Are You Sleeping Enough to Support Your Training?

Lisbeth Hoyt PT, DPT

Are you sleeping enough to support your training? The recommended amount of sleep from the CDC for adults is 7-9 hours a night. But this is the average recommendation for all adults and doesn’t take activity levels into account. Turns out most runners need closer to 8-10 hours of sleep per night, especially during an intense training block.

So what happens when we sleep and why is it so important?

Sleep is actually broken down into a few stages and each of them is accompanied by different brain activity and is important for restoring different body functions. Skimping on sleep can result in shorter time spent in each stage or some stages, like deep sleep, being skipped altogether. In a previous blog I talked about what happens during each stage of sleep. All of these stages are important to restore our body on a daily basis but they become even more important when training is involved.

Numerous studies have concluded that sleep deprivation increases inflammatory markers which impairs the immune system and slows down muscle recovery as well as negatively affects the secretion of growth hormone and cortisol secretion. As a runner, disruption in these metabolic processes can lead to overall decrease in performance and increased risk of injury.

A recent review of multiple studies compiled the effects of sleep deprivation on athletic performance. They looked at multiple studies across different types of sports, team and individual and male and female and created a general list of the effects of reduced sleep on athletic performance. Not surprisingly, sleep deprivation was found to decrease running performance in both distance covered and sprint times as well as overall decreased time to exhaustion. Not ideal heading into a big planned workout or a race scenario.

As runners, we know that we feel better going out for a run following a good night’s sleep but sometimes life gets in the way and that doesn’t happen. Early studies are finding banking sleep or an afternoon nap (if possible) can negate some of the negative effects of sleep deprivation. The big takeaway here is if you’re in your most intense weeks of a training block or the week leading up to a race, try and make sleep your priority to enhance your overall performance!

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