Sleep Helps you put your best foot forward

By: Mary Lee

I’ve started to notice a common denominator when it comes to a lack of running motivation: sleep or, more precisely, a lack thereof. Sleep deprivation starts to kick in whenever you get less than seven hours of sleep. I’ve come to understand that I’m doing myself a disservice when I don’t make time to rest. I run for my physical and emotional health, but if I’m not getting enough sleep, I’m canceling out most of the benefits.

Sleep Deprivation Puts You at Risk

No matter your goals for running, adequate sleep should be part of your long-term running plan. One of the most notable ways that sleep helps your running performance is in injury prevention. Without rest, brain cells start to slow the speed at which they send signals, which affects your reaction times, critical thinking skills, and decision-making abilities.

With those effects, it’s easy to see how sleep deprivation can lead to injury. A study published in the Journal of Pediatric Orthopedics surveyed student-athletes and compared the number of hours they slept to their rate of injury. Those who got less than eight hours of sleep were 1.7 times more likely to experience an injury.

Sleep also plays a role in muscle recovery following injury. A study published in Sleep Medicine concluded that sleep might play a “permissive role in the regeneration of damaged muscle tissue.” If your body is not able to fully recover from a hard workout because of sleep deprivation, you’re far more likely to get injured.

While those results are impressive, as a mom, I can’t help but laugh at the thought of getting 10 hours of uninterrupted sleep. But, rather than lamenting the fact that I can’t get a full night's rest, I can work towards getting seven or eight hours. You can’t stop children from waking you at night, but you can be smart about your sleep. 

How to Get Better (And More) Sleep 

1. Get to Bed on Time (and at the Same Time)

  • I know you’re craving a little alone time after the kids have gone to bed, but staying up late will come back to haunt you the next day. Try to keep a consistent bedtime on both weekdays and weekends.

2. Manage Your Stress 

  • Kids are great, but they do bring stress. Five to ten minutes of meditation or yoga before bed can help you let go of stressful thoughts before lying down. A notebook or journal next to your bed where you can write down tasks or to-dos can often help you sleep better because you’re not lying awake thinking of everything you need to do the next day.

3. Get Comfortable 

  • If aches and pains are waking you, you might need a mattress that supports your preferred sleep position. If you have back or neck pain, you want to try a pillow designed to align the spine and reduce pain.

4. Turn Off Your Screens 

  • The bright light from smartphones, laptops, and televisions can suppress sleep hormones, delaying your sleep onset. Shut them off two to three hours before bed.

About the Author

Mary Lee is a researcher for the sleep science hub Tuck.com. She specializes in sleep's role in mental and physical health and wellness. Mary lives in Olympia, Washington and shares her full-sized bed with a very noisy cat.