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How Sleep Affects Your Running and Vice Versa

How Sleep Affects Your Running and Vice Versa

Sleep and exercise are like two best friends, and you’re the one they want to let share their special bond when you start running.

They’ve got another good friend; diet, who is also there like a super cool buddy who will turn you into a better athlete as they all do their bit to help you succeed. Treat these friends of yours in the right way in return and you are sure to be in the running to reach peak performance!  

In this article, we’re going to look closely at how sleep affects your running and vice versa so that you can get a better understanding of why you are doing what you’re doing.

Why do we love sleep?

When you sleep, this is your body’s time to go into a period of recovery. What’s more, you can repair, build and restore energy, and this is why sleeping is so vital to running.

The body produces a growth hormone while you’re in slumber too, which is all part of your development as a fitter, faster, stronger runner; it helps us build lean muscle and helps our body repair when we have torn the muscles during a strenuous session.

Does regular exercise help sleep?

The answer to this is pretty straightforward; it’s a firm yes! As a runner, you have probably run so hard before that you are ready for bed the moment you get in the front door. There’s science behind this too, so you’re not alone.

According to research published by Sleep Medicine, participants who claimed they sleep for less than 6.5 hours per night executed moderate-intensity workouts, including walking, cycling and running, over a period of four times a week for six weeks.

By the conclusion of the study, the individuals said they were enjoying an additional hour and fifteen minutes of sleep every night. To put this in perspective, the research experts claimed that this exceeds more than any drug has helped people with!

Why did this happen?

The easiest way to explain what happened to these participants (and you too, if you follow their lead) is that exercise produces a chemical effect on your brain by releasing increased levels of adenosine, and this chemical causes you to feel sleepy.

Moving on…

Running will aid in upholding a consistent internal body clock, and because exercising assists your body with recognising the schedule it’s on. You can reinforce this by having a strong bedtime routine, something that the people over at Sleep Advisor have discussed many times before.

Morning, mid-day or evening?

Questions are posed around the subject of when to exercise, and while you shouldn’t be exercising for between three to six hours before sleep, you may find it hard to get up in the morning and exercise, so don’t be afraid to run later in the day.

It’s all personal preference, and we’re not all robot, even though we crave routine, and you can bet that you’ll enjoy your running far more if you’re partaking when the time’s right for you; just bear in mind not to hit the tarmac too close to bed.

Does good sleep help my running?

Similarly, to the last point, it’s a simple yes, but we can go into more detail for you to explain why.

Essentially, the more well-rested you allow yourself to be, the higher level your mind and body will operate at. Sleeping soundly gives you increased motivation to go get out there and achieve your goals.

Sleep gives you a surge in your drive, meaning you can capitalise on an effective workout. You can also expect to benefit from intensified concentration, improved mood, and greater focus, all of which will help to mould you into a better athlete.

Don’t get enough sleep though, and you can expect the opposite of all the things we’ve just mentioned. It won’t make you a lesser person in terms of physical capabilities biomechanically, but fatigue becomes an issue and you won’t be able to run at full capacity.

One study around treadmill running even showed that just one poor night’s sleep will make it harder to perform as a runner. This is obviously closely related to running outdoors, so you can see the correlation.

You’re not going to transform into a world-beating athlete overnight just because you enjoyed a full, recommended 7-9 hours of sleep though. Sleep isn’t your friend to change your genes and alter the assets you were born with.

Sleep is there to help with your physiological responses, such as disproportions with your autonomic nervous system. This isn’t dissimilar to the kind of symptoms you will experience when you over-train, for example, sore muscles and an increased risk of picking up an injury.

Hopefully, you use sleep to progress as a runner and reach your targets in the near future!

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