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Sleep deprivation caused me to crash and burn… lesson learned

Experts don't praise proper sleep for no reason... as one runner learned the hard way

Next to an injury, being sick is my least favourite thing. Typically if my weight is optimal and I’m getting quality sleep, I can stave off most colds and flus. Of course, there’s the occasional bug that can sneak up on me even if I’ve been taking care of myself, but for the most part if those two things are checked off, I’m good to go.

Case and point: A couple of weeks ago I had a few bad nights of sleep. Three days later I was sick. For the past 12 days from my head, to my throat and through to my chest, I’ve been congested at best. At worst, I’m wheezing while walking upstairs.

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Once I felt difficulty breathing, I knew I had to back off the running. My understanding is that it’s safe to run through a head cold, but anything bronchiolar calls for the running to halt. Backing off has helped, and I’m starting to feel better, but I would be remiss not to stop and take note of what’s happened here.There’s a lesson to be learned in this, which is that sleep is of utmost importance and need more of it.

During my downtime, I did some reading on the role sleep plays on recovery. One night I was reading through my running journal from a year ago. It’s Lauren Fleshman’s Believe journal and while reading, one sentence popped out at me: “Athletes who get eight hours or more of sleep a night are 87 per cent less likely to get injured than those who sleep six hours or less.”

RELATED: Better sleep means better recovery, but this many Canadians struggle to doze off

This is a little nugget of information with a huge amount of consequence. A lack of sleep not only makes athletes more susceptible to injury, but also illness. Well I’m living proof of that one right now. I obviously wasn’t able to fight off whatever infection was making its way into my body during those few nights of inadequate sleep.

In the past, I’ve known myself to need seven hours of sleep to prevent illness, fatigue, irritability and injury. However, as I continue to increase my weekly mileage, it’s becoming increasingly evident I need at least eight hours of sleep every night… likely even more. Since I’m a super-early bird, this will be a bit tricky but the experts and the research don’t lie – nor does my personal experience. So, I’ll be making every effort to ensure I’m getting at least eight hours of sleep a night from here on out.