I love to sleep, however I seem to sleep less now than at any other point in my life.
Interruptions occur almost nightly--either it's my two-year-old having a nightmare or falling out of bed, the dog's snoring, or just my restless mind waking me at 3 a.m. with urgent thoughts about credit-card bills or looming deadlines.
When I read a Runner's World feature story about marathoner Tera Moody and her long-time battle with insomnia, I began to worry that I was sliding into the abyss of chronic poor sleep. While my sleep problems are minor compared to Moody's, I was averaging about six hours a night instead of the recommended eight.
And the longer it went on, the harder it became to function during the day. I had trouble remembering names and appointments, was quick-tempered and generally grumpy.
And my running suffered as well. Every workout left me so depleted that it I needed several days to recover. And while I haven't been training for a big race or anything, I grew frustrated with my daily lethargy and lack of motivation.
Sleep experts say that adults should snooze about one hour for every two hours awake AND that additionally, runners should add one extra minute in bed per night for every mile run during the week.
Regular sleep per night = 8 hours + 35 minutes for running about 35 miles per week.
That meant I should be sleeping almost 60 hours a week, rather than my usual 42-45. I realized that I was demanding way more from my body and mind that they were designed to manage.
No wonder I felt so drained all the time.
But when I started searching answers about improving sleep, I was overwhelmed by the results. Since I was confident my problem was lifestyle- and stress-related, I experienced tremendous improvement by implementing these simple changes:
- Set a routine bedtime and stick with it.
- Budget more time in bed than needed to reach my goal of 8 continuous hours of sleep, assuming it takes some time to fall asleep.
- Since worries or fears often wake me in the middle of the night, I discuss issues with my husband or a friend instead of silently stewing about them.
- Reduce caffeine consumption to one cup of coffee, and no caffeine past 10 a.m.
- Listen to a relaxation CD in bed while practicing deep breathing exercises.
- Sleep with ear plugs.
- Take an over-the-counter sleep aid no more than once a week to ensure a solid 8-hour stretch of shut eye.