While it is no fun to be a statistic, you probably are one. If you sleep less than 7 hours per night, then you are part of the 40 percent of people who are getting less than the recommended amount of sleep (7-9 hours). Suffice it to say that this lack of rest not only leads to health problems and cognitive impairment, but it also affects your running performance.

How Damn Sleep Deprivation (DSD) Affects Running:

  • When you run, you break down parts of your body. You actually get microscopic tears in your muscles. Rest and recovery give your body the chance to heal these tears and build even stronger muscles. If you are sleep deprived, this process happens less, or not at all. This can increase chance of injury and just make you feel like crap.
  • DSD can decrease your body’s ability to fight colds, flu and other illnesses. In other words, lack of sleep compromises the immune system.
  • Athletes who had DSD report reaching a point of exhaustion 11 percent more quickly than those who were well rested. DSD makes workouts feel harder than they would if you had adequate sleep. Not rocket science.
  • Less sleep can inhibit your body’s ability to sweat. This can keep you from cooling down adequately in hot weather.

The Good News:

  • If you don’t sleep the night before a race, the adrenaline of the event usually overrides the negatives of sleep deprivation. Calm down. You’ll be fine.
  • While some researchers say that 7 hours of sleep is the magical number, other studies show that maintaining consistent sleep amounts and routines is more important than how much a person actually sleeps.
  • Sleep aids like Tylenol PM and even Ambien have not been shown to decrease performance. I wish wine were on that list.

How Do You Know If You Have DSD?

  • Everything makes you cry – even the fact that Honey Boo Boo is off the air.
  • You nod off throughout the day and drool on your lunch.
  • You fall asleep within five minutes of laying your head on the pillow. This often leads to men feeling a different kind of DSD – Damn Sex Deprived. That’s another topic altogether.
  • You get overwhelmed easily: “I don’t KNOW what I want on my Subway sandwich! Too many choices! Who invented this place anyway?”
  • You fall off the curb, spill things, and fall up the stairs. Your coordination is in the toilet!

What Do You Do About DSD?

  • Be a creature of habit. Go to bed at the same time every night. Your body thrives on and responds well to routine.
  • Abstain. Don’t drink alcohol or caffeine within six hours of bedtime. I break this rule every single night.
  • Get it done early. Don’t exercise within three hours of bedtime. Not a problem. I am too busy catching up with the Real Housewives.
  • Sleep in a dark, cool place. I prefer a cave in the side of a mountain.
  • Don’t arouse yourself. Don’t do anything too stimulating right before bed. Although I think sex is OK.
  • Get a good mattress.
  • Try meditating, or find a way to quiet your mind.

Do you suffer from DSD? How do you notice it affecting your running performance?


By Nichols