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      Sleep in marathon and ultramarathon runners: a brief narrative review


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          Sleep is considered a fundamental biological function in humans necessary for recovery from daily physical activities. Considering the increasing popularity of long-distance running and participation in races such as marathons and ultramarathons, the aim of the present study was to review the relationship of such strenuous physical activities with sleep.


          A search of Scopus was performed on 24/6/2023 using the syntax [ABS (sleep) AND ABS (marathon)] to identify relevant papers, the references of which were hand-searched to find additional sources.


          Optimal sleep has been shown to affect injury prevention and susceptibility to infection positively. In turn, participation in a marathon race may influence nocturnal autonomic modulation and disturb homeostasis. Ultramarathon races may have such a long duration that results in sleep deprivation even for several days, where sleep duration is quite below the physiological range. It seems that for ultramarathons of short duration, continuous running and sleep deprivation are beneficial for performance. In contrast, for races longer than 200 miles, it is necessary to develop sleep strategies to sustain performance.


          In summary, the longer the distance of a running race, the greater the importance of an optimal sleep for race performance as well as the impact of a race on sleep.

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          Most cited references47

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          Exercise and sleep.

          This paper reviews the literature on the association between exercise and sleep. The epidemiological and experimental evidence for whether or not acute and chronic exercise promote sleep is discussed, as well as moderating factors and agendas for future directions of study. The expectation that exercise will benefit sleep can partly be attributed to traditional hypotheses that sleep serves energy conservation, body restoration or thermoregulatory functions, all of which have guided much of the research in this field. Exercise is a complex activity that can be beneficial to general well-being but may also stress the body. Differences in the exercise protocols studied (e.g. aerobic or anaerobic, intensity, duration) and interactions between individual characteristics (e.g. fitness, age and gender) cloud the current experimental evidence supporting a sleep-enhancing effect of exercise. In addition, the tendency to study changes in small groups of good sleepers may also underestimate the efficacy of exercise for promoting sleep. Athough only moderate effect sizes have been noted, meta-analytical techniques have shown that exercise increased total sleep time and delayed REM sleep onset (10 min), increased slow-wave sleep (SWS) and reduced REM sleep (2-5 min). The sleep-promoting efficacy of exercise in normal and clinical populations has yet to be established empirically.
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            Does Elite Sport Degrade Sleep Quality? A Systematic Review

            Background Information on sleep quality and insomnia symptomatology among elite athletes remains poorly systematised in the sports science and medicine literature. The extent to which performance in elite sport represents a risk for chronic insomnia is unknown. Objectives The purpose of this systematic review was to profile the objective and experienced characteristics of sleep among elite athletes, and to consider relationships between elite sport and insomnia symptomatology. Methods Studies relating to sleep involving participants described on a pre-defined continuum of ‘eliteness’ were located through a systematic search of four research databases: SPORTDiscus, PubMed, Science Direct and Google Scholar, up to April 2016. Once extracted, studies were categorised as (1) those mainly describing sleep structure/patterns, (2) those mainly describing sleep quality and insomnia symptomatology and (3) those exploring associations between aspects of elite sport and sleep outcomes. Results The search returned 1676 records. Following screening against set criteria, a total of 37 studies were identified. The quality of evidence reviewed was generally low. Pooled sleep quality data revealed high levels of sleep complaints in elite athletes. Three risk factors for sleep disturbance were broadly identified: (1) training, (2) travel and (3) competition. Conclusion While acknowledging the limited number of high-quality evidence reviewed, athletes show a high overall prevalence of insomnia symptoms characterised by longer sleep latencies, greater sleep fragmentation, non-restorative sleep, and excessive daytime fatigue. These symptoms show marked inter-sport differences. Two underlying mechanisms are implicated in the mediation of sport-related insomnia symptoms: pre-sleep cognitive arousal and sleep restriction. Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s40279-016-0650-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
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              Physiology and Pathophysiology in Ultra-Marathon Running

              In this overview, we summarize the findings of the literature with regards to physiology and pathophysiology of ultra-marathon running. The number of ultra-marathon races and the number of official finishers considerably increased in the last decades especially due to the increased number of female and age-group runners. A typical ultra-marathoner is male, married, well-educated, and ~45 years old. Female ultra-marathoners account for ~20% of the total number of finishers. Ultra-marathoners are older and have a larger weekly training volume, but run more slowly during training compared to marathoners. Previous experience (e.g., number of finishes in ultra-marathon races and personal best marathon time) is the most important predictor variable for a successful ultra-marathon performance followed by specific anthropometric (e.g., low body mass index, BMI, and low body fat) and training (e.g., high volume and running speed during training) characteristics. Women are slower than men, but the sex difference in performance decreased in recent years to ~10–20% depending upon the length of the ultra-marathon. The fastest ultra-marathon race times are generally achieved at the age of 35–45 years or older for both women and men, and the age of peak performance increases with increasing race distance or duration. An ultra-marathon leads to an energy deficit resulting in a reduction of both body fat and skeletal muscle mass. An ultra-marathon in combination with other risk factors, such as extreme weather conditions (either heat or cold) or the country where the race is held, can lead to exercise-associated hyponatremia. An ultra-marathon can also lead to changes in biomarkers indicating a pathological process in specific organs or organ systems such as skeletal muscles, heart, liver, kidney, immune and endocrine system. These changes are usually temporary, depending on intensity and duration of the performance, and usually normalize after the race. In longer ultra-marathons, ~50–60% of the participants experience musculoskeletal problems. The most common injuries in ultra-marathoners involve the lower limb, such as the ankle and the knee. An ultra-marathon can lead to an increase in creatine-kinase to values of 100,000–200,000 U/l depending upon the fitness level of the athlete and the length of the race. Furthermore, an ultra-marathon can lead to changes in the heart as shown by changes in cardiac biomarkers, electro- and echocardiography. Ultra-marathoners often suffer from digestive problems and gastrointestinal bleeding after an ultra-marathon is not uncommon. Liver enzymes can also considerably increase during an ultra-marathon. An ultra-marathon often leads to a temporary reduction in renal function. Ultra-marathoners often suffer from upper respiratory infections after an ultra-marathon. Considering the increased number of participants in ultra-marathons, the findings of the present review would have practical applications for a large number of sports scientists and sports medicine practitioners working in this field.

                Author and article information

                Front Neurol
                Front Neurol
                Front. Neurol.
                Frontiers in Neurology
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                22 September 2023
                : 14
                : 1217788
                [1] 1School of Health and Caring Sciences, University of West Attica , Athens, Greece
                [2] 2Institute of Primary Care, University of Zurich , Zürich, Switzerland
                [3] 3Medbase St. Gallen Am Vadianplatz , St. Gallen, Switzerland
                [4] 4Medical School, University of Athens , Athens, Greece
                Author notes

                Edited by: Haitham Jahrami, Arabian Gulf University, Bahrain

                Reviewed by: Ning Dai, China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences, China; Emiliano Cè, University of Milan, Italy; Okba Selmi, University of Jendouba, Tunisia

                *Correspondence: Beat Knechtle, beat.knechtle@ 123456hispeed.ch
                Copyright © 2023 Nikolaidis, Weiss, Knechtle and Trakada.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

                : 05 May 2023
                : 11 September 2023
                Page count
                Figures: 0, Tables: 0, Equations: 0, References: 49, Pages: 5, Words: 4801
                Custom metadata
                Sleep Disorders

                exercise,athletic performance,marathon running,sleep deprivation disorders,sleep extension duration


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