A blog by runners. For runners.

Marathon training and sleep needs

marathon training and sleep needsTempo runs, track workouts, long runs – check!

Race registration – complete!

Shiny, new running shoes – purchased!

But when getting everything in order for race day, don’t neglect one vital training tool: sleep.

Why you need to catch your zzz’s
I don’t think we need to argue why sleep is important – everyone knows it is. But when it comes to running and performance, getting enough sleep is a must.

Sleep is especially crucial for athletes. Long runs and hard runs take a toll on the body, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself more exhausted during marathon training – you need the extra shut-eye. Without adequate sleep, the body can’t fully recover from the intense demands of training. Sleep deprivation is just as harmful as not fueling or hydrating properly, meaning it can have detrimental effects on your training. Not catching enough zzz’s can:

  • Compromise your immune system. Marathon training weakens your immune system and so does sleep deprivation. Training on too little sleep? That’s a recipe for disaster. In fact, marathon runners who get six or fewer hours of sleep per night have 50 percent less immunity protection than runners who log eight or more hours (source).
  • Hinder performance. Too little sleep won’t affect your endurance or strength, but the mental effects can thwart your performance – during training and on race day. Feeling foggy, irritable, or just exhausted can make even the easiest of runs feel difficult. Luckily, feeling well rested can have the opposite effect.

How much sleep do runners need?
Sleep deprivation can derail training, but it can be tricky to tell if you’re truly sleep deprived or not. Sleep needs vary between people so there’s no magic number of hours of sleep you need per night. For example, women’s marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe says she gets nine hours of sleep every night plus a 2-hour nap when she’s in the midst of training. On the other hand, ultra-runner Dean Karnazes claims he only needs four hours of sleep per night.

Your personal sleep need is likely somewhere in between, though. Experts say most people need about eight hours of sleep each night when they’re training for a marathon. But listen to your body. If you’re sleeping fewer hours but feel great, then you’re probably getting enough shut-eye. If you’re already sleeping eight hours but feel exhausted, try to go to bed 15 minutes earlier each night until you wake up feeling refreshed.

For better sleep
Aim to be in bed every night eight hours before you have to wake up the next morning. Remove distractions from your room so you’re not tempted to stay awake – turn off your phone and the TV. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day – even on weekends when you don’t have to run – is critical to good sleep. This way, you won’t waste precious time lying in bed at night. Instead, you’ll pass out shortly after hitting the pillow.

Written by Jen Matz.