If you are concerned about the increasing imbalance between sleep and work, you are not alone. Sleep deprivation because of work or social commitments is one of the more common ‘illnesses’. But at the same time, many people have also reached the realisation that rest, relaxation and extra curricular exercises are not just good to have, but necessities in our everyday life. You may have heard about Sweden imposing a 6 hour workday on businesses to streamline labour and allowing the population the possibility of better work-life balance. The point we are trying to make is that sleep should count as a very important part of one’s life rather than something that just caps off a long day.
Lack of sleep or unsettled sleep affects your mood, personality, functionality, productivity and general well-being. And for an athlete, getting enough sleep is as important as his food and exercise choices. Cheating on sleep makes it harder to concentrate at work, does impair your appetite and causes irritability. It will naturally affect your running game as well.
The better sleep you get, the better you perform athletically, but how does lack of sleep actually affect your body?
During the deeper stages of sleep, typically known as REM, human growth hormone (HGH) is released in slow waves. HGH is a natural hormone produced by the pituitary gland and released into the bloodstream. HGH rebuilds damaged tissue while building stronger muscles. It also helps convert fat to fuel, and keeps our bones healthy. When one is not sleeping enough, the release of HDH is not optimal, leaving one vulnerable to tissue damage.
Regular sleep can boost the weight loss benefits of running, according to this Forbes report. Getting less than 6.5 hours and more than 8.5 hours of sleep is linked to higher body fat, according to the study quoted in the report. So clearly, the right balance is somewhere between 7-8 hours of sleep every day. Not easy to maintain with 12-hour workdays.
Runners are known to be analytical. You would always hear one trying to figure out what went wrong in a run, and what worked well. All that can lead to circular thinking, With better sleep you get better mental clarity, rest and recovery. It also promotes clearer thinking.
One of the most important ways sleep can help your running is water reabsorption, especially during the summer months when you sweat more and dehydration is more of a concern. During sleep, the kidney balances water, sodium and other electrolytes. Without enough water the kidneys can’t balance electrolytes properly.
Besides making you feel better, sleep is when your body repairs and regenerates damaged tissue from the day’s workout and builds bone and muscle to be ready for the next workout. Distance runners especially need that sleep/repair time to make sure that muscles recover from training.
Yes, we know most people don’t need a reason to sleep, but these are as good as any, and could help put the need in perspective. Here’s to sleeping tight, and happy running.