While it might seem contrary to your need to get out there and keep training, one of the biggest things you can do to make sure you’re prepared for that big race is to make sure you’re sleeping right.
So just how much sleep do you need to get in order to make the most of your training?
Before getting into the quantity and quality of sleep, let’s first take a look at what happens when we sleep and why it’s important in the first place. Despite the physical evidence, your body actually performs some of its most crucial functions while you’re away in dream land.
Growth hormones like plasma growth hormone (GH), cortisone (testosterone), insulin, glucose and erythropoietin are all released by your brain during various stages of sleep. These hormones help to repair damaged muscle tissue and bone (which will occur during your training), create more red blood cells – improving circulation and flushing out carbon dioxide from your body – regulate insulin levels, supply energy, boost your immune system and sex drive. While your sex drive might not come into play during the race, every other one of those products is a key tenant to your performance. In fact, many people who decide to dope inject themselves with erythropoietin in order to get better performances, which you won’t need to do if you simply get enough sleep. Click here for more information http://www.healthiertalk.com/how-much-sleep-do-you-really-need-be-healthy-0335.
Training hard means a lot of wear and tear on your body and you need those nightly operations to repair and grow; this is the same for marathon runners as it is for body builders. Think of these nightly hormonal secretions as your body’s way of allowing the cement of your training to dry in order to build the next structure on top. http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/hardgainer4.htm has a good description of just what happens in our bodies, in terms of training, while we sleep.
So how much sleep is enough? Most doctors say, on average, your body needs between 7 and 8 hours of sleep in order to make sure you’ve taken the fullest advantage of your hormonal secretions, as they are released in waves throughout the course of the night. And while that number sometimes varies, though not by more than one hour in either direction, what everyone agrees on is that the quality of that sleep is just as important. In order to take the full advantage of these sleep processes, your body can’t be jarred awake every fifteen minutes or trying to process the effects of alcohol, cigarettes, caffeine or other drugs – which are making your body work but in ways that it shouldn’t in order to help you train.
Check out http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/getting/overcoming/tips for a list of ways you can improve the quality of your sleep. Much of the list comes down to getting into a good sleep habit, setting and adhering to your body’s natural sleep rhythms.
While your training and diet are absolutely a huge part of your way to winning that big race, you won’t be able to take advantage of any of it without getting the proper number of hours of sleep per night, or by not getting enough good sleep per night. Learn to manage your sleep and you’ll likely find yourself the first one to the finish line.