Q: How important is proper sleep to my overall training plan?
There are many components to a good training plan, including proper nutrition, hydration, quality workouts on the road and track, strength training and flexibility. One we often forget is the right amount of rest and recovery. The biggest component of rest should be good quality sleep in the right amount.
Many of us MAY feel like we can get by on five or six hours of sleep a night. When it comes to optimum physical (and mental) performance, that’s just not enough. Many of the top world-class runners get 9-10 hours of sleep each night and even work in a nap between workouts. The exact amount of sleep needed varies by individual, but a rule of thumb for adults is 7-9 hours per night.
Here’s how you can determine the optimum amount for you:
1. Pick a day that you do not need to set an alarm to wake up.
2. Record the hours you sleep. Repeat three to four times and get an average.
3. Add additional sleep time for the miles you are training each week; add one minute for every mile you average during the week.
Here’s how it works: If you find you need seven hours of sleep and you are training 40 miles a week, your goal would be to add another 40 minutes of sleep to your daily routine.
Having trouble sleeping?
These tips may help:
- Practice good sleep hygiene. Cleanse your sleep environment. Keep your bedroom free of distractions, and make sure the room is dark and cool.
- Make sleep time a routine and try to get into bed at the same time each night, even on weekends.
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, spicy foods and heavy meals four hours prior to bed.
- Track the amount of sleep you’re getting by logging your sleep. Devices like the Garmin Vivofit and similar wristband activity trackers work well. If you are “old school” like me, a simple sleep diary will work.
Review the information in your hand-written diary or sleep tracker and look for patterns that you can change. Remember that you are looking for lifestyle changes, and those take time to develop.
Increasing your sleep amount is especially important as you get closer to a big race. When you start to taper back your training, really concentrate on getting adequate sleep. This will get you refreshed and focused for your race.
John Ruibal, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, is a registered dietitian and is board-certified in sports nutrition from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. He coordinates the distance running classes available at both iRun Texas locations in San Antonio. He has been running for more than 40 years and coaching for 25. To connect with John or learn more about his classes, visit www.iruntexas.net.