Why You Need Quality Sleep to Recover from an Ultra Marathon


Anyone who has ever run an ultra-marathon can tell you that you really feel it the next day. The steps that you take in the immediate aftermath of an intense athletic event like a marathon will make a big difference to your recovery. In particular, it is essential that you give yourself quality sleep, and here’s why.

Your Body Needs to Do More Than Recover – It Needs to Grow

The essential work that goes on in your body while you are asleep can be broken down into two broad categories – repairing, and growing. While you are asleep, your body will repair any damage it has incurred over the last day, or at least as much as it can do in the time you give it to rest.

If you are training for a sport, or just generally trying to improve your fitness or strength, then this involves a process of deliberately damaging your muscles, commonly known as exercise, so that they can be rebuilt stronger. Similarly, many of the benefits to your body in terms of conditioning, such as being able to hold your breath better, or your body’s ability to efficiently distribute oxygen as it is needed, all occur because of physiological changes that are cemented when we sleep.

If you have just run an ultra-marathon, your body needs a lot of time in order to not only repair the damage that has been done but to reinforce your internal structures for next time. However, repairing all that marathon induced damage is only one part of the job your body needs to complete. Before it can even get to that, however…

…Your Body Has to Do All Its Routine Maintenance as Well

Even if you spend your entire day on the couch, there is still a whole bunch of routine maintenance work that your body needs to undertake each and every night. The more physical strain you put your body through during the day, the more extra work it needs to do at night in order to compensate.

Obviously, this involves a lot of processes that happen automatically, so what can you consciously do in order to speed the process up? Your body needs two things in order to be able to recover and repair itself properly; first, it needs biological building blocks that come from the food you eat, and second, it needs time in which to carry out biological maintenance.

A comfortable mattress that enables you to get to sleep and stay asleep as quickly as possible will enable you to maximize the amount of time you spend in deep sleep, which is when your body will undertake the most intense maintenance processes. The big Presidents Day mattress sale is a popular time for physically fit philanthropists to run sponsored marathons, and it is also a great opportunity to land yourself the perfect one at a great price. There’s nothing more satisfying than diving on your dream mattress after an intense ultra-marathon, and you will be giving your body the high-quality sleep that it needs to properly maintain itself.

Your Brain Needs to Get Through All the Different Stages of Sleep

Sleep comes in stages. In order for your body to complete all the maintenance and repair work required after an ultra-marathon, your brain needs to get through all of them. Many people have heard of REM and non-REM sleep – REM sleep being when dreaming occurs. Non-REM sleep is when your body undertakes the majority of the muscle repair and growth work that it needs to, and it accounts for roughly 40% of the total time that we spend asleep.

Following an event as physically demanding as an ultra-marathon, your brain and body need much longer to make it through the usual sequence. Non-REM sleep is where the action happens, but your body needs REM sleep for a smooth transition in and out of deep sleep. You should aim to set aside around 50% longer than usual for recovering after an ultra-marathon. So, if you normally sleep for 8 hours, try to give yourself 12. Yes, 12! Your body needs plenty of time to recover and repair.

An ultra-marathon is a very intense experience. No matter how well you prepare yourself and how much training you do, you are going to need to give yourself time to recover afterward. Give yourself as much sleep as you can and especially consider investing in a new mattress to ensure that every marathon is followed by good sleep.