Taking on an endurance event is one heck of a challenge, and squeezing hours of training into an already packed schedule can easily lead to sleep falling down your list of priorities.
However, research by the European Journal of Applied Physiology has shown that even one night of sleeplessness can cause a decrease in endurance performance.
But how much sleep should an athlete get? Let’s take a look.
What Happens When We Sleep?
Sleeping may seem effortless, but there’s actually quite a lot going on beneath the surface. If you’re wondering what helps muscle recovery, here’s your answer.
There are two elements that are instrumental to a good night’s sleep, non-rapid eye movement and rapid eye movement (REM). While both are necessary elements, most of our recovery takes part during the REM cycles.
During REM, our bodies produce more growth hormones, which in turn promotes protein synthesis and tissue repair.
All this science may seem a little bit alien for some, so let’s dive a little deeper.
How Can Sleep Deprivation Impact Endurance Race Performance?
It Can Increase Exhaustion
We’ve all suffered from the odd bad night’s sleep, and the next day it feels as though every single action is a massive effort.
Well that’s because both mind and body are exhausted, and in turn our perceived level of fatigue is much lower than it would normally be.
In the context of a race, if you’ve been consistently skimping on your sleep, there’s almost no way you’ll be able to keep to your race pace average, and it may even lower your chances of completing the race altogether.
It Contorts How Our Bodies Process Heat
Thermoregulation is basically how our body and brain perceives heat.
The study conducted by the American Journal of Physiology found that endurance trained men who had been sleep deprived had a higher internal temperature, but sweat less compared to those who were well rested.
How the body regulates heat is integral to endurance race performance. If the body doesn’t realise its overheating, it can quickly lead to dehydration or fainting, ultimately ruining your chances of competing to your best ability.
Even the slightest of injuries can severely impact an endurance athletes training and competition schedule.
I spoke to Wales based triathlon coach Marc Fitzgibbon about just how integral sleep is to endurance race and training recovery.
Endurance athletes are known for their dedication and the long training hours they put in, but if they don’t get sufficient sleep, then some of that training effort will be wasted!
Endurance athletes should be looking to regularly get between 7 and 8 hours rest, perhaps more at the heaviest point of their training cycle, and ideally a nap during the day as well.
Plus, observing good sleep habits, such as sleeping in a cool, dark room, no TV on, not waking to check your phone etc. can all make a big difference too.”
Struggling to Sleep?
Whether you’re an endurance athlete or not, none of us can function without a regular sleep schedule.
If you feel as though you’re at your wits end, then you may want to take a good hard look at your sleeping environment. Is your phone too close to your bed? How long ago did you change your mattress? Should the answer not come quickly to your mind, you may want to think about changing it.
Take a browse at what we have, and hopefully, we’ll have you doing triathlons in no time!