Running and Sleep

Because sleep is an essential part of any training regimen, Dr. Chelsi Day and Dr. Jennifer Carter of the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon & 1/2 Marathon Psyching Team share how to put common sleep-related issues to rest. 

With the physical demand of training for a half or full marathon while still fulfilling family and employment obligations, we often let sleep be the first thing to suffer. The two work together in that, at times we sacrifice sleep to get that training run done without disrupting our schedule while at other times we are so worried about getting it all done without dropping the ball that our mind races, keeping us awake. For some of us, we struggle with true insomnia which impacts it all. What we know is that inadequate sleep can cause significant negative impact on both physical and psychological functioning. Use these tips from Clinical and Sport Psychologist, Dr. Jennifer Carter of OSU Sport’s Medicine to help establish a good routine during training and increase the quality, and maybe quantity, of your sleep.

Five Tips to Catch Some ZZZs

1. Establish a Bedtime Routine While it is difficult to fall asleep and wake up at the same time every day, experts recommend this routine to help sleep. If you have insomnia, try to keep your wake-up time constant but go to bed one hour later for a few nights. Some people enjoy a nighttime routine that includes a warm shower, a hot non-caffeinated beverage, reading, or writing in a journal. Avoid watching TV or using electronics right before bed, because blue light suppresses melatonin.

2. Chill Out – Disrupted sleep is so frustrating. And tensing up or trying to force sleep makes it more difficult. Use diaphragmatic breathing and muscle relaxation techniques to unwind after a long day. Sport psychologists can make a relaxation audio file for you (many can also be found online). Trust your body to slip into sleep when you’re ready.

3. Think Accurately About Sleep – There are myths that interfere with sleep, like, “I have to get 8 hours or tomorrow will be ruined!” Realistically, many people function quite well on less sleep. Our bodies will eventually catch up on sleep if we don’t worry about it too much. Look at insomnia as a gift, allowing you to get things done or attend to a pressing issue. Keep a notepad or journal near the bed to write down worries to be addressed while awake.

4. Interfere with Ruminations – Do you have worrisome thoughts playing in a loop in your mind? Dr. Marsha Linehan advises interfering with those ruminations by counting 1-10 ten times. The first time through, pause after one. The second time through, pause after two, and so on. This technique makes it impossible to worry by occupying your mind. Another tip is to splash cold water on your face. Or, label your worry as solvable or insolvable. If insolvable, go deep into the worst thing that could happen and imagine coping with it.

5. Other Sound Strategies – Get more balanced exercise. Limit caffeine later in the day. Keep your bedroom cold, dark, and quiet to enhance some good zzzzs. And, avoid using alcohol to fall asleep (alcohol actually interferes with REM sleep).

The Pysching Team – Dr. Chelsi Day and 20 volunteer psychologists and sport performance consultants offer you mental strategies before, during, and after the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Marathon & 1⁄2 Marathon.
Launched at our event in 2013 by Dr. Chelsi Day, the Psyching Team has worked with more than 600 individuals, groups of athletes and workshop participants. Runners and walkers have expressed specific interest in learning about relaxation and setting realistic goals as well as ways to mentally prepare for race day.

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