Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Improved Sleeping - Update

This seems like a good time to talk about my efforts to get more sleep—both from a quantity and quality standpoint.

After purchasing a Zeo clock and registering at their website, you’re given the opportunity to go through a 7 step coaching process. It’s not what I would call an intensive program, but it does make you stop and reconsider some of your assumptions about your lifestyle and how it affects your sleep.

Steps in the plan include evaluations of diet, pre-bedtime activity, bedroom environment and interaction with your housemates (pets, kids, spouse, etc).

With that all in mind, here’s how my scores look:

As you can see, the trends indicate that I've been more or less steady with an average “ZQ” score of 92. That score is based on several factors, but mostly on restorative sleep (Deep and REM).

What are not captured in any of the data are the techniques I've learned for getting to sleep sooner. I've managed to unlock a couple of the keys to getting to sleep sooner—which for me has been the major obstacle to getting quality sleep.

First, I've come to understand that I need about an hour to power down and be ready to fall asleep. For me, that means the TV, computer, etc, all need to be shut off by about 9:30.

Second, the human body produces melatonin in response to darkness. Likewise, bright light tends to stifle melatonin production. So during that last hour, the bright lights stay off. Most significantly, I don’t brush my teeth with the vanity lights on over the mirror. Light in the rooms around my bathroom sink are adequate enough. It seems like a small thing, but it’s making a difference.

None of this is to say that there still aren't improvements to be made. Eliminating all caffeine after 3:30 in the afternoon (as Zeo suggests) seems difficult for me. Also, since the weather has cooled, my younger dog has decided that I make a good hot water bottle and likes to hop into bed with us in the middle of the night. That’s not always a problem, but then again, it’s hard to pull the covers out from under a 65 pound Labrador!

At the sign in page for their website, Zeo says “The more you know, the better you sleep.” That resonates with me. Knowing not only how much, but also the quality of sleep I’m getting will be a key factor in a successful season next year. With plans to do two 70.3 races, sleep is an essential component of recovery.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be ramping up the intensity of my training slightly as I prepare for the Rock Canyon Half Marathon on December 1. My hypothesis is that I’ll see increased times for deep sleep as my body demands more physically restorative sleep. Likewise, I think I’ll see an increase as my long runs start to exceed 15 miles early next year as I get ready for the Colorado Marathon which is (gulp) less than six months away.

I’ll continue the periodic updates on my sleep improvement and we’ll see how these hypotheses hold up to objective testing.

Thanks for reading!

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