Why Runners Need More Sleep – How to Sleep Better

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Sleep is the one component not listed on marathon training plans that should be!

You get up extra early to fit in the miles and slog through sprints when you’re tired, but without placing the same emphasis on sleep your efforts might all be in vain when you come down sick race week!!

A sleep study at Stanford noted that athletes who “increased their sleep time ran faster sprints and hit more accurate tennis shots than they did while getting their usual amount of sleep.

So yes, I know you’re busy and you need to get up at the crack of dawn to make your run happen. BUT too many days of neglecting your sleep is going to lead to a decrease in performance, which will also make running a lot less enjoyable.

Let’s start with the general good and bad of sleep or lack of sleep:

  • Sleep is when your body produces growth hormone which stimulates muscle growth and repair
  • In sleep deprivation, you produce less HGH and your muscles pay the price (think slower progress)
  • Sleep is when your body synthesizes protein, creates new cells and repairs tissue, boosts your immune system
  • Sleep deprivation combined with workout exertion you’re more likely to get sick and of course, all your runs feel crummy
  • In sleep deprivation, we feel hungrier add that to distance running and it explains the never-ending range.
  • In sleep deprivation, the body is less effective at converting carbs to glycogen — hello hitting the wall!

More sleep = better running = life is better – Tips to make it happen via @runtothefinish Click To Tweet

How Much Sleep Do You Really Need???

The general rule is to add 1 minuter per mile you are running per week. This comes to a shock to many runners, but it makes sense…you ask more of your body, you need to give it more to recover.

Example: if you need 8 hours of sleep to feel well-rested when you aren’t training and are now doing 40 miles a week, aim for 8 hours and 40 minutes.

A few different studies have said that endurance athletes need a minimum of 8 hours, but many need more to continue training without fatigue. If you feel like you just cannot find time for that, you’ll find many high profile athletes who say eating a certain way has decreased their sleep needs. This seems to be related to a few things:

I thought this tip from Asics was the best I’d seen on finding your perfect amount of sleep:

The best time to figure out the perfect amount for you is when you’re on vacation. A few days into your trip (after you’ve paid off your sleep debt), see what time you wake up on your own, without relying on an alarm clock. The amount of sleep you got that night should be your goal every night.

If the hour total is very far off from the amount you’re getting when you’re not on vacation, try increasing your sleep time in small increments. Go to bed 20 minutes earlier for one week, and then tack on 10 more minutes each week.

Bonus points because science shows that long term runners appear to have higher quality sleep.


For the most part, I am a really awesome sleeper. if it was a sport I might win for best ability to fall asleep and then not move for 8 hours promptly waking without an alarm. Gawd I freaking love it.

However, lately, I started waking up very consistently at 2 AM and could not for the life of me go back to sleep. Which lead me of course to Google…is there anything the Google can’t tell you? Since I have already done the research and in fact tested it out, I’ll save you the time!

Did you know you need to add 1 minute of sleep for every mile you run each week? Click To Tweet

Waking Up And Can’t Go Back to Sleep?
One key thing is not to just rely on drugs, without getting to the root cause you are just masking the issue and it will likely persist or overcome your drugs at some point.

I found a few different things which could be the cause:

1. Blood Sugar Drop – Are you eating dinner early and then nothing prior to sleep or maybe a carb-heavy snack? Roughly 2-3 AM your blood sugar will drop which spikes cortisol and BOOM awake! Great article on Dr. Deborah MD with details.

2. Overactive Mind – If you get into things like Holistic health they point out that waking between 1-3 Am consistently is a sign of frustration and anger that aren’t being dealt with during the day because this is when your body should be detoxing your life. Is there something or someone toxic in your life that you need to get rid of? Have you been eating things that might be burdening your body?

The second issue is usually easy to pinpoint if you are also having issues with mood, fatigue, digestive trouble, and even eye strain.

Can’t Fall Asleep?

Let’s look at how to sleep better with these tips:

8 natural sleep aid remedies>>
No time for extra sleep try hypnosis (it’s like a power nap on steroids)!!
9 foods to help you sleep >>
Restorative poses for sleep from The Philosophie >>

The focus here was sleep during training, try not to get too stressed about any sleeplessness the night before a race. You’ll have enough adrenaline to keep you going if you’ve been getting a good sleep in the previous months of training!

How much focus do you put on sleep?

Are you a sound sleeper?


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