Importance of Sleep for a Runner’s Heart and Health

July 27, 2022

We're proud to share an anniversary year with the Twin Cities Marathon. Back in 1982, Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation was established as a research organization to investigate better ways to prevent, detect and treat heart and vascular disease. In the same year, athletes were running the first Twin Cities Marathon. Congratulations TCM and cheers to your longevity.  MHIF is excited to be an official marathon partner in 2022 as we celebrate 40 years! 


Sleep is essential for running performance and recovery, as well as heart, vascular and overall health. Getting enough quality sleep is not always easy with busy work schedules, family obligations and intense training schedules. So, what is “quality” sleep and just how much is enough?


How much sleep do I need?

Sleep needs vary from person to person. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 7-8 hours of sleep each day for adults and 8-10 hours for teens. Elite athletes often report that they need more sleep (8-10 hours) during peak training.

But it’s not just the amount that matters – sleep quality is paramount too. According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep quality is the measurement of how well you’re sleeping—in other words, whether your sleep is restful and restorative. Generally good quality sleep is when you fall asleep within 30 minutes or less and typically sleep through the night or get up no more than once a night. If you do wake up during the night, you fall back asleep within 20 minutes. Most importantly, you wake up rested, restored and energized.


Why is sleep important?

Quality sleep improves athletic performance, while poor sleep is associated with fatigue, becoming exhausted faster, delayed reaction time and poor decision making. Not getting enough sleep can make your runs feel more challenging than when you are rested.

Getting enough sleep allows your body to repair tissue and build muscle so you return to peak performance more quickly. Poor sleep increases your risk of injury and illness. It can also delay recovery.

Sleep also improves your mental fitness. While you sleep, your brain is making pathways for learning, focus and quick response. This can give you an edge when competing, whereas a lack of sleep can affect your mental stamina and motivation.

During sleep your heart and vascular system get a much-needed chance to rest. As you enter deeper sleep, your heart rate and blood pressure slow down. Changes in heart rate and breathing during the night promote heart and vascular health. A lack of sleep can trigger stress hormones that keep you blood pressure from dropping during the night which increases your risk of developing heart disease.


How to make sleep a priority and develop good habits

  • Establish a regular sleep schedule – wake up and go to bed the same time each day, even on weekends. Have a routine at bedtime and stick to it as much as possible.
  • Seek bright light, preferably natural light, during the day. At night turn down the lights and avoid blue light.
  • Keep your bedroom quiet, dark, cool and clutter-free. Make your bedroom a sleep-only zone. Do not work or watch TV where you sleep.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol late in the day. Nicotine is a stimulant and should also be avoided.
  • Avoid heavy meals and excessive liquids 2-3 hours before bed.
  • Turn off electronics. Go screen-free at least one hour before going to sleep. Remove, or at least turn the clock away, to avoid clock-watching at night. It can increase anxiety and mental stimulation and make it hard to fall back asleep.
  • Avoid exercise within 2 hours of bedtime. Exercise increases body temperature and adrenaline, making it hard for some people to fall asleep.
  • If you can’t fall asleep within 20-30 minutes, get up for a short period of time and try following your healthy sleep routine again.

For top performance, prioritize sleep with the same consistency and attention as your training runs. No need to worry if you don’t sleep well the night before a race. Pre-race nerves are normal and, if you consistently get enough sleep prior to the race, your adrenaline will carry you through.

Heart 360 with Harry Connick Jr

Heart 360 Concert is September 24

Join us for Heart 360 - a concert for world-class heart research. On September 24 we'll celebrate our 40th anniversary with Emmy and Grammy award-winning musician and entertainer Harry Connick, Jr. The community will come together at the historic and beautiful Armory, Minneapolis as we raise a toast to frontline healthcare workers who served through the pandemic. 


Hope health humor minneapolis heart institute foundation

Join Us for a Night of Fun and Inspiration

Gather with women from different backgrounds, including community leaders, business owners, patients, physicians, and artists. On August 24, we'll come together to learn more about heart and vascular disease in women in our community. Proceeds support the Penny Anderson Women’s Cardiovascular Center.