Friday, August 6, 2010

How Sleeping Will Help Your Running

1. Have you entered my GIVEAWAY yet?

2. Are you tired? Do you want to take a nap under your desk? Because oh man, I do...

One often-overlooked aspect of training is sleep. Most of us crazy runners are crazy motivated in other aspects of our lives as well. (I think it’s something about that need to do challenge ourselves, and a kinda sick enjoyment of pain…)

Between work and running and workouts and all that other stuff we do, sleep can often fall by the wayside. I had an Aha! moment this week (yes I am Oprah, didn’t you know?), when I realized that I cannot function on 6 hours of sleep for an extended period of time (of course I knew this already, but for some reason I forget important things like my need for sleep!). I get tired. And when I’m training, tired = unnecessarily bad workouts (and Lord knows I need all the running help I can get at this point!).

When I was injured for that very long while, I noticed that I didn’t sleep as well as normal. Now that I’m back to “normal” (i.e. running every day), I need to re-adjust my sleep patterns. So midnight to 6 am is NOT ENOUGH snooze-time.

I’m pretty sure that everyone agrees that to race your best, you need to be well-rested. But people often forget that you need to be well rested throughout your training. Good training runs lead to good workouts, which all adds up to PRs and good race results.

Not only does being well-rested improve your mood, attitude, and general happiness, but it also has some more scientific affects on your training:

The study suggests that glycogen synthesis is impaired during periods of reduced sleep, meaning an athlete in these conditions is operating with less than a "full tank" and may "bonk" earlier than a well-rested individual.

In addition, levels of human growth hormone (hGH), which is essential for the repair of training-induced soft-tissue breakdown, are at their highest levels during undisturbed sleep. Interruption of deep, or "slow-wave," sleep may lead to prolonged recovery from exercise owing to decreased or absent blood levels of hGH. A study published in the clinical journal Sleep indicates that subjects awakened periodically and thus prevented from accruing 90 minutes of continuous sleep in the course of an evening experienced marked delays in muscle recovery.

So there's that. Read more here

 The same article talks about the importance of maintaining a consistent sleep pattern. Try to go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time every day (I am terrible at this! Some mornings I wake up at 6am for yoga, some at 8:30…some days I run in the morning, some in the evening…some nights I go out dancing, sometimes I go to bed at 10:30….ugh, I've said it before and I'll say it again, do as I say not as I do!)

Indeed, researchers have found that advancing or delaying the onset of sleep—and thus its various cycles—by three hours leads to performance decline in a number of areas, even when the total time spent sleeping remains unchanged.

Obviously everyone is different, and some runners need more sleep than others. Your sleep needs will also vary with your mileage. The key is to find what works for you and to listen to your body! If you’re tired, don’t fight it – just go to bed! If you're so so sooooo busy and you find yourself particularly exhausted for an extended period of time, consider scheduling your sleep.

For now, I will leave you with that and sit here, daydreaming about real dreaming...

Here are a few more articles on the subject: 

Owner's manuel: Sleep your way to a PR

Become a Better Runner In Your Sleep

Tera Moody Can't Sleep