How Much Sleep Do Runners Need?

A sleeping person

As a runner, you’re likely diligent about hitting the roads every week, but what about hitting the hay?

We sought the advice of sleep and athletic performance experts to find out how much sleep you should get, why runners need more than a typical adult and what you can do to improve your snooze.

Understand That You Do Need More Sleep  

The physical stress of running means you probably need more shut eye than someone who likes to lounge. The body needs time to repair itself after a strenuous effort, and that recovery process occurs during sleep. 

“One study found that athletes slept longer for four days after a marathon compared to before the race,” says Dr. Amy Bender, a sleep scientist at the Centre for Sleep & Human Performance in Calgary.  “The athletes were not fully recovered after just one night of extra sleep.”

Both quality and quantity count when it comes to sleep.

Bender, whose research focuses on sleep and athletic performance, noticed this herself after she completed an IRONMAN competition.  

“I slept about two hours more a night for about a week straight,” she says. 

In general, adults should aim to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night, but Bender advises elite athletes (that’s you, right?) to catch Zs for at least 8 to 10 hours.

Experts say both quality and quantity count when it comes to sleep. So how do you know if you’ve had a good night’s sleep?

You should feel refreshed and energized when you wake up, says Cheri Mah, a research fellow at the University of California San Francisco Human Performance Center and advisor to elite athletes on sleep. 

“You should not need to rely on regular naps or significant consumption of caffeine or other stimulants to remain alert during the day,” she adds. 

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About the Author

Theresa Juva-Brown

Theresa Juva-Brown is a New York City-based journalist and former Gannett reporter who has covered a variety of topics, including breaking news, transportation and health. Theresa ran cross-country and track competitively for The University at Albany and has a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University. She contributes to ACTIVE.com, Competitor Running, and Runner's World/Zelle. Follow her on Twitter at @TJuva.
Theresa Juva-Brown is a New York City-based journalist and former Gannett reporter who has covered a variety of topics, including breaking news, transportation and health. Theresa ran cross-country and track competitively for The University at Albany and has a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University. She contributes to ACTIVE.com, Competitor Running, and Runner's World/Zelle. Follow her on Twitter at @TJuva.

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