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  • JakeHegge

The Most Underrated Performance Enhancer: Sleep

Oh, snooze! 

No, it may not be the sexiest topic out there, but let’s face it, no amount of massage, yoga or fish oil that can match up to sleep as a recovery tool. 

Why should you try to optimize your sleep?

Improved performance, power, energy, decision making and my favorite, resistance to injury.1,2

Did you know…

  • <8 hours of sleep per night has been associated with being 70% more likely to sustain an injury.3,1 

  • <7 hours of sleep/night triples your risk of picking up an infection.4,1

If sleep is so great, then what reasons do athletes give for poor sleep?1

  • Busy work schedule

  • Stress

  • Menopause

  • Increase in training load

  • Travel or change in time zones

  • The dog pushing you over to the edge of the bed

  • Breathing disordered sleeping or sleep apnea

  • Restless legs syndrome

How much sleep is “enough” then?

While there is no magic number for everyone, some more recent studies suggest 8-9 hours for athletes, rather than the typical 7-8 hours commonly cited for the general population.1

Not every night will be a good night of sleep, so shoot for these numbers on average for the week. Don’t let getting enough sleep cause its own insomnia–control what you can control (ie. set a goal bedtime) and don’t worry about what you can’t.

No matter what your reason is for not getting enough quality sleep, developing and sticking with a solid bedtime routine and environment can give you the best chance.

Here are some steps to tidy up your sleep hygiene:

  • Set up “quiet time” 30 minutes-1 hour before bed.2

  • Discontinue use of electronics 1 hour before bed

  • Place your phone across the room or even better, outside of the room

  • Have a separate alarm clock to prevent phone use around bedtime

  • Make the bedroom a quiet place.2 Street noise, your partner snoring, or the television might be waking you up or keeping you awake.

  • Use earbuds if needed

  • Make sure the bedroom is completely dark.2

  • If there is any light coming through the windows, try blackout curtains/blinds or an eye mask

  • Get outside early morning for 5-20 minutes within the first hour of waking up (or as soon as possible) to set your circadian rhythm.6

  • Get outside around sunset to remind your circadian clock it is almost time for bed.6

  • Write down anything that is on your mind that might keep you up during the night.

  • Drink your caffeine early, if you are a high-dose caffeine drinker (>200 mg), give yourself 13 hours between drinking your last cup and bedtime.3

  • Let your coach know if you are struggling with sleep-we are here to help.

A friendly reminder: No matter how many people brag about how they only got 4 hours of sleep this week and then ran the marathon of their life, you can rest assured that you have put “the fuel in the tank and the money in the bank” by getting enough sleep.

If you are a runner looking for ways to optimize your routine, reach out today to learn more about working with a running coach:


  1. Watson, Andrew M. MD, MS. Sleep and Athletic Performance. Current Sports Medicine Reports 16(6):p 413-418, 11/12 2017. | DOI: 10.1249/JSR.0000000000000418

  2. Catherine F. Siengsukon, Mayis Al-dughmi, Suzanne Stevens, Sleep Health Promotion: Practical Information for Physical Therapists, Physical Therapy, Volume 97, Issue 8, August 2017, Pages 826–836,

  3. Milewski MD, Skaggs DL, Bishop GA, et al. Chronic lack of sleep is associated with increased sports injuries in adolescent athletes. J. Pediatr. Orthop. 2014; 34:129–33.

  4. Cohen S, Doyle WJ, Alper CM, et al. Sleep habits and susceptibility to the common cold. Arch. Intern. Med. 2009; 169:62–7.

  5. Gardiner C, Weakley J, Burke LM, Roach GD, Sargent C, Maniar N, Townshend A, Halson SL. The effect of caffeine on subsequent sleep: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Sleep Med Rev. 2023 Feb 6;69:101764. doi: 10.1016/j.smrv.2023.101764. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 36870101.

Huberman, Andrew. “Using Light for Health.” Huberman Lab, 24 Jan. 2023,,for%20sleep%20later%20that%20night. Accessed 19 Aug. 2023.

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