How to sleep your way off to a running start?
Updated: May 31, 2019
Running is intuitive to all of us: not long after we took our first steps, our curiosity and enthusiasm led us forward, faster.
According to the 2017 study, running promotes longevity. Long-distance runners live approximately 3 years longer than non-runners. They are also less likely to suffer from cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. The scientists from the Salk Institute in California report that running enhances learning and memory; therefore, runners achieve greater academic success and are more productive at work. Furthermore, there is evidence that running can help run down Dementia and Alzheimer's.
Running experts list qualities necessary to run long-distance: speed, strength, endurance, and fatigue resistance.
Let’s see how sleep affects each of these characteristics so that you can run way to the top.
The researchers at Stanford University studied the impact of sleep on the performance of college basketball players. They noted that a 10-hour sleep significantly increases both running speed and reaction times. Also, athletes reported enhanced physical and mental well-being during games and practices. On the other hand, subjects who slept 5 to 7 hours couldn’t regain their peak performance even after 3 consecutive nights of 8-hour sleep. The study concluded that extended habitual rest has profound effects on both cognitive and athletic performance.
The quality of sleep has a powerful influence on mood and vigor. Poor sleep harms efficiency, logical reasoning, and decision-making. Besides these ramifications, researchers cite that loss of sleep has a detrimental impact on muscular strength and speed. Insufficient slumber correlates with slower sprint times and decrements in endurance and voluntary force.
"Getting enough sleep is crucial for athletic performance," says David Geier, MD, an orthopedic surgeon, and sports medicine specialist in Charleston, SC. "Just as athletes need more calories than most people when they're in training, they need more sleep, too," Geier says. “You're pushing your body in practice, so you need more time to recover.”
When you begin to train, you start losing fat and gaining muscles. The more you work out, the more toned your body gets. Muscles enable you to consume more energy, and you become faster, stronger, and more resilient. These traits are critical for your immune system and vital to both running success and overall well-being.
The 2004 study found that sleep duration affects metabolism and body weight. It links the long-term sleep deprivation with future weight gain since lack of sleep fuels appetite and induces hormonal imbalance. Chronic sleep loss builds up a stressful sleep debt and consequently, interferes with adequate calorie intake. When accumulated, sleep debt has adverse effects on physical and cognitive performance, reaction times, and daytime sleepiness. Distance runners, in particular, need regular restorative rest to help their muscles recuperate after heavy training.
“Sleep is one of the most overlooked aspects of training by runners, even though it is the most important aspect in preventing injury, enhancing your recovery, building strength, and improving speed,” says Meghan Kennihan, NASM Personal Trainer, and RRCA/USATF Run Coach. She adds, “There is no muscle growth, tissue repair, or speed development during training workouts,” says Kennihan. “After a hard run or speed session, muscles contain micro tears and break down. These tears can be repaired, making you stronger, but this repair occurs predominantly during sleep.”
3. Endurance and Fatigue Resistance
All runners know that a long-distance run is as much a mental challenge as it is a physical one. While it is easy to link sleep deprivation with a physical inability to complete the route, mental fatigue is often omitted as a factor why some fail to finish.
The researchers at Wollongong University state that when it comes to athletic performance, good sleep hygiene boosts motivation and confidence, while it reduces stress, anxiety, and weariness.
The 2017 study published in Sports Nutrition and Therapy looked at the correlation between sleep and athletic performance among adolescents. It found poor sleep quality affects motor skills and multiplies risks of injuries. It directly impacts the circadian rhythm and increases fatigue. To get the best sleep and achieve the optimum physical performance, the circadian phase, and sleeping schedule need to be in tune. When these are compatible, the sports performance is at its peak in the morning, when athletes feel well-rested the most.
Dr. Shona Halson, a Senior Recovery Physiologist at the Australian Institute of Sport, notes that continual sleep curtailment lowers endurance and hinders the ability to run long-distance. While occasional sleep loss may not have considerable consequences on times and miles covered, she highlights that the reason for this is, “an increased perception of effort,” and not a lack of debilitating effects of sleep deprivation.