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THE BENEFITS OF SLEEP FOR RUNNERS Getting more quality Z's could be the secret
to becoming a stronger, healthier, happier runner.

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Sometimes you have to wake up crazy-early (4 or 5am, much?!) to squeeze in a workout. We get it.
But if the tradeoff is not getting a good night's sleep, then your body (and your brain) might not be
recovering properly... and your running could be suffering the consequences.
"An adequate amount of healthy sleep is foundational, and it's an important training component that
athletes who are aiming to be at their best need to consider," notes Cheri Mah, a sleep and athletic
performance research scientist at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and Stanford
University, who is a member of the Nike Performance Network. "Proper sleep not only impacts your
cognitive performance, mood and overall health, but it could also potentially impact your physical
performance."
While research has shown that not getting enough Z's can have negative effects on an athlete's
reaction time, mood, accuracy, strength, immune function and productivity, Mah's studies have
indicated that the opposite is true as well—optimal sleep seems to be beneficial in reaching your
peak athletic performance.
So the big question is: How do you make the transition from bad sleeper to good sleeper to better
runner? "Just as you prepare and plan for other components of your training regimen (workouts,
nutrition, etc.), you should also have a strategic plan for obtaining optimal sleep," says Mah. Here
are some quick tips to help you get started.

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"PROPER SLEEP CAN NOT ONLY IMPROVE YOUR PHYSICAL PERFORMANCE, BUT IT ALSO IMPACTS YOUR COGNITIVE PERFORMANCE, MOOD AND OVERALL HEALTH."

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AIM FOR AT LEAST 7 HOURS OF SLEEP PER NIGHT This is the new recommendation from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the
Sleep Research Society for adults to avoid various health risks, and there is no recommended
upper limit.
LISTEN TO YOUR BODY "If you regularly experience daytime sleepiness, wake up not feeling refreshed or sleep much
longer when your schedule is unconstrained (i.e., on weekends), then you may not be getting
enough sleep and should adjust your routine," she says.
KEEP MOVING Physical activity has been shown to improve sleep quality, so trading your workout in for extra
Z's is not the solution.
START SMALL "When you're not sleeping well, that lack of Z's adds up over time, creating a chronic sleep
debt," says Mah. "But you don't have to tackle it all at once. Take small steps to get a little
more sleep every night (go to bed 20 minutes earlier one week, 40 minutes the next, etc.), and
you can slowly pay back that debt, eventually working your way back to normal."
BE CONSISTENT You should strive to go to bed and wake up at the same time every single day. And if you're
going to nap during the day, limit it to 20 or 30 minutes. Anything longer could reduce your
drive to sleep at night. If you're already experiencing problems sleeping, try eliminating
naps altogether.

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"YOU SHOULD STRIVE TO GO TO BED AND WAKE UP AT THE SAME TIME EVERY SINGLE DAY."

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WIND DOWN RIGHT AT NIGHT Set an alarm for one hour before your bedtime. Put down your computer, turn off the TV, plug
in your phone for the night, and do something relaxing-read a book, take a bath, meditate,
etc.—that will prepare you for sleep instead. "I recommend performing 5 to 30 minutes of
light stretching, with a focus on your breath, before you go to bed," she says. "It's a great time
to process thoughts from the day and calm your racing mind."
TURN YOUR ROOM INTO A SLEEP SANCTUARY Refrain from doing work, watching TV or using your laptop while you're in bed. For the most
restful night's sleep, your room should be dark, quiet, cool and comfortable.
RETHINK THOSE EVENING DRINKS "Both caffeine and alcohol can negatively impact the quality of your sleep," notes Mah. It
takes about six hours for only about half of the caffeine you consume to work its way out
of your system, so your best bet is to limit your cup(s) of Joe to the morning hours, or
early afternoon.
TRACK YOUR PROGRESS There are a lot of devices that can track your sleep patterns these days, which is cool, but
even if you keep a simple sleep journal and take notes on how much you sleep, how you feel
the next day and what your workouts are like after nights with more or less sleep, you're
moving in the right direction. "These tools help you better understand the role sleep plays in
your training, in connecting the dots with what's happening in the nighttime and what's
happening during the day," she says. "You should set goals on what you want to accomplish
in your sleep routine, regularly check back in on how your plan is working, and then make
adjustments accordingly."