The National Sleep Foundation
says that “sleep is as essential as diet and exercise. Inadequate sleep can result in fatigue, depression, concentration problems, illness and injury.”
Runners need more sleep than the average person. When you train hard, your muscles need time to rest. When we sleep, our body releases growth hormone. This is what stimulates muscle growth and repair, as well as bone building and fat burning. It enables you to run again another day. When you are sleep deprived, you can’t release as much, and your muscles don’t get repaired properly. Inevitably, this leads to injuries. Sleep is important for both physical regeneration and mental development/memory. Sleep also helps fight off disease and boost your immune system. Sleep deprivation has been shown to reduce cardiovascular performance and sprinting ability. According to a sleep study at Stanford
, athletes who “increased their sleep time ran faster sprints and hit more accurate tennis shots than they did while getting their usual amount of sleep.
” The harder that you train, the more sleep you need.
The research also suggests that one or two restless nights before a big race isn’t damaging. If you’re getting good sleep, tossing and turning the night before the race won’t hurt your time. If you’re curious about the quality of your sleep, try using an app for your phone or smart-watch.
Here are a few tips to help you improve your sleep quality to run your best. Make sleep a priority! It is as important as your speed work.
- Get on a schedule. Try to go to bed and wake up close to the same time every day.
- Take a mid-day nap. Just 30 minutes can boost your energy.
- Keep your room dark, cool and quiet. All of these will help you count sheep faster.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol. Both are linked to decreased sleep quality.
- Turning off the TV, smart phone, computer, etc. at least an hour before bed helps increase your sleep quality.
- Turn phone screen to night mode.
- Avoid doing things in bed other than sleep.