If you’re a runner, you know that warming up, stretching, and eating a proper diet are all essential components to staying healthy. But one thing that a lot of people don’t consider is how much sleep contributes to your performance.
Everyone needs adequate sleep. Exercise eats up a lot of energy, depletes fluids, and breaks down muscle. There are special considerations that need to be taken into account for runners.
Because runners put extra stress on their bodies and use more energy than someone who doesn’t run. Restful sleep is important for recovery so you can make sure you get the best results from your training.
Sleep in the Modern World
These days, not getting enough downtime, light sleeping, and even total sleep deprivation seem to be the norm. No one takes enough vacation days and it’s not unusual to work excessive amounts of overtime.
Add personal and family obligations and it's no wonder people aren't getting enough sleep. In fact, we often pride ourselves on how little sleep we can get by on.
Seeing it as a badge of honor that we’re persevering in the face of exhaustion.
Then you have the runner who is getting up two hours early to get a long run in before work. Or the person who, instead of resting and recuperating on the weekends, is running marathons.
Everyone seems to be pushing themselves to the limit these days. Runners drain themselves even more than the average person.
Regularly losing even an extra hour of sleep or even 30 minutes can seriously impact performance over time. They often overestimate their capabilities so that a healthy athlete might not even realize the impact of their own sleep loss.
Unfortunately sleeping is all too often sacrificed because of the obligations of a modern, busy lifestyle.
Why Is Deep Sleep Important?
Deep sleep is as necessary as food or water to maintain good health.
Without this sleep mode, our bodies can’t heal and recover and our minds become unclear and unfocused. This is also known as rapid REM sleep and is characterized by rapid movement (REM) of the eyes.
Our body systems can’t function normally and our memory suffers without the REM stage of sleep. It is the part of the sleep cycle where the body restores itself and healing takes place.
Therefore energy is restored before starting the new day.
There are several health benefits to deep sleep:
- Heart health. When you’re in deep sleep, your heart rate slows. This means your heart isn’t working as hard which gives it time to rest and repair itself. Which in turn will lower your blood pressure.
- Maintain a healthy immune system. Every cell and organ in your body benefits from the rest you get during deep sleep. Your body produces immune cells and antibodies during this time that your body needs to stay healthy.
- Brain health. In deep sleep, the brain repairs its cells and produces various hormones that stimulate new brain cell production. Which helps you be focused and clear when you wake up.
- Healthy weight. Without enough deep sleep, it’s easier to gain weight. Hormone levels are affected, which will inhibit the processes responsible for satiety and hunger.
- Cell repair. Wounds and injuries heal faster when you get enough deep sleep. During this phase proteins work to repair cell damage.
- Restore energy. The body continues to metabolize and make energy during deep sleep. Since the body isn’t using it, it’s stored for the next morning.
- Alleviate stress. Deep sleep slows the heart and calms the nerves which help to ease stress and even depression.
How Much Deep Sleep Do Runners Need?
There is not a magic number for how much deep sleep a runner needs. It’s a little more complicated than that because the answer is, it depends.
How much sleep anyone needs varies from person to person. Some people just naturally need more and others need less.
A good target range for an athlete is between 8 and 10 hours every night. If you’re able to fall asleep quickly and wake up feeling refreshed that is a good gauge. But if you pass out the moment your head hits the pillow.
And you have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning, you’re probably not getting enough sleep.
When you increase your running, like training for a marathon, adjustments need to be made. You should up your sleep as needed and aim for 9 to 11 hours of sleep.
Allowing your body time to adjust to the increase in demand, recover properly, and restore depleted energy stores.
Does Lack of Sleep Affect Performance?
Whether or not your sleep will affect your performance depends on the kind of running you’re doing. For short sprints, a bad night of sleep beforehand doesn’t seem to affect the outcome very much.
Even for long races, the effects of sleep deprivation the night before are not detrimental. Your body is able to work up enough adrenaline to get you through the race you trained for.
With sleep, it’s long-term trends that matter more than one good or bad night of sleep.
If you are struggling to get some sleep over the night after night there are couple of things you can do. If you find yourself looking at a computer for long periods or even your phone then this may be aiding in you having a hard time sleeping.
Grabbing some Blue Light Blocker Glasses and wearing as you get closer to bedtime will help quite a bit.
At other times taking some Melatonin may be needed. While Melatonin is a hormone found naturally in the body there are times when your body doesn't produce enough and sitting in front a computer or on your phone could be the cause.
The Importance of Sleep
Continuing to get a good night sleep is important for anyone. Athletes who drain more of their energy and push themselves harder need more REM sleep to properly recover.
Sometimes getting enough sleep comes down to something simple think like a Therapeutic Pillow. These are known to offer comfortable support and stability in all sleeping postures.
Unfortunately, society doesn’t put much value into sleep. We are constantly being pushed to go, go, go! Some people go as far as seeing needed sleep as a sign of weakness.
As we’ve discussed, there are essential functions in the body that occur during deep sleep. Over time sleep deprivation has negative side effects which for runners impacts performance.
For athletes, it’s important to treat sleep with the same level of importance as training, stretching, and diet. In the end getting a good night sleep will allow your performance will improve but only if your body remains healthy.
Sleep is the key so you can get up and get back out there every morning.