How Does Sleep Affect Your Running?

So you've been having trouble sleeping, or maybe you think sleep is for the week, going hard line military attitude, maybe that's it. Well, I'm Jesse Funk, and on today's episode of runners high I want to tell you about the importance of sleep and what happens when you as a runner do not get enough sleep.
How Does Sleep Affect Your Running?

So you've been having trouble sleeping, or maybe you think sleep is for the week, going hard line military attitude, maybe that's it. Well, I'm Jesse Funk, and on today's episode of runners high I want to tell you about the importance of sleep and what happens when you as a runner do not get enough sleep.

Before we get going, if you haven't spent any time with me on the channel, hit that subscribe button. I talk about running on Tuesdays and Thursdays, every week, as well as on Friday I interview guests for the smart athlete podcast, that's where I get to talk to experts, pros, high-level amateurs, people in all different kinds of fields, and you get to learn all the tips and tricks that they know that I have no idea about and I kind of probe and find things out. So, you will want to stick around with me here on this channel. So, hit that subscribe button.

So, if you have that hard line military attitude and you think sleep is for the week, you are wrong. Or maybe it's actually the other way around, lack of sleep is for the week, because what happens when you don't sleep is you don't recover. Sleep is such an important part of our cycle as living beings, I know we like to think of ourselves as machinery or automatons that don't need any repair, but we do.

When you go out and run, you make micro tears in your muscles, and those need to be repaired, that largely happens while you are sleeping.

So, if you don't get to sleep, you don't get enough sleep, you don't go through the proper cycles of sleep, then you aren't going to get that repair. It can become a cascade of problems from there where you're not repairing your muscles and therefore you're becoming more stressed, so then you can sleep less and then you are not repairing your muscles, so you become stressed and you sleep less.

And it just goes on and on until you find yourself into overtraining and burnt out valley of doom where you simply don't want to do anything, you can't perform, you push yourself harder and it just becomes a snowball of problems.

So, if all you wanted to know was what happens when I don't get enough sleep? Then there you go. Basically, you can lean yourself into over-training over time. It's not going to happen with one night of a lack of sleep, we all have bad nights that do we simply don't sleep well, it happens from time to time, especially right before a race, you get nervous.

And if you're thinking about the race night and you don't sleep well, I had trouble with this for years. And if you can get to a place where you can convince yourself that it doesn't really matter if I sleep the night before a race and my performance is going to be what it is, then you actually probably can sleep.

And the truth is that I have found very little correlation between how much sleep I get the night before a race and how I perform, and this goes for my entire cohort, high-Level amateurs, professionals, people I've talked to. It really doesn't matter. So, rest assured if this is a night before the race kind of situation, don't worry about it.

But for training, you need to get plenty of sleep because you have to recover, you have to allow your muscles time to build back up. That's how training works, we kind of dig ourselves a small hole, our body builds us up out of it, makes us stronger than we were before, and then we dig another small hole, and it goes on and on and on, and we kind of cycle upwards, hopefully, so that we become faster over time.

Now, if you're having trouble sleeping, there's going to be a lot of suggestions for you, but I find it's going to be a personal thing. There are a lot of things you can try, I'll give you my personal opinion, the things that I've done to kind of get into a better sleep routine over time. But you have to try these things and try them consistently so that you can get to a place where you can sleep better. But the number one thing, and this is mentioned, but it's super critical, don't watch TV in bed. Bed is pretty much for sleeping. Sleeping or sex, we're adults here.

Those are the two things that happen in bed, and that is it. You can also read, books are okay, but you want to stay away from that blue light, being on your phone, all those kinds of things if you're having trouble sleeping. Blue light wakes us up, we know that, so you want to avoid that. Another thing I have trouble with is if you're working too late you could have trouble sleeping because you become stressed.

I had to cut myself off because I get up, I wake up in the morning, like this morning, I was up at six, went for a run, started working at seven. And then, if I allow myself I can be working until nine o'clock, by the time I go to bed at 10 I'm still stressed out thinking about this, thinking about that, I have a new product or whatever, and then I sleep poorly because my brain is still spinning. So, I found I need to shut that down at a certain time, five, seven o'clock at the latest, and then give myself time to unwind and get ready to go to bed. So, we have a whole ritual, basically, where it becomes family time. Dinner, there's family time, most nights where you watch Netflix or play a game, something relaxing, entertaining, where we're spending time together.

And then bedtime has this whole ritual, and the dog knows it, we let him out to the bathroom, we put it into the , he gets a treat, we go to bed, and then I'm pretty much out by then because I've spent time relaxing, winding down hours before I'm trying to go to bed. If you're working up until bedtime it’s very, very difficult to go to bed immediately.

Now, this next tip, something that I've done for a long time and may bother your partner, or maybe it could bother you. You may think I'm insane for this, but this is something that's helped me so I'll share it with you, and that's to leave the lights on, or really, if you can, dim the lights, but don't turn them out. I found for a long time having the light on a little bit made the pressure, the mental pressure for me to go to sleep, not as big a deal.

It was like, it was permission for me to lay there and kind of think about things and let my mind drift off to sleep, versus this kind of hard stop where you have lights on lights off, and there's this hard transition of, “Hey, you know, you've got to go to sleep right now, it's dark, why aren't you asleep? Why aren't you asleep?” And your brain is like keeping you awake by telling you to go to sleep.

So, that's something that's helped me. And you can do this a variety of ways. If you don't have a dimmer switch, you can obviously install one. But if you don't want to go that route, you can buy programmable light bulbs, smart light bulbs on Amazon, any number of places, I'm not affiliated with any of these, but I did use one of these for a number of years where we set it to a kind of dimmer temperature, the color of the light, so we didn't have that blue light in the room.

And then it also had a period where it would turn itself off, so I was free to go to bed at 10 and it would turn itself off at like 11:15 or something like that so that I didn't have to get back up out of bed to turn it off.
So, maybe that's something you can try. If you have somebody that sleeps in the bed next to you, you'll have to clear it with them. They may need a face mask, one of those nice sleeping masks.

Or that's something else you can try if your partner is the one with the light on and you can't sleep. But both things are kind of things I've tried, done to help me get into this routine of going to sleep more easily.

Once you have this routine and you've kind of built up a pattern and finally are getting to sleep, then it becomes more of a Pavlovian response. It's a behaviorist kind of response where, “Hey, I'm getting in bed and I'm doing these things and this whole ritual” and your brain just starts shutting down and it becomes easier for you to go, “I’m out.” And now because you're actually going to sleep, your body can recover, your muscles can recover, and then you're going to have better running days because your muscles body are ready to go.

They're primed and ready to do the things that you want to do when you go out to work out.
So, do you have any tips for me if I have sleeping in the future? or do you have things you've tried that have worked or didn't work? Leave them down in the comments below, let's share, let's all help each other figure out how to sleep easier. These things can be very personal, so although I've shared my story and my tips, some of the things that work for you, I may not have thought of.

So, if you have something that works, share it in the comments below, because you may be able to help somebody else that's having trouble as well. As always, subscribe to the channel, and I'll see you next time on the next episode or Runner’s High.

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