Sleep and Running Performance – The Impact of Sleep Deprivation
Suppose you have a big race coming up in a few weeks. You have likely already determined how you’ll train for the race and the miles you’ll need to log each week. Likewise, you will have probably planned your nutrition all the way to your pre-race carb-loading. You are also thinking about which running shoes you’ll wear to give you your best performance. But what about your sleep? If you’re like many runners, you may not have even considered sleep and running performance. But this remains one of the most important training considerations for runners wanting to be their best.
Sleep Deprivation Effects on Running
Without question, life is busy, and getting too little sleep is common. For runners trying to squeeze some extra miles, this can certainly be true. Not only can our training reduce the hours available for sleep, but exercise in general demands that we increase our sleep to achieve the best results. With this in mind, the following are some sleep deprivation effects on running of which you may not have been aware.
- Sleep Deprivation Effects on Diet – When we don’t get enough sleep routinely, it changes our appetite. Too little sleep increases the production of ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates our appetite. Likewise, it also reduces the hormone leptin, which tells us when we’re full. As a result, this can lead to excess eating and weight gain. But getting adequate rest prevents this from happening. In this way, weight and running performance may improve as we better manage our sleep.
- Sleep Deprivation Effects on Metabolism – In addition to affecting our appetite, sleep loss also interferes with the body’s normal metabolism. For runners, we rely on the ability to store carbohydrates in the body before a big race. This keeps us from “hitting the wall.” But sleep deprivation reduces the body’s ability to do this. As a result, this can make it more challenging to run our best race, especially if it’s an endurance event.
- Sleep Deprivation Effects on Injury Risk – Sleep and running performance are connected in another major way. Sleep naturally has restorative aspects, but it’s also essential in repairing muscles and tissues. Research has shown that human growth hormone, which is released during deep sleep, actually helps with this process. But a lack of sleep reduces the release of this hormone and therefore may negatively affect our ability to recover after a run. This may not only lead to fatigue and exhaustion but also injuries.
- Sleep Deprivation Effects on Motivation – Lastly, a lack of sleep can also undermine our motivation for running. Motivation improves with good sleep and running performance often increases. But sleep deprivation increases the chance your mood will be flat and apathetic. As a result, you’ll be less likely to stick to your training plan and achieve your running goals.
Make Quality Sleep a Part of Your Running Routine
Adequate sleep and running performance go hand in hand. Therefore, investing in good sleep should be just as important as eating well and logging the miles. Although people vary genetically and have different levels of activity, most people need 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Investing in good sleep hygiene and making sure you allow enough time for sleep are two important things to consider. In doing so, your chances of performing well will increase. This is why sleep is one activity runners should not neglect when striving to be their best.