Friday, March 22, 2013

Getting Enough Sleep?

Well, this week has been a bust as far as working out goes.  With the kids being sick, and then me catching the cold of the century - I am miserable, by the way - there just hasn't been too much left over for exercise.  I did manage a couple of easy workouts before being sidelined, but the rest of this week isn't looking too promising.  I am missing an 8-miler today and I am thinking dreams of Sunday's 20-miler are disappearing on a wave of cold germs. So, here's the skinny:


Saturday: Rest day.
Sunday: 17K St. Paddy's Day Run
Monday: 1-Mile Run (very easy pace), followed by 30-minute row, then 10-minute walk.
Tuesday: Rest.
Wednesday: 40-minute treadmill walk
Thursday: Rest
Friday: Rest

Total Mileage: 11 Miles (wow)

Having this cold has really gotten me thinking about germs, immunity, illness, and exercise.  This isn't the first time I have been sick this winter, although now that it is technically spring it will be the last.  I wonder why I have been so vulnerable to germs this year.

Yesterday, while I was steeped in nasal congestion misery and capable of little more than sitting on the couch, drinking tea, and cruising the Internet while LG put together a Lego set theoretically too old for him (successfully, I might add!), I came across a site called  Now, I have not poked around on this site enough to know if it is truly worthwhile or not, but from what I initially saw I was intrigued.  One page on the site caught my eye in particular.  It was called Cold Home Remedies: How many of us know WHY we get a cold?

An idea that I have only recently started to embrace was the theme of the page; namely, most of us don't catch a cold because we are exposed to a virus, but rather because we are exposed to the virus AND our immunity is down.  So what might cause an ill-functioning immune system?  According to the Learning Herbs page, the following factors play a role in how you respond to viruses around you:
  • stressed or overworked? 
  • getting enough sleep?
  • eating well?
  • exercising enough?
  • resting or taking time for yourself?
  • Exposing yourself to too many negative influences, such as the media or negative people?
  • doing what you enjoy in life?
An interesting checklist that we all could go through once in a while.  Now, normally I would say that surely the reason I got sick was because I was stressed - the first question on the list.  It's no secret that I am somewhat of a stressed person.  For whatever reason I don't deal with it well, which I then try to hide, which then adds to the stress, etc.  But with my New Year's resolution to worry less, I feel for the first time in a long time that I really am NOT as stressed out as I used to be.  I think the daily attempts at meditation have helped a lot, strangely, and I miss the fact that I am not doing them now.  (It's hard to breath deeply when you can't utilize your nose and those deep breaths result in a coughing fit.)  I am trying to sit quietly still, but it's just not the same for this newbie.

Looking at the rest of the list, the one question that stands out is the one regarding sleep.  Strangely, I had just decided two weeks ago that I could probably use some more sleep.  I generally get between seven to eight hours a night, but I have still been waking up kind of tired.  I think part of the problem is not having a set bedtime.  But part of it might just be that I need more sleep.

This is not a new concept.  In an article titled "Do women need more sleep than men?" on the National Sleep Foundation's website (January 28, 2010), it's stated that women need on average 20 minutes more sleep a night than men. And whether women actually need more sleep than men in general, according to a recent study by Duke University and reported on's "How Sleep Loss Affects Women More Than Men," there is a developing body of evidence that supports the idea that women's health is impacted more greatly than men's by lack of sleep. "Recent research shows that women ... who report sleepless nights have a greater risk for health problems than men." Lack of sleep in women can lead to a higher risk for such things as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and, yes, the common cold.

One thing that we as runners (even Average Runners!) have to keep in mind, too, I suppose, is that the running we do to our bodies causes a certain degree of stress too.  We all know that we need to incorporate rest days into our training plan, but are we getting enough quality sleep? I thought I was getting enough with eight hours, but that didn't take into account all the running (miles logged) I do - in addition to my day-to-day running around with the kids and such.  Taking that into consideration, I don't believe I have been getting enough sleep.

So, with that in mind, I was completely ready to ramp up my sleepy time.  Unfortunately for me, my determination came just as we moved our clocks forward one hour, and then everyone got sick.  So, setting a sleep schedule hasn't worked too well for me yet, but I have been trying to rest as much as possible. I'll get to that sleep schedule yet.  I plan on trying for nine hours of sleep a night and seeing how that goes.  I assume my body will regulate at whatever it needs.

As to the rest of the list, I think I am hitting all those.  I try to eat well, I certainly exercise enough, I try not to expose myself to negativity (which I suppose causes stress), and I think I am doing what I enjoy in life.  The one other point where I fail is resting and taking time for myself.  Although I do carve out this time for me, I can't get past that guilty feeling I get for doing so.  And, I guess that is stressful, too.

So, was lack of sleep what caught me a cold? Maybe.  Although exposure certainly played a role too.  Two kids home sick with strep certainly didn't help.  Add to that the time I spent volunteering at a small marathon in the area on Saturday - three hours of standing around in the cold.

This was followed by a freezing 10-miler on Sunday.  I am sure I wasn't up for fighting any germs come Sunday afternoon.  Ah well.  Lesson learned.


  1. Ahhhh....good lessons! Too bad you had to learn them first hand. Hope you are feeling better and back on the road soon!!!

  2. Back to basics girly, lots of fluids and rest. Most runners won't rest unless they are bleeding from their eyeballs, so I suggest take some Tylenol Cold & Flu before you run.