Friday Finds is a regular feature in which I collate and share interesting articles and posts on running/health/fitness which I’ve read recently. Some might be inspiring, some might be scientific, some might provoke debate. All are things I’ve found in some way thought-provoking.
One of my goals this year is to make rest more of a priority. I know that may sound counter-intuitive to improving my running performance, but I’ve recognised that at some points in the year (now being one of them!) I never really have much down time, and that then impacts on my ability to recover from workouts. When I try to do too much, something has to give. In the past, that something has been me: my body breaks down, I get injured and all my plans are scuppered. So this year. I’m trying to think in the same way that some of the elite East African runners do and trying to make more time to rest. The thing is, so far I’ve not done as well at this as I would like, so having seen a number of sources posting articles about sleep, I thought I would make this week’s Friday Finds a “sleep special” by way of encouraging myself, and others, to think more about how much rest is actually taking place in our lives.
First, the good old BBC and a magazine article about a sleep experiment. We all know that not getting enough sleep is bad for us, but I hadn’t realised just how much difference just a small change in sleep patterns might bring. According to this, getting less than 7 hours of sleep per night is associated with a number of risk factors for various health problems, as well as preventing our brains from “backing up” our memories from the day. Perhaps that explains why I get so forgetful when I’m tired!
Next up, The Guardian, and while the first article I’m including is actually from January last year, the guidance it gives hasn’t changed. The writer has studied those looking to stick to their goals and found that those who slept well were more likely to succeed. Since we’re now at the point in January when those resolutions might be starting to waver, perhaps it’s worth considering whether or not better sleep might be the way to go:
More recently, sleep has become a big business, something I find rather strange for such a natural process, yet in the modern world sleep seems to have become a sought-after commodity. The inevitable result of this is the prevalence of technology to aid sleep on display at the Consumer Electronics Show. Now I’ll admit to having one of those lamps that wakes me gradually by simulating daylight to help me get up on dark mornings, but now all manner of gadgets and gizmos can be bought to help us get our beauty sleep. Here are some of the latest:
The other source really championing sleep recently is Outside online, which devoted one of its weekly emails to this very topic. First of all, I was intrigued by this article about our circadian rhythms. Whilst biology was never a science I studied, I have read plenty of the received wisdom and know that I am a natural night owl. However I was surprised to read in this article that contrary to other opinions I have read, fighting back against our natural rhythms might not actually work at all and we should aim to embrace our natural tendency. All very well, but that natural tendency doesn’t always fit with our work commitments which might be more problematic. I feel like I’m trying to work with a “best fit” rather than an ideal right now!
From a more athletic point of view, that same email from Outside contained links to the following articles looking at what one athlete did to improve his sleep (I actually have the computer program he mentions installed on my MacBook already); some thoughts on the effects of sleep on performance (since the chances of a good night’s sleep the night before a big event are usually pretty slim); and what to choose for the greatest benefit when we’re so time poor that we can either manage to sleep or to exercise. All of these tell me that I should be trying to sleep more, so I must make more of an effort to organise my life so that can happen.
- One Athlete’s Quest for a Perfect Night’s Sleep
- How Important is Sleeping the Night Before a Race?
- Sleep or Exercise?
And finally, if like me you need to rest more, there’s always this tempting challenge that appears frequently on social media. I like the look of this one far more than the usual 30 day challenges I see posted there (and I think my cat has been working on this for years now 😉 ) If anyone wants me, I’ll be taking a nap…!
The Running Princess