When training for a marathon (or any long distance), recovery plays as big a part in training as your running does! It doesn’t matter if you hit your paces in running, if you end up injured and don’t even make it to the start line! I talked about recovery tools for runners on this blog, but I thought I would write a post about one of the most important forms of recovery-sleep! “There’s no doubt in my mind that probably 90 to 95 percent of all recovery can be achieved by proper sleep and nutrition,” Stellingwerff says. “Your sleep quality can improve your performance.”
For me, this is also the easier recovery tool because I don’t struggle with sleep and look forward to going to bed each night! One of the reasons why is because I use a weighted blanket! I also take a nap a few times a week, and use this blanket then as well. This blanket is a game changer. You may worry though that using a weighted blanket would make you too hot. Never fear! There is a cooled weighted blanket to help prevent this from happening.
The three main benefits of weighted blankets are:
- Helps those struggling with insomnia
- Decreases Stress and anxiety
- Helps you sleep deeper
- (I’ve also read that is helps those with ADHD)
You would think that if you are training for a distance race, you wouldn’t be struggling with insomnia. However, there are people that struggle with sleep even if they are very active. “Though you may be physically exhausted from an intense series of workouts, your brain is flooded with adrenaline, causing nervousness, heart rate changes and disrupted sleep patterns.”
The weighted blanket help because of something called ‘deep touch simulation. Studies show that the therapy called deep touch pressure stimulation causes the release of serotonin and melatonin, chemicals that promotes the improvement of sleep.
It also gives you the feeling you get from a hug, which is why it also helps with anxiety, stress, and depression. It also helps you to get a better quality, deeper sleep!
When buying one, the rule of thumb is to buy a blanket that is 10% of your weight. If you weigh 150 pounds, you buy a 15 pound blanket!
Why is sleep important for athletes?
Now onto why quality sleep is so important for runners (and any kind of athlete for that matter).
Aids in weight loss
I get tired of seeing everything be about weight loss and looking fit. There is so much more to benefit from living an active life aside from slimming down. However, we are a culture that is obsessed with weight, and I’d be lying if I said I have never succumbed to the obsession. Reading these diet books helped me to view food, and my body, in a different light and highly recommend them!
Anyway, back to sleep. Not getting enough sleep can cause weight gain! “Insufficient sleep can lead to impaired cognitive function and slower reaction times. Over a longer period, lack of sleep also leads to abnormal hormone levels, which may result in weight gain. In a 16-year study of over 60,000 women, researchers discovered that women who slept less than five hours per night put on more pounds than those who slept seven hours or more each night, even if they exercised and ate a healthy diet.” So there you have it. Sleep more and you will better be able to lose and maintain your weight!
Sleep strengthens immune system
Runners are at a higher risk of getting colds due to the excessive exersice. If you are not getting enough sleep, your immune system is even weaker and you are even more susceptible to getting sick!
When running, your body breaks down muscle. When you sleep, your body is going to work repairing those muscles. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, then your body doesn’t have time to repair and heal them.
“Scientists agree that runners need to log sufficient time at the third and fourth stages of the sleep cycle–that’s when the human growth hormone is released, which helps build and repair tissues. Without enough sleep, the body may produce more cortisol, which interferes with tissue repair. Lack of adequate sleep can also mess with metabolism, leaving runners without adequate glucose stores to fuel long efforts.”
Quality sleep is vital for everyone. If you, or someone you know has struggled with insomnia you know what a nightmare it can be. There’s a reason why there are a number of movies about people who go crazy due to their lack of sleep! (Fight Club and The Machinist being the first two that come to mind.) If you are training for a marathon than it become all the more important. Sleep and nutrition can either be your biggest help or your downfall when living an active life.
Distance runners should be getting 10 hours of sleep at night, and taking an hour long nap during the day is recommended. It can be tough making the time for that, but it’s worth the sacrifice to go to bed an hour earlier to ensure you get your sleep in.
If you are struggling with sleep, or are just curious, try out the weighted blanket! My husband isn’t a runner, but he is very active and has struggled in the past with insomnia. The weighted blanket has been a huge help for him!
Thanks for reading! Now time to catch some Zzzz’s!
Find other great run gear for yourself or someone you know in my post about great gift ideas for runners!