughts associated with your run.

These are our top tips that are guaranteed to have an impact on the way you sleep, whether you’re a runner or not.

Just as you do with your running, you need to implement a dedicated sleep schedule into your diary, no ifs or buts. Dedicate at least 8-9 hours of sleep a night (the more the better for your muscles!) and record your sleep. You might find it easier to sleep to a schedule if you’re using a sleep tracking app.

To encourage good sleeping habits, you should ensure your body stays hydrated while you sleep. Make sure you’re drinking a minimum of 3L a day (plus enough to replenish your body after your run!) and always keep a water bottle beside your bed. If you’re rising early for a run, have a big drink of water as soon as you wake up, it’ll help to wake you up faster and hydrate you further for your run.

Have a think about what you’re physically sleeping on. Is it an old hand-me-down from a distance aunty? A bargain purchase from a total stranger on Gumtree? Considering we spend more than a third of our lives in bed, making an investment in a new mattress is vital to a great night sleep. If you’re looking for something designed to deal with the Australian climate and perfect for everyone, you can’t go past the Koala.

It’s common sense these days, but how many of us truly get rid of screens before bed? The blue light emitted from our screens are proven to keep you awake, and we need to make more of a conscious effort to not watch TV or scroll aimlessly through Instagram just before bed. If you make the rule that you’re physically not allowed your phone or laptop in bed with you, you’ll reap the benefits easily. If you’re still using the excuse “my phone is my alarm”, set it up on the other side of the room so that you’ll physically have to get out of bed to turn it off. Not only will this help you to wake up faster, it also means you won’t fall asleep with your phone next to you.

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