Readers Roundtable: How Well Do You Sleep?

NappingIf there are two things we runners find ourselves talking about more than any other, it’s food … and, well, it’s probably just food. But that’s not the only thing we need to fuel our bodies.

Research has concluded that we really need at least 8 hours of sleep a night to live and run well, but this week, working overnight on a film, I found myself wondering how many runners actually afford themselves that much. Under normal circumstances I barely have time for six hours! I mean, I love sleeping, but I have other things to do!

For me it’s all about quality, not quantity. If it’s going to be light at all while I’m sleeping, I wear a mask. I take melatonin and wear a night guard when I’m stressed. I remove my dear-but-nocturnal pets from the room and close the door. I put my phone aside and read a book until the sandman helps me nod off. Getting better quality of sleep has definitely made a difference in my energy levels during waking hours, and especially while running.

So I want to know from you: How much sleep do you really get? Do you think quality of sleep contributes to your training? What lengths do you or would you go to in order to maximize the quality or quantity of your sleep?

Cinnamon made Salty Running, takes lots of pictures and drinks lots of coffee. She has 8 more minutes to knock off her marathon for a 3:40 BQ, and will get there or die trying. Her writing is an eclectic mix of finding wholeness as an average runner, news reporting, curious reactions, satirical humor and more.

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12 comments

  1. Am I the only one who struggles sleeping this time of year? I have a hard time getting to bed before midnight, but then I wake up around 6:30 and can’t doze back off (I really struggle if I don’t get 7+ hours of sleep regularly). But in general, since I’ve had kids sleeping has just not been the same. I was always a light sleeper and now that’s worse. I wear ear plugs and use a white noise machine which help, but if there are noises or anything before I fall asleep I can be up for hours. Or when I just fall asleep and something wakes me up, I’ve been up all night after that before. I think the culprit for me is that I’m so tired and stressed at the end of the day that I like to plop in bed and watch netflix, but I’d be better off reading an actual book. And I could stand to do some journaling or something to remove my anxious thoughts that start going bonkers and prevent me from sleeping sometimes. I feel like I’m this high maintenance sleep prima-donna with all my needs and my sensitivities!

    1. Long-time insomniac here– and mine definitely peaks/seems to get worse around season changes, particularly winter into spring. You know what my cure was this season! 😉

  2. My sleep was terrible ironically when I was the most tired and busy with training. I would be completely exhausted and think “I’ll fall asleep as soon as I hit the pillow”…then I toss and turn and don’t rest. I recently stopped training for anything a few weeks ago, and my sleep has improved drastically. I also made other changes like reading a bit and listening to a podcast before I sleep to just wind down,
    I am a firm believer that even if you are in bed with the lights out and your eyes closed, unless you are asleep, this is not the greatest rest or what you need. I would go to bed to give myself 8-9 hours, but I wasn’t sleeping so I didn’t get fully rested. Now I find I spend less time in bed, but get more rested because my quality is better.
    Stress, whether running or life keeps me up as well. It was a game changer to not train for a race right now because I am not stressing over workouts or fitting running in. If it happens, great, if not, that’s ok too. This was a long response, but I am passionate about the topic 🙂 I love sleep!

  3. My ideal is 9 hours (!), but that flew out the window when the kiddos came. Now I’m good with a solid 7 hours, BUT I cannot watch/do anything on a screen before bed, or that blue-light input really, really mucks me up. Also, no coffee after noon. If I don’t sleep well, I get migraines, I’m a total beast at work, and I generally act like a toddler that..well, didn’t get good sleep. Of course this spills over into my running. My pace drops significantly when I’m tired and grumpy.

  4. I love that my Fitbit keeps track of sleep for me- it helps me to be more aware of my sleep patterns. I average 6 1/2-7 hours per night, but it’s less when I do early morning workouts. Those early morning runs will sometimes leave me with less than 5 hours for the night. I can swing that once or twice a week, but not much more than that without feeling really rotten. It’s all about timing for me- if I choose to sleep in and save my run for the evening, sometimes that run will prevent me from falling asleep as fast as I normally would.
    Point is, I love sleep, but always end up missing out on some because of running. 🙂

  5. Chronic insomnia here – which is as fun as it sounds. I’m lucky if I get 4 hours a night. Every once in awhile I go through a week or 2 of hardly any sleep and then deal with some sleep paralysis before getting so run down, I get sick. Which is where I am now. Day 7 of the most severe congestion/sinus pressure. I’ve tried everything, sleep study and all. So, it’s easy for me to get my early runs in because I’m up regardless. I guess that’s good and bad, lol.

    1. Sleep paralysis. Now, that’s a freaky/scary thing to have & I’m sorry you deal with that. I just listened to a podcast about it to learn more…it does not happen to me often, but when it does, I canNOT go back to sleep afterward (nor do I really want to).

  6. I’m a solid 8-hour sleeper and I take it very seriously. It’s harder this time of year because it’s too damn hot to run after work, so I have to get up and get it done … yet it’s like until 9 p.m. If there’s a night where I get less, I try to make up for it the next night. I take Hammer Nutrition’s REM Caps nightly to help out.

  7. I’ve suffered with bouts of insomnia since college, I’ll go through spells where it takes me longer to fall asleep, but worse, I wake up and am up for hours… watching the clock, doing the math “If I fall asleep now I can still get 4 hours, 3, hours, 2, 1…” and spiraling into an anxious feedback loop that makes it worse. Running helps wake me up/makes me more alert during really rough insomnia cycles and usually I just wait them out and they pass. Like Salty mentioned, mine seem to cluster around season changes. I’ll take Benadryl if I really need to get knocked out, but I hate that it makes me feel so groggy in the morning. When I start sleeping really well after an insomnia cycle, my running times magically get faster and I feel like I am sore for a shorter amount of time after a strenuous workout.

    1. Yes! Running is what actually helps me get through the day because it wakes me up. I have better days when I run – even after really crappy sleep – than days when I don’t.

  8. I’ve never been the greatest sleeper. First, I’ve always been an early bird, which in college does terrible things to either your social life or your sleep. Then after college I worked the occasional afternoon or night shift (because news happens at all hours), and that plays havoc with your sleep as well. I’d love to know how runners who have to work night shift or other long stretches of odd hours do it! And finally, though I left daily news, I now have a kid. Who is often ready to party at 5.30am. Honestly, there is no ideal sleep situation for me – I just have to train for these conditions…

  9. You all are my sleep role models. I get 6, 7 if I’m lucky. A long commute means I have to say hi to 5am if I want to run (and shower, and coffee up) before work. Yet I’m still hesitant to go to bed earlier than 10 because often my husband doesn’t get home from work before 9, so often that’s our only time to spend together all day. I know from some long runs and previous races that a full 8 would make a huge difference, but it’s elusive.

    I swear by my sleep mask and I run a small fan in the room all year round for white noise. If you’re traveling I recommend the iTunes app called Sleep Fan for that purpose. (I didn’t make it, I just love it.)