{book review} A “Healing Night” Sleep — the Runner’s Holy Grail

by Jamie on March 3, 2010

It’s amazing when you get to a certain age, and you talk about sleep in the same way you spoke about getting inebriated… I got eight hours last night. It was fantastic! Johnny Depp

Often, on running mornings, the first thing we talk about is our state of sleep. “I got to bed too late.” “I woke up at 3 and couldn’t get back to sleep.”  “I’m tired!!”  Sleep, like so much of youth, was a simple activity, taken for granted.  In middle age, I court sleep. And fret over it. While sleepy, I am cranky, tedious and famished. A good night’s sleep is the holy grail of comfort and restoration. I bask in it.

I recently read, Healing Night, by Rubin R. Naiman, Ph.D. Naiman is a clinical psychologist specializing in the field of sleep.  He works with natural wellness guru, Dr. Andrew Weil. The book is replete with new age flourishes. But, the vast amount of information about sleep is enlightening……I thought that I would share some of it here.

Yet another debt crisis to fear: sleep debt. Chronic lost and damaged sleep has a deleterious affect on our mood, physical well being, mental acuity, athletic ability and waistline. Falling asleep within 5-10 minutes of hitting the pillow signals a sleep debt. Sleep should be a gradual process (akin to walking into a lake).

Naiman recommends that we avoid looking at the time once we begin to enter the sleep state. If 20-30 sleepless minutes have passed, he advises us to get up, do something else and await sleepiness. My obsessive mind wanders–has it been 10 minutes? 20? 24? Should I get up now? In 5 more minutes? I’d better peak at the clock. What time did I go to bed again?

The term “cognitive popcorn” is bandied about. It refers to those thoughts (often anxiety filled) that enter our consciousness and prevent us from falling asleep or wake us up mid-sleep.

Sleeploading is recommended. That is, make up for sleep debt by spending a week or so going to sleep and waking up when the body chooses…even on vacation, this transcendent opportunity rarely presents itself!

Our bedrooms should be cool, dark and quiet.

We are biologically programmed to nap.

The BFF of runner’s, NSAID’s (Advil, Motrin,Aleve), compromise deep sleep by inhibiting melatonin production.

Encountering natural light in the morning stimulates the release of serotonin (associated with energy, activation and focused attention.) Is it any wonder that our recent sunlight dappled morning runs have been so sweet?

A good run is often preceded by a great night’s sleep.  For me, running is conducive to clear thinking and resolve. Sleeping promotes learning and focus. A powerhouse combination.  Without dwelling on a problem, I return from my run and the solution is often illuminated.

I decide I will give a full nights sleep its due.  But, waking hours are jam packed with family, work, mundane tasks and the black hole of the internet. I finally settle down to catch up on the books, magazines and newspapers eluding me all day and voila!  It’s time to turn off the lights!  What do I choose?

Last night, I chose the silver lake of sleep. And what did I hear? My popping thoughts. I lay there reorganizing my pre-sleep days to fit in New York magazine….and The 3 Weismanns of Westport, the Bon Appetit yet to be opened……the new season of Damages perhaps.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Jill March 3, 2010 at 3:48 pm

I believe that a good nights sleep is very important. I am retired and I sleep when I want and eat when I want. I am happier and do not have problems sleeping any more.

Amanda March 5, 2010 at 11:45 am

I guess I’m in trouble b/c when my head hits the pillow, I’m out! But I do get a good 8 hrs. each night for the most part, so I don’t necessarily think I’m deprived.Thanks for the info and here’s to a good night’s sleep!
.-= Amanda´s last blog ..My Version of a PSA =-.

Jamie March 5, 2010 at 3:59 pm

Bravo! 8 hours of sleep all ready–you are ahead of the curve!
I am enjoying your barefoot adventures!

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