There's lots of advice for runners about sleep. It aids recovery being the most repeated. But there's something else about sleep too.
I'm sure I've tried at some point, but running while you're sleeping is not what I mean.
A good night's sleep can be the difference between an average run and a great one. And that's because, when you are well rested, you can push much harder.
A quick scan over my running stats proves this. It's easy to pick out the runs where I was feeling tired. There is the "felt knackered" comments alongside the run data. But I can also tell from the performance data, it tells the story.
Slower splits, poor average pace etc. are all indicators that a run didn't go as you planned it. And that might be because of a lack of sleep.
How many hours?
I get about 4 hours sleep a night on average. And my running suffers as a result.
I go running early in the morning. I'm talking 4am. Usually, one of two things happens: I bounce out of bed and run well. Or, I crawl out of bed and have to work hard to make the run count.
I've tried increasing the number of hours I sleep. And some evenings, I fall asleep in my armchair. That's often the best sleep I have. It doesn't guarantee a good run, but the extra sleep definitely helps.
It helps because I've had longer to recover. But it also helps because I feel better.
Feeling tired makes running harder
Shorts on, trainers on and out the door. Within a few yards, I know how things are going to go. If I'm tired it doesn't always mean a poor run. But it does always mean a harder run.
I don't mean harder because of intervals, hills etc. I mean harder because I have to work so much harder. When I'm feeling fresher and well rested, it's much easier to push hard and make it a quality workout.
Sleep isn't only for recovery
So, getting enough sleep isn't only about allowing your body to recover. That's vital, of course, it is.
But it's also about feeling good mentally. You'll be much more likely to run a quality session if you feel up for it. It's true that you can be mentally tired and still run well.
But running a quality session will always be easier if you feel well rested.
I struggle with getting plenty of sleep. But I work hard at it because it means I can run stronger. Sleep lets your body recover. But it also lets your mind recover and that's important too.