Sleep…ahh yes that very important building block of our health and fitness that often eludes some of us. Our bodies need sleep just as much as we need to eat, drink & breathe, which is probably why we feel so great when we get a full night of the stuff! But do you prioritise it as part of your active training plan? Probably not.
Myself and a group of friends have been training for the past 12 weeks to run the Royal Parks half Marathon next Sunday and have gone to great lengths to ensure we have eaten well before our long training runs with the correct balance of carbs to fuel our bodies. We’ve planned exactly how far and how fast we should run, even packed in a few little snacks for mid-run re-fuelling. Yet on some of these runs, some of us still felt a little fatigued and unable to push our bodies as hard as usual, and the reason for this? The hours banked in the sleep department were less than adequate.
Sleep is a fundamental part of living a healthy, active life, yet many of us forget to consider it as part of our overall health and fitness, concentrating more on the exercise we do and the food we eat. Studies show that a lack of sleep is associated with increased body fat levels and decreased memory formation. Trying to exert yourself with a tough exercise session or long run when you are lacking in sleep is difficult & it’s not just down to a less positive mindset there are proven physiological factors too.
What happens when we are actually a-snoozin’
– Our bodies release important hormones
– Our brain re-charges
– Our cells repair themselves
What happens if we are lacking in vital zzzz’s
– Decreased sleep quality & quantity lowers your muscles limit for exertion, increasing how quickly muscles fatigue meaning you are not capable of performing at your usual intensity.
– A lack of sleep makes it harder to build up glycogen stores which is the primary source of energy for your muscles. fewer stores = less fuel less fuel = low blood sugar and feeling rubbish.
– Lack of sleep creates a bad mood.
– Sleep deprivation creates an increased perception of effort and fatigue and can limit performance – in other words your brain just isn’t having it!
Sleeplessness can be a pretty frustrating thing, especially when you are tossing and turning, unable to switch off. That is why it is so important to create a soothing bedroom environment that can allow you to unwind, de-stress and recharge your mind and body in peace.
If your training plan doesn’t focus on your sleep right now, even if you are already a good sleeper, take the next week to nurture your sleep routine. Here are a few bedtime tips to get the shut eye you deserve:
– Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day even on the weekend – get into a routine your body will thank you for it
– Create a bedtime routine ritual. You choose what suits you, but my advice is a calming tea (camomile, lavender or milky drink like the hot chocolate drink below which is also a great post workout recovery drink) and a few pages of a good book, or a good relaxing bath with Epsom salts before bed.
– Make your bedroom a peaceful calming area of your house. Get rid of clutter & mess, create a peaceful bedroom environment by hanging family photos, add fresh flowers, light a candle etc. When you step into your bedroom it should be your place of calm and tranquility.
– Put down the technology, it shouldn’t be accompanying you to bed, make your room a TV free zone too. Studies have proven technology in the bedroom makes it harder to fall asleep, and stay asleep. So, leave the smartphone, iPad, laptop etc downstairs.
– Avoid heavy meals, snack foods and caffeine 2 hours before bed. These things can act as a stimulant and keep you awake.
Another great tip I read earlier today…before you decide to get into bed, grab a notebook & write down your thoughts on a piece of paper, close it and put it down. Getting any pressing thoughts out of your head means you can hopefully have a calm and uninterrupted sleep.
Night Night x x
Unwind & refuel at the same time with this Tasty Milk Hot Chocolate treat from world renewed sports dietitian Nancy Clark. Not only is it a fluid to rehydrate, it also offers carbs to refuel muscles, protein to build and repair muscles, calcium for strong bones, and a plethora of other life-stustaining nutrients.
Homemade Hot Chocolate:
1 cup milk, lowfat or skim
1 tablespoon cocoa powder (Cocoa is plant-based and rich in health-protective phytochemicals.)
1 tablespoon brown sugar or sweetener of your choice
Optional: dash salt (brings out the flavour)
1. In a 12-ounce mug, put the cocoa, sugar, and milk. Note: the cocoa will not dissolve in the cold milk, so don’t bother to stir it yet.
2. Heat the mixture for a minute in the microwave oven; stir until it is well blended.
3. Finish heating to the desired temperature, being careful not to boil the milk or it will curdle.
One serving, (made with skimmed milk): 150Kcals; 25 grams Carbohydrate; 8 grams Protein; 2 grams Fat