After my last 24-hour mtb race in August I had to visit the doctor and got a number of long overdue medical tests. Basically the tests were all a waste of money, everything was fine, except for the $7 iron test.
My iron levels were low. Not surprising for a woman/veg/athlete. I have been vegetarian for nearly 20 years and mostly vegan for the last 4, but in the previous 6-9 months (maybe longer) I had been increasingly tired. Tired in a different way than I had been before. I felt like I was always in a fog. Even after a good night’s sleep I never felt completely awake. Work was torture. I had a hard time concentrating. Not only could I not stay up all night and crank projects out, it was even difficult to get anything accomplished in the morning, usually the most productive time of the day for me. I was starting to believe it was just the aging process. Then I found out about the iron deficiency.
I started taking a vegan, liquid iron supplement. I don’t remember if it was the next morning or the day after that I woke up feeling awake for the first time in many months.
A couple weeks later my partner heard James Maas, Power Sleep, speak at a conference. Though the importance of regular 8-9 hours per night of sleep had been expounded on by our most, excellent physical therapist/healer we didn’t really take it seriously until Dr Maas’ lecture. His story of how Sarah Hughes won the 2002 Olympic Gold Medal in Women’s Figure Skating by skipping early morning practice and getting a good night’s sleep every night was especially motivating.
The most surprising thing to me was how hard it was for me to sleep well the first week or so; even though I was very sleep deprived. While I am not getting 8-9 hours every night, I am sleeping 7-8 hours most nights. Between the sleep and the iron I am feeling energetic, enjoying work, accomplishing more, and my training is going better than ever.
I am not recommending that everyone take iron. Too much iron can be as bad or worse than too little. It is worth the ~$7 iron test, especially if you are a meat eater and/or man. I do recommend that everyone get more sleep, but I have said that before. You should be trying for 7-9 hours of sleep a night, with the same bedtime and wake time (without an alarm) and the last hour is the most important!