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You Need Sleep - It's Good for You
Subscribe to BriefingI have a mug that reads “Beware the Sleep Deprived Mom”. I carry it as a warning to all when I have not been able to get my recommended 8 hours of sleep a night…which I will admit is way too often.

As a runner and mom, sleep is one of the things that I tend to cut back on when I get busy, until it comes back to bite me as a sluggish run, grumpiness, near exhaustion, or even a virus .

I’ve been reading more and more lately how chronic sleep deprivation puts added stress on your body, which in turn, affects your training. That to me is a wakeup call. Here’s why.

During rest periods your body adapts and grows stronger. While you sleep, growth hormone stimulates muscle growth and repair, bone building and fat burning, which helps athletes recover. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation slows the release of growth hormone.

In addition, chronic sleep deprivation hampers the body’s ability to process carbohydrates (fuel in running terms) and boosts the levels of stress hormones including cortisol. These two changes make your body more likely to store fat. Studies have also found a greater incidence of stress fractures in people who get less that 6 and a half hours of sleep a night.

But how much sleep is enough? Everyone is different, but sleep experts recommend seven to nine hours of daily sleep for adults. You can estimate your own needs by experimenting over a few weeks. If you fall asleep within 20 minutes of going to bed and wake up without an alarm, you are probably getting the right amount of sleep. If you fall asleep immediately upon hitting the pillow and always need an alarm to wake up, you are probably sleep deprived. (And really, who isn’t?)

Elite runners schedule naps in their day. Most of us don’t have that luxury, but you can start by getting to bed 20 minutes earlier a night for one week, and then keep adding ten more minutes each week until you reach the recommended amount. So say goodnight to your Facebook friends, turn off the TV. and go to sleep. Your body (and your family) will thank you.


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