Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Making Sleep a Priority

How many of you get at least 8 hours of sleep? 7 hours? 6 hours? As athletes we often swap a little sleep here or there for a workout whether that's getting up earlier or staying up too late. That little bit of sleep here or there adds up though and can put you into a serious sleep debt.

I have always been a person that needs a lot of sleep. I'm 21, a senior in college and rarely have I gotten less than 7 hours of sleep a night. Most nights I get 8. Back in high school I had swim practice at 5:30 in the morning twice a week and 18 hours hours of training a week plus school. I had to make sleep a priority or I would fall asleep during class.

To be honest I'm really glad that I learned the importance of sleep when I did. It makes it hard now when I want to go out with friends and have a workout scheduled the next morning but just one night won't derail me too much. Not only do I feel better when I've had a good night sleep, but being sleep deprived leads me to do some pretty stupid things. I remember sophomore year of college I was up half the night studying for my Russian final and was so exhausted the next day I tried to get out of my car with it still in drive. Yeah, not good.

The past week or so I have been slacking on my sleep and it is showing. While I can normally get away with less sleep once in awhile, only getting 6 hours for an entire week is just not enough for me. I found myself dozing off in class, unable to focus, lazy, and very unmotivated to do any of my workouts.

This week I am making sleep a priority again. I am trying to make an effort to train smarter this year so that I can train harder. It's so easy as athletes to want to do more, more, more. Oftentimes we do workouts in the morning because it is the only time to fit them in. We choose training over sleep.

While I too see the benefits of doing morning workouts and like making them a regular part of my routine, I like to find a balance between early morning workouts and days with no alarm set. This semester I've been making Tuesday and Thursday my morning workout days. Sometimes I feel guilty for sleeping in but I try to remember that this is what works best for me. I have friends who only need 5-6 hours of sleep a night and know of people who regularly get 10 hours.

Some of the things I'm doing to get back on a good sleep schedule are:

  • Schedule workouts like meetings. This gives me an idea of not only how much but also when I have free time each day to study and do homework so I don't end up awake until the middle of the night trying to write a paper.
  • Getting everything ready the night before. I don't know about you but I am not the most efficient person in the mornings. Not only does getting everything together the night before make it easier to get out the door on a motivational level but it also lets me sleep for an extra 10-30 minutes.
  • Keeping alarms not too far apart. If I have no alarm set at all I tend to stay up too late and then sleep until 11 in the morning. I try to draw my line at 9 but if I need the sleep I don't force myself to get up. For comparison, on Tuesday I get up at 6:40 and 7:30 on Thursday.
What tips do you have to get a better night's sleep? How many hours of sleep do you get each night?


  1. I wont tell you my hours of sleep because it will make you cringe, it's better than it was but still super low. Sleep is so important, don't realize how much it can affect you without it. Things I have found to help lately: Not doing hard workouts/intervals at night (your heart rate stays higher), take melatonin (natural easy and cheap), cutting caffeine, hmmm I'll have to think of what else.

  2. I really need to work on this 😳 working in radio is NOT conducive to sleeping...EVER!

  3. I swear, I am the biggest baby when it comes to getting enough sleep. If I get anything less than 7, I just feel terrible the next day. The "keeping alarms not too far apart" thing is what has worked wonders for me - though I never, ever would have been willing to do that when I was in college ;-) The other thing is not bringing my phone to bed with me - otherwise I sit there messing around for an hour (or longer!) later than I intended.

  4. I need to work on this big time. With two kids I feel like sometimes my only time to relax is at night watching TV and I don't go to bed when I am tired. I know when I start summer training and run in the mornings I get better sleep but this winter has been rough.