Between work, family time, community activities and squeezing in workouts it can be difficult to catch any time to sleep. Triathletes are great jugglers as they have to accommodate open pool hours and squeeze in bike and run workouts, strength training, foam rolling, massages and eating every few hours.
Missing out on sleep can be a costly mistake on an athlete’s part as it is one of the most important factors of an endurance athlete’s ability to recover and remain healthy.
During sleep, our body releases Human Growth Hormone (HGH) that is responsible for stimulating muscle and tissue repair and growth, bone building and the breakdown of fat. Being sleep deprived slows the release of this hormone, preventing a proper recovery from your workouts.
Also, when the body is not allowed to rejuvenate and reenergize via sleep our immune system can become vulnerable and we may be more prone to illnesses such as the cold and flu.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, Americans will average only about 6.7 hours of sleep on a weeknight. Make sleep a priority. Here are some additional tips to helping you feel as rested as possible each morning and ready to conquer the day and your training.
- Caffeine takes about eight hours to fully leave your body. Count back eight hours from the time you typically go to bed and have that be your cut-off time from caffeine.
- Get yourself on a regular bedtime and waketime schedule. This will help sync your Circadian rhythm and condition your body to fall asleep easier and wake feeling more restful.
- Avoid alcohol in the evening. Even though it may help you fall asleep initially, alcohol is known for disrupting your sleep later in the night.
- Keep your bedroom dark and free of electronics. A television in the bedroom can be distracting and prevent you from falling asleep. The darkness will help your body produce melatonin, a hormone that helps tell a person’s body it’s ready to go to sleep.
- Turn down the bedroom thermostat in the evening. Most people sleep better when their room is on the cooler side.
- Use relaxation techniques to help your body and mind relax.
I took a relaxation class in college and most of the semester we spent laying on the wrestling room mats with the lights off listening to various relaxation CDs. I fell asleep every single time! I now use those same techniques from that class to help myself get to sleep. My favorite technique involves starting at the toes and focusing on relaxing the muscles in that area until they feel warm and heavy. Move your way up the body, focusing on each muscle group. Typically I fall asleep by the time I get to relaxing my knees.
Now get some ZZZ’s!