Sleep is probably one of the more important elements of recovery for runners, both following an intense run session and in the preparation for an event. Individuals who are regularly involved in high levels of physical activity have been found to require more sleep per night (9-10h) than those who are non-active (7-9h). During sleep is when the physiological processes which aid the body’s recovery are most active.
Sleep deprivation inhibits endurance performance, mainly through lowering levels of pre-exercise muscle glycogen stores, increasing perceived exertion and fatigue. Disruptions in sleep duration have been also found to affect appetite, weight management, stress levels, and cardiovascular functioning.
Impaired or decreased sleep length may also be associated with an increased risk of acute injuries, likely as a result of impaired reaction time and cognitive function which tends to follow sleep deprivation. Lack of adequate sleep may also impair motor control and have a negative effect on running biomechanics, which could further contribute to reduced performance and increased risk of injury.
Overall, adequate sleep is essential for the runner and runners should consider ways in which they can maximize the quantity and quality of their sleep.