When you’re balancing work, family, volunteering and training – who can fit in eight hours of sleep? Unfortunately, sacrificing your sleeping is a bad decision. An accumulated sleep shortage can lead to serious consequences not only your health, but your athletic performance as well.
As a triathlete, you are trained to focus on your swimming, biking and running patterns and habits, but you might pay little attention to you sleeping hours, patterns or habits.
Believe it or not, this sedentary habit helps improves an athlete, but how?
In a study published in the medical journal The Lancet, athletes who experienced sleep deprivation for one week demonstrated a reduced ability to use glucose. This will not only hurt athletic performance but can also delay recovery and affect the body’s ability to build glucose for future use.
Sleep also helps produce the human growth hormone. This hormone speeds the recovery from your training sessions to races by repairing the tissue after exercising. Athletes commonly complain that a workout or a race is a lot harder than normal to complete when they are sleep deprived.
In addition, chronic sleep loss can raise blood pressure, quickly produce mood disorders and diminish mental function as well as cause an athlete to experience reduced endurance and cardiovascular performance.
Here are 10 tips to improve your sleep:
- Keep a regular bedtime and wake time – even on the weekends. By doing this you condition your body to expect sleep and you’ll fall asleep faster.
- Avoid alcohol, particularly late at night. Even though it may make you feel sleepy at first, it will only disrupt your sleep later during the night.
- Limit anything that contains caffeine after 5 p.m. – even chocolate.
- Keep your bedroom dark and free of lights and all electronics. Yes, even TVs and smartphones.
- Don’t get involved in any kind of stressful activities or thoughts 90 minutes before bedtime. Use that time to wind down and relax before bed.
- Avoid eating processed and packaged foods which can stimulate the body and affect sleep quality.
- Keep dinner light, mild and easy to digest. Slow or difficult digestion may equal poor quality sleep. But don’t go to bed hungry or your hunger pains may also keep you up.
- Don’t eat right before bed. This is especially important if you have heartburn or reflux. Finish dinner at least an hour before bed.
- A warm, comforting drink with herbs can promote sleep. Try chamomile or peppermint tea.
- Tryptophan is not just for Thanksgiving. The amnio-acid really does promote sleep and can be found in dairy, eggs and poultry.
Triathlon is a tough sport and you may put in a lot of hours in your triathlon training routine; but remember that sleep should be a part of your training as well. Keep in mind that the quality of sleep is just as important as the quantity.
It’s time to start thinking about the 2017 race season! If you are looking for some help or have any questions on your triathlon training, please contact me today.