The relationship we have with sleep changes throughout our lives. From our childhood days when we resented our daily naps and threw a temper tantrum at the suggestion of bedtime, to our teenage years of rebellion with late nights and late mornings, to our college years of up-all-night study sessions and parties that distracted us from our education… to adulthood. We reached this stage somewhere between “I’m independent and no one can tell me what to do or when to call it a night!” and “Dear God, please give me the strength to stay awake long enough for my 8 o’clock TV show.”
Whatever your current relationship to sleep may be, as a runner, sleep is more of a necessity than you may realize. While I’m not going to get into the nitty gritty details of how much sleep you need, there are certainly many resources available that can help you figure out the length of your optimal snooze session.
Since today is World Sleep Day, it is only right that we touch on a subject that we don’t often think about. We sacrifice hours of sleep for training, work, or our social life. But at what cost? Let’s take a look at 5 benefits that come to runners who get enough sleep:
1. Better cognitive function and faster reaction times. These are short term bonuses of getting the proper amount of Z’s each night. You’ll feel sharper and more aware of your surroundings, which are both key to safety while out on your run.
2. Post-exercise recovery. When you’re sleeping, your body goes to work repairing itself so you can bounce back harder, better, faster, and stronger on your next run. Bone, muscle, and regeneration of damaged tissue is all going down while you snooze.
3. Healthy immune system. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, your body isn’t having enough time to repair itself, and the damaged cells are continuing to sustain damage until you get sick (or injured). It’s kind of your body’s way of forcing you to rest.
4. Healthy weight. Over time, getting less sleep can lead to abnormal hormone levels, which can result in weight gain. And I don’t know about you, but when I’m exhausted, I snack a lot. Even when I don’t feel hungry. Your b
ody is searching for energy to keep it functioning because it is lacking the energy a proper night of sleep would have provided.
5. Efficient water absorption. As you sleep, your kidneys work to balance the water, sodium, and other electrolytes in your body. One way to tell if you are hydrated enough upon waking each morning is if you feel the need to urinate within an hour. If you don’t gotta go, you may be dehydrated. And since dehydration leads to muscle pain while running, along with just plain poor performance and bonking, drinking enough water goes hand in hand with the sleep you need for your kidneys to efficiently keep your body in balance.