How Much Sleep Do Runners Need?

Here’s a shocking statistic: 40 percent of Americans get less than the recommended seven hours of sleep per night, according to the American Psychological Association.

This means that roughly 1 in 3 people isn’t getting enough sleep on a regular basis. He/she could be you.

Here’s the truth.

Sleep is one of the components not listed on running plans that should be! Getting enough of it improves your mood, gives you more energy, strengthens your immune system, and ensures swift and efficient recovery.

I could go on and on.

That’s why, in today’s post dear reader, I’ll discuss some of the reasons you need to treat your sleep schedule the same way you do your workout routine. I’ll also share with you a few sleeping tips to help you get the most out of your bedtime.

Are you excited?

Here we go.

The Benefits of Sleep For Runners

Before we get into how much sleep you need, let’s first dive into the general good and bad of sleep and lack thereof.


The reason sleep is vital for recovery comes down to a specific hormone produced by the pituitary gland and released into the bloodstream during slow wave sleep stage. That’s the human growth hormone (HGH).

While running, your muscles break down on a cellular level. A good supply of the HGH hormone is what allows the body to patch up these cells, helping you to bounce back stronger and faster. It also assists in converting fat to fuel and keeping the bones strong.

When you don’t log in enough hours, your body produces less HGH, making it harder for your body to fully recover. Unsurprisingly, this leads to injuries and a host of other problems.

Lack of sleep has also other dire ramifications.

Stress And Lack of Sleep

According to research published in Sports Medicine, sleep deprivation may lead to an increase in the secretion of catabolic hormones, like cortisol. This one usually gets released during stress times and often contributes to slower recovery times as well as other serious health issues.


According to research by the New York Obesity Nutrition Research Center, people who are sleep deprived may consume roughly 300 calories or more per day.

Adequate sleep helps your body to balance hunger hormones. For starters, ghrelin is what’s known as the hunger hormone. It essentially tells your body to eat more and when to eat. Your body releases more of this hormone when you’re sleep deprived.

The other hormone affected by sleep is teh Leptin hormone, which is the hormone that signals your body that it’s had enough food, When you’re sleep deprived, your body produces less leptin.

Put these two together, and it’s not surprising that being sleep deprived sets most people up for overeating and weight gain.

Other side effects of sleep deprivation include:

  • Heart disease
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Impaired judgment
  • Obesity
  • Lower mental acuity,
  • Aged skin
  • Low productivity,
  • Accidents
  • Depression.

I could go on and on, but I think you get the big picture. The list is long and full of terrors.

How Much Sleep Should you Get?

This is a tricky question to answer because, like virtually anything else, sleep needs differ broadly by  individual, depending on many factors, such as training intensity, age, stress, environment, genetics, etc.

Most of the current research recommends getting a minimum of seven to eight hours of sleep during the night time for sedentary people. However, as a runner, I think you’re going to need much more.

Running And Sleeping Needs

The general running rule is to add one minute per mile you’re running per week.

For instance, if you run about 20 miles this per week, aim to add to at least 20 minutes to your regular sleep time per night.

This may surprise many runners, but it makes perfect sense. The more you ask of your body, the more time you need to give to repair itself and recover.

Any increase in training load requires you more sleep so that your body can recover properly. That’s why marathon runners will need more sleep than the occasional and recreational runner.  Otherwise, you won’t be recovering as well or as fast as you should.

Don’t Forget About Quality

If you’re running a busy life, chances are you’re not getting enough sleep. Here are some of my favorite tips and guidelines to help you improve your sleep quality.

No heavy eating. Avoid any highly processed or heavy food in the three to four hours before going to bed.

Avoid alcohol and caffeine. Consuming stimulants, such as alcohol and caffeine, hurts sleep quality if consumed too close to bedtime. Thus avoid them within at least three hours before going to sleep.

Be gradual. Increase your daily sleep time in tiny increments instead of an overnight makeover. Go to bed 10 to 20 minutes earlier for one week, and then add one ten extra minutes each week.

Schedule it. Train your body to get into a rhythm by keeping a regular and predictable bedtime and wake-up routine.

Make a routine. Build a ritual around your sleep time that includes doing activities that get your body ready to sleep, like showering, brushing your teeth, reading, or meditating.

My sequence is simple. I usually turn off my laptop at 10:00 pm, take a shower, brush my teeth, lay out my work and workout clothes for the next day, meditate for 20 minutes, set the alarm clock, and go to bed by 11:00 pm. It’s not perfect every time, but I do my best to stick to it every day.

Get rid of technology. Turn your bedroom into a cave: quiet, dark, cool, and comfortable. Do this by reducing light stimulation. You shouldn’t be checking your email at bedtime. Light hampers your body’s ability to release melatonin— a vital sleep hormone—which, in turn, interrupts your metabolic processes.

Nap power. Napping, the right way, can give you a boost in energy and alternates through the day as well as help get more sleep.  Just make sure to keep your naps under 30 minutes, max. Napping for longer alters your sleep patterns, and may also cause “sleep inertia,” which is the lingering groggy feeling after waking up.

Be careful on weekends.  Avoid the social jet lag on the weekend. This helps you set your body’s internal clock, which, in turn, makes falling asleep, and staying so, easier.

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There you have it. These guidelines and tips are virtually all you need to know about getting the most of your sleep. The rest is up to you.

Feel free to leave your comments and questions in the section below.

In the meantime, thank you for reading my post.

Keep Running Strong

David D.