photo by Colin M. Lenton
I’ve been known to say, “Sleep is overrated,” and “I hate sleeping.”
I truly do wish that sleep was not required by my body. I have so many things I want to do and loosing eight hours a day to sleep seems like such a waste. Just think of all the other things you could do during your life if you didn’t spend at least a quarter of it sleeping.
But the sad reality is, our bodies do need sleep, especially as runners. Sleep is the time when the most healing and building occurs. When the body enters REM sleep, growth hormone is released which is the main component needed to fix those micro tears we cause during strenuous workouts.
Sleep deprivation also impacts your immune system. It drops the number of T-cells, which eventually leads to getting sick. And well, if your sick you probably aren’t running.
Lack of sleep can lead to overtraining and visa versa overtraining can lead to not being able to sleep. And we all know what overtraining leads to: grumpy injured runner.
While your body is sleeping it is also processing, synthesizing and cataloging the details of how to run. It learns the way your muscles and nerves must work together to power each step and the way you need to position your body as it moves through running motions.
How much sleep do you need? The recommendation is eight to nine hours of sleep a day. If you are getting less than six hours, it’s going to hurt your running and your functioning in daily life. Ideally, you should add one minute per mile you run during the week to the usual about of time you spend sleeping. So if you usually sleep seven hours a night and run fifty-five miles a week, you should be sleeping 7 hours and 55 minutes a night.
Another good way to figure out how much sleep your body needs is to take a seven day vacation and sleep until you wake up. Don’t use an alarm clock. During days 1-4 you will be catching up on sleep so just sleep and don’t worry too much about how much you are sleeping. On days 5-7, write down the time you go to be and the time you get up each day and then average the amount of sleep you got each night. This is going to give you the best calculation based upon YOUR body’s needs.
Signs you are not getting enough sleep: you fall asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow, you need caffeine to get you through the day, falling asleep when your body is at rest like at movies or meetings, or if you are hitting the snooze button more than once.
“Sleep is the most crucial part of my training. If I cannot recover from my training, then there’s no point in training.”
Ryan Hall, Marathoner.