Sleep your way to a personal best in the Waterford Viking Marathon

Health Science

Performance physiologist Bruce Wardrop reveals the way you can use sleep as a way to optimise your performance for the Waterford Viking Marathon

For 2017, Waterford Viking Marathon has teamed up with the Department of Health, Sport and Exercise Science (DHSES) in Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) to provide expert training information for runners in the lead up to the event. In this article, performance physiologist Bruce Wardrop discusses how you can use sleep to optimise your performance.

Optimum eight hour sleep

It is commonly believed that we spend one third of our lives asleep – roughly 8 hours per night. This is in line with guidelines for adults, which suggest 7-9 hours per night is optimal for us to function at our best. However, research indicates that in recent decades, the average adult is sleeping closer to 6 hours per night. When our sleep is cut short, important functions like muscle repair, the release of hormones and memory consolidation are left incomplete.

We wake up less prepared for the day ahead, which can lead to poor performance in school or work and significantly for athletes, in training. While training for the Waterford Viking Marathon (or any other event), you will require extra sleep to allow your body and mind to fully recover. Typically, an extra hour is sufficient so you should be sleeping 8-10 hours per night to ensure you are recovering and performing optimally. Eight hours is really the minimum any physically active person should be aiming for, with studies highlighting that any less than this leaves you susceptible to injury and illness, on top of everything else!

In order to improve the quantity and quality of your sleep, sleep hygiene is critical. This refers to the habits and conditions that are necessary for normal, restful sleep and full daytime alertness. Use the following tips to tidy up your sleep hygiene and develop an effective bedtime routine:

10 Top tips for optimal sleep hygiene:

  • Be consistent – aim to go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning – including the weekends!
  • Dim the lights at night – in the 30-60mins before bed, try turning off bright lights around the house to help prepare you for sleep.
  • Turn off the screen – watching TV or using your phone / tablet in the 30-60mins before bed will delay you falling asleep. Reading is a better option immediately before bed.
  • Turn your bedroom into a cave – cool, dark and quiet! It is difficult to sleep in a room that is too warm, bright or noisy, so eliminate all three.
  • Avoid alcohol – while it may help some people fall asleep, alcohol will always disturb the quality of your sleep and cause you to wake up earlier, reducing the quantity of your sleep.
  • Avoid stimulants – caffeine, nicotine and chocolate can all keep you awake and should not be consumed within 4 hours of going to bed.
  • Don’t drink too much – having too much to drink in the 60mins before bed will increase the likelihood that you will have to get up during the night to go to the toilet.
  • Avoid napping – snoozing during the day makes it harder to sleep at night. If you must have a nap, limit it to 30mins max!
  • Keep a notepad beside your bed – in the event that, as soon as you lie down your brain switches on with ideas and things to do, you can write them down and deal with them tomorrow.
  • Open the curtains – exposing yourself to bright light (preferably natural) first thing in the morning will make you feel more awake and which should help you feel sleepier in the evening.

Related Courses

Bachelor of Science (Honours) in  Sports Coaching & Performance
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