We're going to start a new weekly segment called Recovery Monday. Effective training plans must incorporate appropriate rest and recovery. This column will discuss recovery techniques and trends. So prop your feet up, relax, and read on! Sleep
Sleep is the most basic and most effective recovery technique for athletes (really any human or mammal for that matter)! An athlete in training should be getting 7-10hrs of sleep DAILY. Recent research has shown that sleep patterns and requirements vary greatly amongst individuals and that this is dependent on genetics. Another recent study indicated that after 10 consecutive days of 6 hours of sleep or less, test subjects performed as though they had missed an ENTIRE night of sleep in the past week. There is debate over one's ability to overcome this sleep debt; some studies show that individuals can sleep longer for a few days and performances return to normal. In general however we know that sleep deprived athletes perform poorly. Overall sleep deprivation is extremely bad for general health and extend patterns of disordered sleeping patterns must be addressed (there is even an extremely rare fatal form of insomnia which has no known cure - don't fear there are only 50 known cases).
So now that I've scared you into getting more sleep, let's talk about the benefits. Sleep is prime time for rejuvenation; your body is in a very anabolic state and all the major systems (muscular, skeletal, nervous, and immune) grow or repair themselves during sleep. Your body secretes more growth hormone while sleeping and the amout of GH is highest during deep REM sleep. Your body will also signal GH release during naps; the post workout nap is a MAJOR recovery tool! NOTE: You want to time your workouts and post workout naps to conform to the normal circadian rhythm; try to complete both workout and nap before 3pm. A 45-60 minute post workout nap is ideal, don't go longer or it will interfere with normal sleep cycles.
Okay, how do I get more sleep? First, set a routine. Try to get to bed at the same time EVERY night! About 1 hour before bedtime turn off the TV, get off your computer and the internet, put the iPhone down. More studies are indicating that these devices engage our minds actively and interfere with sleep patterns. Spend time with the family or read a book. Most sleep scientists advise against reading in bed so pick a quiet location to read. When it's bedtime make your room as dark as possible. Wear comfortable clothes or make sure you will be warm/cool enough while sleeping. Wear an eye mask or earplugs if necessary (frequently when I travel to events I wear earplugs, an eye mask, and will use a sleep aid to ensure solid sleep in a hotel or guest house). Sleep aids can be useful to srt a sleep schedule, but long term use should be avoided (consult your Dr). Natural sleep aids like melatonin are definitely better. Try to time sleep so you wake each morning without an alarm clock. If you wake naturally at the appropriate hour each morning this is the ultimate indication you are getting the right amount of sleep.
For all we know about sleep, many aspects are still a mystery. To read more about sleep and your biological clock/circadian rhythm I recommend searching Wikipedia for sleep, sleep debt, and circadian rhythm.
If you have questions about your sleep patterns and recovery, talk to your coach...but if you're calling or emailling me, do it before 9pm!