Sleep is not a luxury

Tegan Chappell is a member of the 2022 Otto’s Ottawa Power Crew. Tegan began running in 2014, after overcoming a significant injury. She started running shorter distances but worked her way from a 5km distance to completing her first marathon in 2017, and completing four more marathons since. This year she will be running the Ottawa Half Marathon presented by Desjardins at Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend, which is her favourite distance, and is running in support of the Red Cross, Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis Appeal. She is an active member of multiple Ottawa-based running clubs and loves to train alongside those who share her passion for running.

By Tegan Chappell

The saying “sleep is a luxury” makes me cringe. Sleep is one of the most important and fundamental body processes we have. It is important for so many functions of the body including digestion, mood regulation and physiological recovery. Most adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep each night. If you are training heavily, your sleep needs will increase from a ‘typical’ baseline.

A chronic lack of sleep has been linked to a range of negative outcomes which affect people’s psychological and physical health. Chronic sleep deprivation has been linked issues relating to heart health, sexual and reproductive functions, diabetes, decreased immunity, mood disorders and weight issues. Now this does not mean that a few poor sleeps are going to have a significant impact on your health, it may result in less serious outcomes like poor concentration or decreased athletic performance the following day. The larger health issues come with chronic sleep deprivation.

Sleep provides the time your brain and body needs to recover and when your cardiovascular and immune systems are reinforced. Sleep also helps regulate both metabolism and the production of hormones. It plays a crucial role in memory consolidation (which is how our experiences become memories). Most importantly for athletes, bodies are mainly repaired during sleep. None of this sounds like a luxury to me!

Thankfully, a good night’s sleep is not rocket science, but it is definitely one of those things where it is easier said than done. Some of the top things that are recommended for a good sleep include:

  • having a consistent bedtime (this includes the weekends!); 
  • limiting device and TV use at least one hour before bed (the rays emitted interfere with your body’s circadian rhythm- that is our internal sense of day); 
  • limiting caffeine consumption (the timing of when to cut caffeine off for the day varies amongst individuals); 
  • not exercising within a couple hours of bedtime; 
  • eat your biggest meal before mid-afternoon and have a light evening meal of 500 calories or less; 
  • sleeping in a dark and quiet room and having a bedtime routine. A bedtime routine is important as it teaches our bodies that certain activities (like having a shower, reading a book or even just washing our face and brushing our teeth) is associated with winding down and getting ready to sleep. If you ever have something on your mind that you need to deal with the next day, try jotting it down on a piece of paper so you know you will remember to deal with it first thing in the morning.

With persistent high quality sleep, not only will your athletic performance increase, but you will also increase your overall quality of life. Take your sleep seriously; it affects everything you do!