By Joanne Richard
Poor sleep is nothing to yawn at – it takes a toll on our mind, mood and miles. There’s really nothing else that kills your ability to function quite like a lousy night’s sleep. Actually sleep deprivation has been deemed a national health epidemic – five million of us will have trouble sleeping tonight and be tired tomorrow.
“For optimal health and fitness, you have to sleep on it,” says Barrie Shepley, runner and trainer of elite athletes at Personal Best. “Longer sleeps and naps is what lets the elites train harder and recover faster.” According to Shepley, a former Olympic coach, rest is critical to performance. “Sleep is one of the most effective ways for a hard training athlete to recover. The biochemical adaptation that occurs during sleep is as important as the actual workout to improve performance.”
Fatigued cells and systems need sleep to regenerate, says Shepley. “Whether it’s a nap or a full night sleep, your least expensive training aid you can do is simply to get some more sleep.”
Most of us will spend an average of more than 10,000 full days of our lives sleeping — or at least trying to fall sleep, stay asleep or worrying about not sleeping! So if you’re wired, tired and sleep deprived, wake up and tame those sleep saboteurs with our exhaustive A-to-ZZZ’s guide of tricks and tips to get the sleep you’ve always dreamt about.
Sleep is a glorious thing – bring it on!
33. Do the most boring thing possible at night.
32. Read your old chemistry textbook.
31. Play tic-tac-toe with yourself
30. Put yourself to sleep reading about biomechanical risk factors for patellofemoral pain in distance runners
29. Bore yourself half to death thinking about your mind-numbing, dull day.
28. Rub a bit of Vicks Vaporub on the outside of your nostrils to help you relax.
27. Go for a long car ride – it will often induce sleep. Just don’t be driving!
26. Get in the driver’s seat by exercising. It’s quite possibly the panacea for all that ails you, including sleeplessness. “Data suggests that the more regular exercise you get the more you improve sleep quality,” Dr. Michael Breus says.
25. Aim for 30 minutes, four times a week of heart-pounding activity.
24. Run early. “Exercise stimulates the body to secrete the stress hormone cortisol, you should try finish exercising at least three hours before bed,” says Stephanie Langlais, holistic health coach in North Vancouver.
23. Move every day. Walk, run, hike, snowshoe, swim, climb, pump iron. Just do it!
22. Up it! “Anytime I up my physical activity, I sleep hard and well at night,” says Barrie Shepley.
21. “50 burpees a day keeps sleeplessness away,” says personal trainer Lisa Moore, of fitnessonthego.ca.
20. Train for a half marathon.
19. Take up trail running.
18. Break in the new Montrail FluidFlex ST, lightweight and has a forefoot trail shield.
17. Go hard with Josh Hewett’s home workout: 10 lunges per leg, eight burpee pushups, 10 prisoner squats (hands behind your head), and eight superman’s per side (on hands and knees, extend opposite arm and leg). “Repeat as many rounds as possible for 15 minutes,” says the personal trainer at top-form-fitness.com.
16. Unwind with hot yoga and sleep longer and harder.
15. Exercise your foam roller every night to reduce unwanted muscle tension and joint stiffness, says Dr. Jeff Cubos, a chiropractic sports specialist at jeffcubos.com.
14. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
13. Mind your Pee and Q’s – no water too close to bedtime or you’ll need a bathroom break. Totally disruptive.
12. Avoid overtraining. The flood of adrenaline can over-stimulate and bring on sleeplessness.
11. Train your body to sleep. Set a regular wake time and intended bedtime. “Actual time doesn’t matter but the regularity of it does… We need to regulate our bodies’ natural rhythms,” says sleep training consultant Tracy Braunstein.
10. Let Sleepyti.me bedtime calculator let you know when to go to bed.
9. “Go to bed later, not earlier – many people get in bed too early and their biological clock does not want to sleep. Then they get frustrated and cause autonomic arousal, which prevents sleep,” says Breus, aka The Sleep Doctor.
8. Set an alarm for bed time instead of waking time to help keep a regular routine for getting in bed, says Sheldon Persad, co-owner of P.B. Health & Performance Inc.
7. Aim for the sleep sweet spot; research suggests that the best restorative sleep happens between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.
6. Avoid the nap trap – late afternoon naps can be a sleep wrecker.
5. If you must, have a short siesta between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.
4. Do not sleep in on weekends. This messes with your sleep patterns.
3. Do not let teens go out on weekends or you’ll never sleep.
2. Okay, compromise. Set an early curfew – say, 9 p.m. “Rested teens make for a happy household,” says Dr. Carl Pickhardt, adolescent psychologist. “Sleeplessness in families – in teenagers and adults – can be very psychologically costly.”
1. Don’t have kids! “Kids are amazing, awe inspiring and very fulfilling but they don’t contribute to a regularly awesome sleep life,” laughs celebrity chef, runner and dad of four Roger Mooking.
Find more sleep secrets and late-night essentials inside the April issue of iRun.