This past week, I received my latest issue of the Running Times Magazine. As I was reading through it, I came across an article on the effects of sleep and running.
I read the article several times to make sure I had a good understanding of what they were telling me. With each reading I found myself more and more identifying with many of the pitfalls and perks of sleep outlined in the article.
Being a runner for a long time, I have come to realize that the more sleep I have in my schedule the better I am able to run.
This is doubley true when you am training for a big race. You are forced to manage your time and energy needs between running and the rest of your life. For example, if I have to raise early the next day for either work or to get in a run, I try to hit the bed early. Under normal conditions, I usually try to hit the bed by 10 pm and raise by 6 am. This gives me about 8 hours of sleep time. But if I have to be up by 5 am, I will try to adjust my bed time so that I continue to get the same amount of sleep. I believe consistancy is as important as the amount.
Like in the article I often know when I have enough sleep. I will usually wake before the alarm rings. It doesn't always happen, but most of time I am able to raise and turn off the alarm beforehand. This is definitely one of the best signs that I have found that bare out this fact.
However, I don't totally agree with their comments about when you need to start sleeping more. In the article they allude to the fact that you should get more sleep during your taper period before the big event. I agree everyone should do this but this should be in addition to and not the only part of.
To me sleep deprivation is much like over training. You don't recover from over training by just taking a couple of easy days. The body needs time to bounce back. I believe the same can be said for sleep. Therefore, I would suggest as early as possible that anyone training for a big event should focus on getting extra sleep time. Being better rested through out your heavy training period will allow you to train harder and better and as well I believe to be more focused.
So in summary, sleep time should be factored into your training plan to have a successful race day. Try sleeping longer if your schedule permits because in the end it may be the one part of your training plan in which you can do literally nothing and potentially improve your finish times.