Photo by Tracey Hocking on Unsplash

When it’s race season, it’s typical for runners to create intense training regimens that include plenty of details about mileage, pace, and nutrition. But besides these key factors, which will all have diverse effects on one’s performance during a race, there’s one factor that’s not often considered: sleep. Since 2002, researchers have been working to prove that sleep has a direct impact on one’s athletic abilities, and this extends to runners. Even Olympic marathoners have vouched for the fact that taking consistent naps during training periods leads to improved times and speed on the day of the competition. In order to crack the running code, there are things every runner should know about sleep hygiene and how sleep actually affects the body’s processes.

The Importance of Practicing Good “Sleep Hygiene”

Just like practicing regular hygiene, there’s such a thing as “sleep hygiene,” as well. We all know what it’s like to get a terrible night’s sleep—with constant waking-up, loud noises disturbing us, bad dreams, and an uncomfortable bed. So, how should you practice good “sleep hygiene?”

Sleep Reviews (https://sleep.reviews) says the best way to prioritize a good night’s sleep is to invest in a great mattress. This can be an important aid in entering deep sleep cycles, which will then provide an advantage for your body in terms of running performance. Some other tips for practicing good “sleep hygiene” include:

  • Limit alcohol, nicotine and heavy meals right before bedtime
  • Try to wind downbefore bed by doing something calming (reading, meditating) and avoiding activities with screens
  • Limit your caffeine six to eight hours before bedtime
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What Sleep Actually Does For A Runner’s Body

Part of being an endurance athlete is making sure your body has plenty of fuel to burn, especially on the day of a race. Loading up on carbs is a time-honored ritual for runners, as carbs provide a great source of energy when performing at your peak. When the body breaks down these carbs, they’re stored as component sugars in the muscles as glycogen, which can be used during races. But if you aren’t getting good sleep, your body won’t be able to store carbs as readily, leading to less glycogen storage and, thus, more tiredness. Sleep can therefore help you make the most of the carbs you’re eating and keep you from hitting the wall.

Getting enough sleep—or practicing good “sleep hygiene”—may be the missing ingredient to your training program that is keeping you from reaching your peak performance on race day.

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