Forgot username?     |     Forgot password?

Show Blog Categories
Hide Blog Categories
December 06, 2012

Think Sleep Doesn't Matter? Think Again!

Written by Dena Evans

toxins-cause-exhaustionThink Sleep Doesn’t Matter?  Think Again!

 

Runners tend to enjoy challenges.  How else to explain things like 50 state marathoners and people running in the driving rain or the dark of night?  Many times the daily challenge is how to fit everything into 24 hours, run included (definitely), and sleep included (maybe…some at least).  Runners often rationalize the lack of sleep because it is the only way (often waking up early in the morning) that they can conquer this “24 hour challenge”.  But, does it really matter if you sleep enough?  You bet it does.

 

Dr. Michael Fredericson of Stanford University, long time team doctor for the track and cross country teams, as well as one of the most experienced medical researchers on running related injury patterns, maintains that when compared to time, money, and effort spent on things like vitamins, minerals, supplements “If you get a really good night’s sleep, it outweighs almost everything else.”  To consider why, he encouraged a look at several recent explorations of the effects of sleep on performance for several important points.

 


Running for your health might not erase the health risks from lack of sleep.

Drs. Stephan Esser and Rick Feeney in their recent article “ZZZs for Speed”  (Marathon and Beyond, March/April 2012), relate how studies show chronic sleep deprivation can increase the risk of high blood pressure, depression, certain cancers, and diabetes…just for starters.  It also increases an appetite-stimulating hormone, which might challenge the efforts to use running for weight loss.   Yikes!

 

Sleep has a demonstrable effect on your athletic performance.

We have all survived days or longer periods where we have been sleep impaired.  College or high school finals might come to mind.  However, if you are looking for a PR, extra sleep is more than a marginal concern.    Cheri Mah of the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic (along with famed sleep researcher William Dement), conducted a study on the Stanford Men’s Basketball team, where their performance on sprints, shooting accuracy and other measures were charted based on their levels of daily sleep.  Those who slept more during the course of the study found significant improvements in their time on sprints and their accuracy on shooting improved as much as 9%.  Imagine even just a 2-3%% improvement in athletic execution in your next goal race and a 4 hour marathoner gets to the finish line almost a half mile faster!

 

Don’t just take it from basketball players, though.  Esser and Feeney also cite studies that have found a cyclist getting twice as much sleep during a 4800 kilometer event could make the top 10, while spending much less time in the saddle than the other nine.  Another study found that one night without sleep caused an average of an 11% drop in time before exhaustion with a spread of 5-40% (in other words, some folks fell much further off than the average)!

 

Even if you can make it on less sleep, the running usually feels much harder.

Perceived exhaustion also spikes like crazy when sleep is elusive.  Most busy people can attest to this – when the 2pm meeting feels interminable or the key workout just feels more like “5k pace” than the “80% pace” written on the training plan.    David Martin’s oft cited study enforces that believe that even one night of reduced sleep not only decreases time to exhaustion, but time until perceived exhaustion.  Other literature cited by Esser and Feeney indicates that mental fatigue can greatly hinder the drive needed from our brains to require our musculoskeletal system to continue moving.  The limbs might still be able to keep moving with less sleep, but the brain is less inclined to require them to do so, and feel much less inclined more quickly.

 

Lack of sleep also results in the slowing of glucose metabolism, resulting in a lesser ability to draw needed sugars from the muscles during that next bout of exercise following the short night’s sleep.  Most of us in this fatigued situation then turn to some simple sugars to help flood the system and get what we need right now, even if it is not helpful energy for the long term.  You can guess where this leads in terms of diet…..

 

Sleep to recover from and prevent injuries….You can’t run if you can’t run

While your bones are constantly remodeling during the day, important amounts of this protective and ameliorative process take place during sleep.  In one 2008 study cited by Esser and Feeney, bone resorption was increased by 170% when sleep was increased among army recruits under a consistently challenging physical demand.  If stress fractures are a concern, sleep might be a particularly huge and important variable for you.

 

OK, OK, OK….I get it!  Now what should I do?

Most people need 6-8 hours to function regularly and healthily.  However, your individual needs may vary.  If you are using remedies (coffee, sugary foods, 5 Hour Energy, Red Bull) to alleviate sleepiness on most days, then it probably is appropriate to track your typical patterns for several days. Seek to improve upon your amount of sleep if even temporary adjustments result in an improvement on performance or perceived level of exertion.  Even if change is difficult to come by due to structural forces beyond your control, a healthy dose of mindfulness about nighttime habits might yield a more quality level of sleep during the shut-eye you do get.

 

Read Esser and Feeney’s entire article here.

 

Read a detailed summary about the Stanford Basketball Sleep Study here.

 

 

Movecoach is a brand owned by Focus-N-Fly, Inc Copyright 2020