If you like sleep, don’t become a triathlete.
I can’t speak for everyone – perhaps there are some triathletes out there who sleep in and complete their training during daylight hours, but how they swing that with a job and family is a mystery to me. Master swim practices usually call you in around 5 am and sometimes the only time you can fit in a long run is with a headlamps in the wee morn. I have a friend who regularly awakens around 2:45 every day, and that’s in the off-season, to hit the trainer and the pool. Even my husband, who is an early riser, but not a ridiculously early riser, would set his alarm for 3 am to do rides on the trainer when it got close to his Ironman. Before participating in triathlons, I’d get up early – between 4 and 5 am, but now I’ve found myself shifting toward the 3 to 4 am wakeup.
The National Sleep Foundation says you should ideally get between 7 and 9 hours per night. Too much is just as devastating as too little.
The truth is, I’d like some more sleep – but my body clock and racing mind are otherwise wired.
Sleep is important in recovery. It helps your muscles build and repair. Growth hormone surges when you sleep.
Sleep helps with weight loss. Too little and the hormone ghrelin overruns your body. Ghrelin makes you feel hungry. Regular, inadequate sleep correlates with a higher body mass index – probably because your appetite is higher.
Too little sleep is linked to an increased risk of motor vehicle accidents, depression and substance abuse. I wouldn’t be surprised if increased bike accidents are linked to too little sleep too — if anyone cared to do a study.
You’re also at risk of decreased attention span, poor reaction time and diminished memory retention.
Well, that’s a downer isn’t it? But there’s hope for the sleepless triathlete.
For better sleep:
- be consistent with bed and wake times — even on weekends. (I am consistent – I wake up every day between 3:00 and 4:00 am, no matter what time I go to bed)
- have a routine (experts say take a bath or listen to soothing music – mine’s more like ordering kids to brush their teeth and a little dvr’d reality television)
- have a dark, quiet and comfortable environment (I’ll give you dark – quiet, with three dogs?)
- Use your bedroom only for sleep…no tv, computers or reading (massive fail on my routine)
- Finish eating at least 2-3 hours before bed (how about an hour?)
- Exercise regularly (I have that one!!!!)
- Avoid caffeine (um, no comment)
So with -229 days to go until Ironman Boulder, I would like to make more sleep part of my routine. I’m not in that bad of sleep shape. My new toy, a FitBit Force, tells me that I’m sleeping soundly every night – just for less than 7 hours on most occasions. I’m not sure I’m willing to change any of the above to sleep more, however…so perhaps, I’m doomed. What’s your sleep shape?