Sleepy manImage: Photo by Sammy Williams on Unsplash

Sleep Your Way To Success

Performance running specialist, Colin Thomas, looks at the impact of sleep and stress on performance.

If I told you that your bedtime should be 10pm what would you say? Then if I told you that your alarm should be set for 6am every morning, most of you would think I was bonkers. Sleep quantity and quality are both very much overlooked factors affecting your overall health and running performance and should be considered just as important as your training runs. 

As we sleep we go through a five stage cycle, and only during our deep stages of sleep does the body fully recover from the previous day and prepare itself for the testing day to follow. Our sleeping patterns are controlled by two main mechanisms which are termed sleep homeostasis (balance) and our circadian rhythms. 

During deep sleep, blood pressure drops, muscles are relaxed, blood flow to muscles increases, tissues grow and repair, important hormones such as growth hormone are released and energy levels are restored. 

There are a number of things that prevent deep sleep, namely stress, caffeine and sugar.

Any runner who is training regularly will be placing a substantial amount of stress on the body. Even more so if you are asking your body to do something that it has never done before such as run a PB or your first marathon.

The Cumulative Stress Effect takes into consideration the total sum of stressors on your body such as exercise plus work stress plus family life stress, etc. If this stress becomes too much for the body to cope with it will cause ‘distress’ or what we commonly term stress. This can have many negative effects on the body such as weight gain around the belly and suppression of the immune system.

Try these tips to help reduce your stress

  • Deal with or remove a potential stressor;
  • Exercise at the correct level avoiding over training;
  • Have a varied, balanced diet and control your weight;
  • Improve your sleep quality (you can see how it’s all linked in now can’t you?).

The two simple lifestyle factors of sleep and stress can have a significant impact on your overall health and further more your performance. Fingers crossed for some more PB’s in the near future! 

Try these simple tips to improve your sleep

  • Reduce stimulants from coffee, tea, fizzy drinks, some medicines, and nicotine. Caffeine has a half life of five hours meaning that after 10 hours there is still some in your blood stream!
  • Reduce bright lights including phones and tablets, one hour before bed. 
  • Build a night time routine such as a warm bath and reading before bed.
  • Reduce levels of stress, especially before bed. 

For more information on a balanced lifestyle and enhanced performance visit Colin's website

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