Too many runners and racers are obsessed with fitness and nutrition with little to no concern about their sleep habits. Are you already thinking about your healthy resolutions for 2021? SLEEP BETTER should be near the top of your list.
Notice we didn’t say to sleep more, just better. Many health publications agree that the famous 8-hour recommendation is somewhat arbitrary, and its origins are unclear. At the same time, lack of sleep and too much sleep (yes, it’s a thing) can both have negative effects on your health and productivity.
Dangers of Too Little Sleep / Too Much Sleep
Consequences of sleep deprivation can include poor skin, bad digestion, impaired judgment, reduced sex drive, and general moodiness. Meanwhile, oversleeping has been attributed to obesity, diabetes, back pain, headaches, heart disease, stroke, depression, and poor immune function.
While required sleep isn’t an exact number, teenagers (ages 14-17) typically need slightly more sleep than most adults (18-64). Senior citizens can get by on slightly less sleep. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there are a rare few of us who have the “short-sleep gene” allowing us to sleep less than 6.5 hours each night “without any apparent ill effects.” The rest of us will eventually feel the effects of not enough or too much sleep.
How to Sleep Better
Rather than accepting the fact that you haven’t been sleeping well, do something about it.
- Get a good mattress. They are expensive, but good sleep is priceless.
- Set a bedtime. Don’t just wait until you’re super tired. Be consistent with your routine.
- Get off screens at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
- Avoid caffeine too close to bedtime.
- Figure out your hydration needs. Drink enough to keep you from waking up thirsty or overflowing.
- Refuse napping during the day. Naps are only bad if they’re keeping you from your preferred sleep pattern.
Other considerations may include making the room darker with blackout blinds or sleep masks and listening to quiet sounds from a fan, ambiance recordings or quiet, calming music.
While exercise is important, those gains you seek require sleep and recovery. So, be as mission-minded about your sleep as you are about your overall fitness. Listen to your body, and determine to sleep well in 2021.