Do you ever dream that you’re running? Not like, “AAAHHHH!!!! THE BEAR IS GOING TO EAT ME!!” …running, but dreaming that you are on a great run. Not just a great run, but the best run of your life! On this run your lungs are feeling great with nary a burn. Your legs feel like you could run until dawn. Your energy level is so high that your only thought is to see what’s over that next rise. It is without a doubt THE best run that you’ve ever ran. It. Is. Perfect.
Goodbye dream, goodbye sleep, goodbye nice warm bed as it is time to hit the floor! EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, STUPID ALARM CLOCK!! (snooze)….. 7 minutes of wonderful snooze…who decided that a snooze is 7 minutes long anyway…I mean 7 minutes? seriously?…..doesn’t matter….ahhhh, it cannot get better…this bed is the best bed since beds were invented as it is mine and it is warm and it is comfy and this would be a horrible run on sentence if i were not sleeping right this very…EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH…STUPID ALARM CLOCK! Who the hades has me running at 5am!?!?!?!?…stupid bad man! Ok ok ok ok…i’m awake…why did I stay up for the Project Runway Marathon on Lifetime…??
Sleep is important. Sleep to the average non-athlete is important. Sleep to someone who lives an active lifestyle or who is training for an event like a marathon, Ironman or other feat of endurance is even more important. Here’s why:
1. Sleep curbs inflammation. Research indicates that people who get six or fewer hours of sleep each night have higher blood levels of inflammatory proteins than those who get more. Your body needs time to reduce inflammation from your daily activities as well as from the bouts of exercise you put it through.
2. Sleep improves performance. A Stanford University study found that college football players who tried to sleep at least 10 hours a night for seven to eight weeks improved their average sprint time and had less daytime fatigue and more endurance. The results of this study further support previous research seen in tennis players and swimmers.
3. Sleep assists in weight loss / maintenance. Researchers at the University of Chicago found that dieters who were well rested lost more fat (56% of their weight loss—than those who were sleep deprived, who lost more muscle mass.) Dieters in the study also felt more hungry when they got less sleep. Sleep and metabolism are controlled by the same sectors of the brain. When you are sleepy, certain hormones go up in your blood, and those same hormones drive appetite the study reports.
4. Sleep helps with water reabsorption. During sleep, the kidney balances water, sodium and other electrolytes. Without enough water the kidneys can’t balance electrolytes properly. So make sure you’re well hydrated so this very important can happen during sleep!
5. Sleep is when you build / rebuild the brick house. Please excuse our mess while we make improvements for your future enjoyment. You go out for a long run, you take an hour and destroy it in the weight room, you tear it up on hill repeats, you run a PR. All of these tear you down and you need time to make repairs. Sleep is when you do this.
6. Sleep keeps you sane. In fact it is crucial to sanity. It seems that while you are busy doing your day job, your brain actually works nights and has quite a bit to get done while you are unconscious. Yes, running keeps us sane too, but sleep, it turns out is more important still!
So, it’s obvious that sleep is important, but how much do you need?
According to the National Sleep Foundation, most people need about seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Okay, 7-9 hours of sleep. Are you getting enough? This is if you are NOT an athlete.
If you ARE an athlete in training, that may not be enough. Now, just because you don’t consider yourself an athlete doesn’t mean you are not. If you are training to do a marathon, 5K, half marathon, Ironman, 10K, triathlon, duathlon or just go to the gym several days a week to stay fit, maintain or lose weight or play racquet ball with your best friend then guess what? …you’re an athlete.
“Just as athletes need more calories than most people when they’re in training, they need more sleep, too,” says Dr. David Geier, MD, director of Sports Medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina. All the stress and grueling practices require more time to recover. Jim Thornton, president of the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, recommends that an athlete in training should sleep about an hour extra per night.
That’s eight to ten hours of sleep each night especially for those big training sessions like weekly long runs.
I know it’s difficult. Kids, work, homework, PTA, volunteering, family time, church, date night, chores, house work, social life, gardening, band practice, t-ball, alone time, vacation, bake sale AND you are also training to run the Dopey Challenge.
So, maybe don’t go for the 100% win of 10 hours of sleep each night. Maybe instead, track your sleep for the next 14 days and see where you are in regards to the amount of sleep you get. Next, if you’re under the minimum then try to get an extra 30 minutes each night of the week and maybe an extra hour the nights before and after your long run. It may not be what the doctor ordered, but it’s a step in the right direction!
Now excuse me please, I need to get to sleep!
Happy training and sweet dreams!