Sleep and Willpower


As the time of my next run event approaches, I find myself exercises more and more so I get a good opportunity to experiment with different factors of my life to see what is working and what isn’t.

Two Runs, Different Results

One morning I got up just like normal, put on my running close and took off. It was a great run and I did very well. Felt great and generally enjoyed the run. The very next day, I awoke like normal, performed the same ritual but the run was horrible. I had no willpower to keep running, I kept wanting to give up running and just walk.

What the heck? What happened, what was the difference?

Analyzing the Differences

I sat down and started listing out all the things I ate, the interactions I had with people, the amount of work I performed and lastly how much sleep had I gotten. After looking over the information, I realized that the only thing that really differed was the amount of sleep. The good run was after I had gotten about 7-8 hours of sleep, where as the bad run as after about 5-6 hours of sleep.

Could it be, that sleep has some effect on willpower? I know from the books that I have been reading lately, that you only have so much willpower. Once your store of willpower is gone, it is much harder to resist.

So I went searching for information about sleep and willpower. What I found was a pile of research, data and studies that all showed one thing … YES … the amount of sleep that you get has a direct relationship to the amount of willpower you have.

Fill Up the Willpower

Most studies suggested that you need between 7-9 hours of sleep to fully “recharge” or “refill” your willpower. It appears that when you sleep your willpower abilities get stronger, your mind is rested and much like any muscle recovery time is directly proportional to the muscles ability to  perform better the next time it’s used. This makes perfect sense and it probably why everyone stresses getting more sleep, or why people have so little willpower to resist sweets, bad foods …

So, as a Diabetic, willpower is very important to help with those late night carbohydrate cravings or even just to choose the right food at all meals. I have taken this a step further and now I try to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night. 

By doing this, I find my runs to be much easier to keep going and run the entire route. I put this theory to the test this last weekend when I got a good 7 hours of sleep, then got up and ran (the entire way) a half marathon. My willpower helped me to keep going, in conjunction with good equipment, good nutrition and all of my practice, but before sleeping correctly it was harder, now it’s not so hard.

Have you found sleep to help with your willpower? Share your experiences about sleep and willpower in the comments below.


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