Do you get enough sleep? One of the most underestimated components of your training plan is sleep. Sleep is a necessary part of your training plan and it will impact your performance either for better or worse

Stephanieruns Fitness

March 10, 2019 Newsletter

Sleep. Are You Getting Enough?

Just over three weeks ago I gave birth to my third child. A sweet adorable little boy. As you might imagine sleep goes out the window when you have a newborn. This made me think more about the connection of running and sleep. Sleep and being rested is important in all aspects of our lives. When we talk about sleep and training, sleep has the power to improve or derail your running performance. Which makes sleep a powerful and underestimated part of your training plan.

Has your alarm ever gone off and you thought to yourself 'no I shouldn't run this morning sleep is more important.' I assume most runners would ignore that voice in their head and get up and run. However is that a smart move? Well it really depends. You should be determining if you got enough sleep and you're rested enough before you lace up for any of your workouts. You can't get a quality workout in if your tank is empty. Saying that however I know that most runners are not doing that. We think we need to power through and get our workouts in.

With the busy lives we lead we are sometimes put in the position where we can either get more sleep or workout. The message I want you to take from this is that it's okay to pick more sleep. If you workout when you are exhausted and sleep deprived a workout could give you a short burst of energy but in the long term you may end up even more exhausted. Even worse you could lace up for a run and be so exhausted that you don't see that branch or rock on the path and slip and fall. An injury will sideline your running much longer than missing one run to get some much needed sleep.

So what does lack of sleep do to your body? There's evidence that shows it interferes with the metabolism of glucose which your muscles need for recovery. Lack of sleep can also compromise your immune system putting you at a higher chance of getting sick. There's also research that says lack of sleep can cause weight gain as enough of the hormone that regulates your appetite isn't secreted in sufficient amounts. All these are great reasons to try and get some more sleep. It is important to note that being exhausted doesn't mean you have less strength or that you can't run as far because chances are you can adequately complete your workout. However we need to look at the mental and physical consequences of working out while you are exhausted.

Forget running and working out for a moment. Think of the last night you stayed up too late and woke up in the morning for work or another commitment and you weren't able to give one hundred percent. Maybe you went into work and you made silly mistakes you never make. Maybe you couldn't remember something that you always remember. If lack of sleep has that much of an effect over your cognitive capabilities think of what it will do for your run or workout. Running or working out when exhausted can put you at a higher chance of injury. If you fall and get hurt that will completely sideline your training. So is it worth it to lace up and run or weight train when you're exhausted? Ask yourself if a nap will serve you better than a workout.

With the busy lives we lead there will be some point in our training cycle where we are sleep deprived. The key is to always ask yourself what your body needs. Is this workout or run going to help push you towards your goal or will something, ie. a nap serve you better. Being well rested and on top of your game will help prepare you to have a personal best on your next race. I'm not recommending you skip all your workouts to sleep but use your judgement as to what will serve you and your body best.

How Much Sleep Do I Need?

This is a common question for runners to ask. Especially runners who are training for a race and want to have a personal best. All this week I've been researching and reading studies on sleep and running performance. I've read several different recommendations. As always a recommendation is just that, a recommendation. What you need may differ from the recommendations. The main take away from all the recommendations is that being sleep deprived will negatively impact your training while being well rested will aid your performance.

I was reading a study on ultramarathoners and sleep which recommended ultramarathoners get between seven to nine hours of sleep a night. It also mentioned some elite marathoners get seven to nine hours of sleep a night and a two hour nap during the day while they are training. The elite runners know the importance of sleep while they are in a training cycle.

We know sleep is part of your training and that it will impact your training. The key really is to know how much sleep you need per night to function. I know when I'm training for a marathon and adding on the miles I need extra sleep and a nap in the day is what works for me. While you might not need seven to nine hours of sleep every night you should know your sleep number. It will impact your training and knowing how much sleep you need gives you an upper hand on the road to a personal best.

Research on Sleep and Training

I enjoy looking through research studies that look at aspects of running and training.  I seek out the research with a theory in mind it's important to see what the research says. I always learn something when I take the time to read research studies and papers. So what does the research say about sleep and running?

This study: One night of sleep deprivation decreases treadmill endurance performance. Talks about the performance change after one night of sleep deprivation which is interesting as many of us have probably tossed and turned the night before a race. Now this study has an extremely small sample size but the findings do indicate a reduced endurance performance after one night, thirty hours of no sleep. Now this is also an extreme as it's unlikely we would go without any sleep before lacing up for a workout, but it does give you an idea of the importance of sleep.

This paper: Sleep and the Elite Athlete. Talks about sleep history and your daytime functioning as it relates to elite athletes. What I like about this paper is that it gives recommendations that you can use to help your performance. It talks about avoiding caffeine 4-5 hours before bed, and how you can make your bedroom a better environment for quality sleep. The paper does indicate that sleep is important for not only preparing for training and competition but also for an athlete's recovery.

These are just two of the many papers/studies on sleep and running performance. I will continue to ready studies and tweet what I find. Do you have a favourite study or book on sleep? Send me a tweet @srunsfitness with it!

I've just added a learn to run 12 week program to my Training Peak's store. I will be adding on a 5k, 10k and a half marathon training plan as well. Right now my Learn to Run Program is on sale for $35. If you've wanted to start running this is the plan for you!

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Stephanieruns Fitness

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Oakville Ontario,  L6M 2V5 - Canada

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Disclaimer: Always seek medical advice before starting an exercise program. This newsletter is not medical advice. Medical advice should be sought from a medical professional. Stephanieruns Fitness assumes no liability for any injuries or damages as a result of the above content.