Subject Sweating
Experience From -
Rocky Waters

Subject: Restlessness and Twitching
Experience From -
Jay Hodde , Dennis Halpin , Andy Williams , Robin Holder , George Beinhorn , John Thieme , Karl King , Janice O'Grady , Bob Matulac , Dave Covey

Subject: Good Sleep
Experience From -
Vicky Hoover , Kevin Sayers

Subject: Forced Sleep
Experience From -
Rob Thompson , George Beinhorn , Keith , Unknown

Subject: Sleep Deprevation
Experience From -
Ray Zirblis , Matt Mahoney , Tom DuKet, Dana Roueche , Karl King#2 , Bill LaDieu , Doug McKeever , Andy MacGinnitie, John Vonhof , Mat Kavanaugh , Julio Vegas , Matt Mahoney , Al Sauld , Ray Krolewicz , Jeanie Baker , Pete Stringer , Blake Wood , Steve Simmons , Jeff Washburn , David Sill , Tom Andrews , MRun2far , Matt Mahoney#2 , George Beinhorn , Dan Bratches , Ray Krolewicz#2 , Dave Elsbernd , Ginny La Forme , Tom Andrews#2 ,

Subject: Sleep Aids
Experience From -
Lisa Demoney , George Beinhorn #2, Paul Comet ,

Rocky Waters

Subject: Sweating

Rich Schick wrote:

"Twice after 24 hour runs and three consecutive nights on a multi day non stage run. When I tried to sleep I would awake drenched in my own sweat, this was especially problematic in the multi-day as I woke up dehydrated after getting a couple hours rest. Anybody else out there familiar with this?"
I have had the problem of sweating at night after hard workouts. In fact, it was happening so regularly that I asked my doctor about it. His prescription for me was to eat some carbohydrates before bed. Now I normally eat a bagel before bed on hard workout days and have not had sweating problems. Mary (wife) really appreciates that I am not soaking the sheets anymore. It is a lot more comfortable for me as well.

Jay Hodde

Subject: Restlessness and Twitching

After a long run, say 50-100 miles, do you ever go to sleep the night after you finish and get jerked awake violently because your body is still looking out for rocks, roots, and holes in the trail?

Last weekend after finishing the QQ50 in Missouri, I spent 4 hours lying in bed, restless. My mind was ready to sleep, but my body was still out on the trail. Had I been sharing a bed with someone else, I would have sent her to the emergency room due to all my violent movement.

Does anyone else experience this?

Dennis Halpin

Subject: Restlessness and Twitching

I've only got one run of that length to use as a reference, but I too experienced something similar, except it wasn't my body still looking out for "rocks, roots, and holes," but rather the extreme fatigue and pain in my lower joints. After last year's Sunmart 50 miler, as tired as I was, I didn't sleep well because every time I turned over in my sleep, I would hit a sensitive spot and wake up.

This has never happened after a 50K or lesser distance trail run.

Andy Williams

Subject: Restlessness and Twitching

It happens to me almost every time, but it seems to be worse after runs where I have tripped and/or fallen a lot.

Robin Holder

Subject: Restlessness and Twitching

In her book "Unstoppable" (now out-of-print) New Zealander Sandra Barwick, who set world records for 700, 1000, 1,300 miles and six days here in New York, recalls very vividly the days after her record runs. She writes:

"For a week after the 1,300-miler I could hardly sleep, and when I did I suffered wild dreams and nightmares -- that I was still running, that I had not finished the race. My feet kept running in bed. I would reach the morning completely exhausted. The nightmares were awful after every run but these were particularly bad.1 When I did manage to sleep I was racked by weird and frightening dreams.2 I was so afraid of becoming tired to the point of getting sick that I took a sleeping pill one night and actually slept for four hours solid. It was wonderful."3
1 Unstoppable, The Sandy Barwick Story by Sandy Barwick with Garth Gilmour, (C)1993 Sandy Barwick and Garth Gilmour, first published by Harper Collins Publishers (New Zealand) Limited, at page 6.

2 supra, at p. 120

3 supra, at p. 6

George Beinhorn

Subject: Restlessness and Twitching

Don't know if it's the same, but there's a "jerky-leg" syndrome that's caused by a vitamin or mineral deficiency--I think, vitamin E. This may be discussed in Timothy Noakes's "Lore of Running,". You might want to look it up.

John Thieme

Subject: Restlessness and Twitching

I get this also although my wife, who has also run the same events does not. (I leave our bed to avoid hitting her with my flailing legs etc.) It has only occurred after trail runs and is accompanied by vivid dreams of tripping and falling. Interestingly my wife has never fallen during a trail run, could this account for the difference?

I also sleep poorly after a regular road marathon or a particularly long, hard and hot training run. I've assumed that this is just part of the price for doing what I love. Does anyone on the list have a "cure" that would result in a better night's rest after a long hard run?

Karl King

Subject: Restlessness and Twitching

It is quite normal to get a sharp leg twitch just before falling asleep. There's a name for the event, but I don't remember it off the top of my head.

What Jay and others have experienced is a consequence of the body's reaction to stress. Some hormones and neurotransmitter's remain elevated in the blood for 12-36 hours after a stressful run. Adrenalin can interfere with normal sleep patterns. Memory is also enhanced during stress, so it is not unusual to vividly remember portions of the run.

In the 1992 Mountain Masochist 50 I ran through a tunnel under a road, and when I got to the other side, there was a huge pool of water and no apparent way to get around it. It looked too deep to wade, so I searched and searched for a path. Finally I managed to find it, and the picture of the scene remains quite vivid. Other ultras provide their own memories.

Stress reactions also mimic the reaction to an invading organism, so a runner may be feverish at night after the run.

All of the above is normal and not a cause for concern. You should be concerned if you do not urinate after the run, or if you have chills even though the air temperature is not cold. Failure to resume urination could be a very serious kidney malfunction. Chills despite normal temperatures is a sign of very low sodium, and you should eat something salty.

Janice O'Grady

Subject: Restlessness and Twitching

Boy, you've really got it bad! I've never had the experience you describe, but I always have trouble sleeping that first night, not so much after a 50, but certainly after a 100. I just can't seem to get comfortable, and I do wake up with jerky muscles. And it's just when I'm so tired I'd really like to be sleeping soundly. Makes you wonder why we do this, doesn't it?

Bob Matulac

Subject: Restlessness and Twitching

I found out that, after driving my body to the max especially up to and over marathon distances, I can never sleep the night after the race no matter how tired I am. My sleep is fit full and turned all night with only short periods of sleep in between. The following night is much better and the third night I really pass out. I figured this is just a reaction to driving your body to the extreme and just a normal reaction to the exertion you've just put it through.

Dave Covey

Subject: Restlessness and Twitching

I think the phenomena of the restless nights sleep after a long race is probably pretty common amongst us ultra-types. I know from personal experience that after a hard long race, I usually feel like I could crawl up and go to sleep at the finish line. But get home a few hours later to my nice soft quiet bed, and I just lay there sweating and hashing over the day's events for at least an hour or two before I can nod off to a light sleep. I figure it's something like the body's metabolic system still going in overdrive, winding down it's momentum from the race. (How's that for a totally non-scientific theory?!)

I also experienced the same thing during my 400 mile survival trek across the outback in Australia last summer. To me, each day's effort of lugging a 50 pound. pack across brutally rugged terrain for 10 hours felt like the equivalent of running a hard 50 mile trail run. I would crawl totally exhausted into my bivy sack at approx. 7PM each night, but not be able to fall asleep until sometime after 9PM. Getting up in the cold darkness at 4:30am each morning took some doing, let me tell you.

The only time I've been able to fall asleep right away after a race was after Western States `95, probably the worst and hardest race of my life. I was out cold for 14 hours-my buddy who's house I had crashed at was starting to worry that I had maybe fallen into a coma! Ah, the things we do to ourselves, eh?

Vicky Hoover

Subject: Good Sleep

I believe it's even more important and usually easier to get a great nights sleep the night before the night before the race. Along with pre-race excitement and preparations you usually have unusual surroundings and carbo- load to deal with the night before the race.

Get everything ready for your trip and/or run several days ahead. Take it easy for a day or two and relax into a FULL nights sleep two nights previous to the race.

I'm always afraid I won't get up in time and taking anything stronger than a couple of aspirins would make wonder if I would wake up on time and/or if I'd be alert enough if I did.

Kevin Sayers

Subject: Good Sleep

A week before a 100 miler I make sure I go to bed by 10:00 every night. I get up at 5:00 every morning so that gives me a good 7 hours of sleep. On weekends I'll often nap for an hour in the afternoon to give me that extra time. Since most races start early Saturday morning my most important nights sleep is Thursday. I'll try to go to bed at 9:00 and sleep for as long as I can the next morning. I always feel real good after that sleep and it helps to off set the short night sleep that I get the night before a race.

Rob Thompson

Subject: Forced Sleep

Dalton wrote:

"Just wondering if anyone knows a good way to make someone go to sleep when needed."
Take no caffeine 7-8 hours before projected down time, then take Tylenol PM when you're ready snooze. Works for me!

George Beinhorn

Subject: Forced Sleep

I've used melatonin occasionally for insomnia. What I've found is that for one night it's okay--good sleep but a little groggy in the morning. But if I take it two nights in a row, things start to change--I begin to notice after-effects that are fairly profound. It's as if my sleep was "incomplete" and I was unable to do whatever chemical or emotional "sleep work" happens at night. I begin to feel out of sorts emotionally. Can't put my finger on it exactly, but it's a consistent effect.


Subject: Forced Sleep

I've used Melatonin for the last 2 years with very good results. The problem that most people make is that they take too much of it. It is sold in sizes anywhere from .5 mg to 5 mg. You can buy it as a normal capsule, liquid, timed release or as a pill that you let dissolve under your tongue. I use the .5mg dosage in the form that dissolves under the tongue. If the .5mg doesn't work(it almost always does), then I'll take a 2nd after the first has completely dissolved. For those who have felt a little groggy in the morning, you may be taking a higher dosage than you need.

I took it the last 2 years the night before Leadville and it worked great. I doubt that I would have slept at all without it.


Subject: Forced Sleep

I have intermittently used melatonin for 2 years without problems/side effects. It has really helped me to get that necessary sleep leading up to a race. I never use it the night before a race, as it leaves me a bit groggy initially in the morning; but, 2-3 nights before the race I definitely use it with success.

Ray Zirblis

Subject: Sleep deprivation

Tim Rainey wrote:

"Can anyone tell me how to prepare for the sleep deprivation part of a 24 hour race? I want to run one at the end of May but I'm not good at missing sleep! "
Here are some things that work for me: pay attention to getting a good nights sleep in the week before; Sometimes I sleep on the floor to get used to camping out the night before; When I remember, I stop the coffee for a month before the 24-hour so that when I do take caffeine, it really kicks in; Chewable No-Doz come on quickest for me, by I am having trouble finding it and suspect it may be discontinued; buddying up, finding someone who is going maybe a hair faster then I am and staying with them, has gotten me through some tough times; Needless to say, keeping well fed and hydrated is a must; What ever hot or gourmet food/drink one likes can be a real lift; "Beware of the chair."

If I have a schedule of walking/running, shoe and sock change, supplement popping or whatever, night is when I begin to let it slide, so a night training run in which one gets used to sticking with the program in the dark, helps me. Having a flashlight and well organized aid table or car seat is real helpful.

For me, night running is very interesting and an experience to be relished. The sense of isolation, the hallucinations What I would have sworn as 40 feet away to be a bunch of giant vultures feasting on a dead runner, dissolved foot by foot into an unmanned aid station table draped in black plastic--the raw gladness at coming upon someone, anyone, in the dark and knowing that another person is actually out there, has moved me to tears.

At night I feel like the ego and pretensions are stripped away and I pass through something, 'the dark night of the soul' or whatever. When the sun comes up or the lights and music of the finish line appear, I always feel cleansed and humbled, forgiving and forgiven.

Kevin Setnes has noted the value of amino acids for maintaining alertness and focus, but I haven't really given them a try. I have friends who swear by a twenty minute nap, but haven't tried that either.

Matt Mahoney

Subject: Sleep deprivation

"Can anyone tell me how to prepare for the sleep deprivation part of a 24 hour race? "
First, go off caffeine. No coffee, tea, or soda. Your life will be hell for the next 2 weeks. Tough. If you don't have the discipline to quit, you shouldn't be doing ultras.

During the race, take 100 mg caffeine at 10 PM (or your normal bedtime), 100 mg at 1 AM, and 200 mg at 4 AM. Do not take any during the day. You won't need it. You can use the same strategy on the second night of a 48 hour race as well. (I did this at Hardrock, but I don't have experience at anything longer than 51 hours). 100 mg. is equal to a cup of coffee or 2 sodas.

You should not have any problem with hallucinations on this schedule, but if you do (probably around 3 to 5 AM), take a 10 or 15 minute nap.

Your body's biological clock keeps running with or without sleep. Expect to be slower and to lose your appetite at night. At sunrise you will get hungry and be able to pick up the pace. In a 48 hour, this will happen twice.

Do not resume your caffeine addiction after the race. Get some sleep.

Tom DuKet

Subject: Sleep deprivation

I worried about sleep before running the Western States because I am capable of falling asleep in mid conversation after 10 PM. It's true that I didn't run a full 24 hours the times I ran the Western States, but it was at least 24 hours before I got to bed. I made no preparation for staying awake, like pills or practice staying awake. My training did include night runs. I had no problems staying awake. I recommend no preparation, especially forcing yourself to loose sleep in training or using drugs. The effort and the pain will keep you up.

For those not putting out effort, sleep is a problem. I paced a friend of mine from Forest Hill to the finish one year and almost keeled over a couple of times. When I picked up my runner we were both feeling well and moving OK, but somewhere along the California Loop he slowed down so much I couldn't get enough adrenaline going to stay awake. He was wide awake. I was loosing it. Finally I had to hold the light for him at the top of each hill and wait till he got to the bottom. Then I would run like hell to the bottom and be awake when I got there.

As long as you don't stop too long you'll be fine. If you lay down or sit in a chair for "just a minute or two longer" you're history. That happened to the BAZ one year at mile 70.

Dana Roueche

Subject: Sleep deprivation

Eric Robinson wrote:

"You can and should practice running on insufficient sleep to gain familiarity with the process, and how your body responds to it. However, I wouldn't make these runs a regular part of your routine because that would add unwarranted stress to your life. I doubt very seriously that this aspect of ultrarunning actually responds to training; i.e. you're not going to induce a physiological adaptation that improves your ability to stay awake. Not with training anyway. "
When I do my long runs, I tend to get up at 1:00 AM so that I can be out the door on a 36 mile run by 1:30 and back home by 7:00 AM. The reason I do this is because I can't afford to spend half the day running during more reasonable hours. Eric is right that it does add stress, but I'm not sure it is unwarranted though.

It is always important to get enough sleep but there is a quantity vs. quality variable that comes into play. Since 24 hrs isn't a long enough day for me, I tend to spend less time in bed in order to squeeze more stuff in my day. What I have found is that if I spend less time in bed, the quality of the sleep I do get is up there and it is very deep. Minutes after my head hits the pillow, I'm out like a light and I stay that way until the alarm wakes me up. I can't remember the last time I had a restless night which I attribute to limiting my down time.

I found that after running from 1:00 AM until 7:00 AM weekly for many months of the year, by the time I'm in a race, I've grown very accustomed to running at that time of day. To the point where it actually feels good to be out there enjoying the whole world to myself. What happens to me in a race is I will get drowsy around 10:00 PM when I normally go to bed so it is a good time to take some caffeine and Branched Chain Amino Acids, (BCAA). I'll struggle for a few hrs, then I'll get over it and start feeling good again from midnight on. When it gets to 4:00 AM, my normal wake up time, I perk up and I'm ready to push to the finish. I tend to pass a lot of people in a 100 miler from midnight until the finish and I attribute it to the fact that I am probably more used to running at that time of day than they are.

Because I know that my weak spot is between 10:00 PM and 12:00 AM, I plan for it. That is when I plan for longer aid station breaks to put on warmer clothes, get a lot to eat, enjoy the volunteers, etc. During that time I try not to loose ground but I don't try making any up either. Once midnight hits, I purposely set my sights on someone ahead and try to pass them. That usually gets my momentum going and I try to continue it.

There is also a strong mental aspect to running at night. If you are worried it is going to wipe you out to loose a few hours of sleep, it probably will. By training at night, it will give you the confidence knowing that you won't roll over and die because you missed some sleep that night. It is also a big help if you convince yourself to look forward to running at night. For me, it is one of my favorite parts of the experience. The crowds of runners have thinned out, it is quiet and can be very beautiful. The Western 100's are totally magnificent at night. At Hardrock, even on a moonless night if it is clear, there are so many stars that they light up the trail. When you look up, there are barely any dark spots between the stars. At Leadville, you can see the light reflecting off of Turquoise lake when on Sugarloaf then see the huge peaks of Massive and Elbert reflecting off of the lake when you are going around it. At Western States you can look down into the canyon and the star and moonlight will turn the American river into a huge silver snake winding through the canyon. The whole A. R. canyon is huge and beautiful to see at night.

My advice is to simply do your long runs at night. You will get your endurance training in and you will become accustomed to run during a special time of day.

Karl King #2

Subject: Sleep deprivation

Adding to the comments from Dana Roueche and Matt Mahoney...

I've never suffered from sleep deprivation while running at night. It is a special time to run, and I'd hate to miss any of it because of grogginess. What works for me:

  1. regularly run at night

  2. take in Branched Chain Amino Acids, either in your sports drink or as a supplement during the run, but especially at night.

  3. restrict caffeine so that it is more effective during the night. I don't like the acidity of coffee while running, so I use guarana capsules. The equivalent of couple cups of coffee over an 8-10 hour period works well for me.

It is important to reduce caffeine well before your night run. Regular use of caffeine increases the number of adenosine receptors on cell walls, setting you up for fatigue when energy is low ( consistent with most 100s when the night running takes place late in the run ). If you cut out caffeine, it takes a couple weeks for the excess adenosine receptors to be lost from the cell walls.

Bill LaDieu

Subject: Sleep deprivation

Staying awake at night has never been a problem for me. I very much enjoy running at night. Its a blast running like mad down a hill when you can barely see while trying not to kill yourself. This is especially true in eastern 100s where it is so dark sometimes that you can't even see your hand in front of your face. Running at night is what makes running 100s special...

I am a heavy coffee drinker and drink one or two mugs right before the start. Also do this in training. I don't take any caffinated drinks for until late in the race then I switch over to Coke more for the sugar than the caffeine. At Haliburton last September I drank two bottles of Starbucks Cappuccino (sp) a coffee milk and sugar drink. Pure rocket fuel. Tastes great and goes down easy. Sure beats hell out of steady diet of sports drink. My usual problem is trying to get enough rest before the race. At all the 100s that I have started 4 two DNF's I have not slept a wink the night before the run.

Doug McKeever

Subject: Sleep deprivation

Tim Rainey wrote:

"Can anyone tell me how to prepare for the sleep deprivation part of a 24 hour race? I want to run one at the end of May but I'm not good at missing sleep!"
First of all, try to get as much sleep as possible, certainly not less than your usual, for the week before your event. I usually do this, but prior to my most recent run, the Iditasport 100, I had only gotten 4 hours of sleep a night for the 3 nights prior, for various reasons. I experienced sleepiness like I have never had in a 100 before, when after being out there for about 16 hours I kept sleep-walking off the packed snow into the deep snow.....I would wake up when I was wallowing in knee deep snow. I was glad that in that event one must carry their own portable aid station including sleeping bag, so I slept for 2.5 hours and felt much more rested.

You might want to practice for the sleepies with a couple of night runs, partly to work out any bugs in your lighting system, but also to see what the night running is all about. I suggest going out when you are already tired and try to get on a route similar to what your race will have. You didn't say whether or not it was a track or multiple loop path, which is probably the case if it is a 24 hr.

You may be pleasantly surprised, as I was for my first 100 miler (Leadville '88) that there is enough to concentrate on, such as staying fed and watered, adjusting clothing, staying on course (if on a trail, anyhow),etc. that the hours go by too fast and staying awake isn't that hard to do.

Andy MacGinnitie

Subject: Sleep deprivation

As a pediatrics resident, I get to spend every fourth night "on call" in the hospital, working most or all of the night, after working a full day, and before working most of the next day. Here are some observations about sleep deprivation.

  1. Some people are just better at it than others. You get better at it. Whether this represents a true physiological adaptation or just a psychological one I don't know. I suspect there is some physiological component, however. I'd hypothesize the production of stress hormones in response to sleep deprivation is decreased as you do it more and more.

  2. The better shape you are in the easier it is to deal with.

  3. Once morning comes, you feel a whole lot better

  4. Caffeine helps

  5. Staying well hydrated and fueled helps a lot.

  6. Your ability to thermoregulate goes to hell.

  7. You start thinking short-term (if I do this I can lay down) and forget about the big picture (this patient is dying; I have xx miles to go)

Having only run one race that ran into the night and having been lucky enough to finish that one at 3:30AM and then get a little sleep, I can't directly apply my experience to racing, but here would be my suggestions.

  1. Go in well rested. It can be hard with travel and early start times for most 100s/24 hours, but try to get a lot of sleep the week before. If you can try taking a nap the afternoon before.

  2. If you can, do a few late night training runs. Go running, even if for only an hour, at or after your usual bed time.

  3. Make sure you have warm clothes, warmer than you think you will need.

  4. Make sure you go into the night well hydrated and well fed. If you get behind during the day, take advantage of the cooler temps and slower pace at night to catch up

  5. Have a plan about using supplements. I bet that going off caffeine prior to the race and then using it at night would be very effective. In Rich Limachers epic tale of his western states finish, Gordie Ansleigh advocates such a plan.

    Personally I can't imagine giving up coffee for two weeks, so I just carried caffeine pills to supplement my intake of coke and "frappacinos" (or whatever those starbuck drinks are called) which seemed to work fine.

  6. If you start to feel really tired, try to focus in on short-term goals (the next aid station, the top of the hill)

  7. If you sit or lay down it will be a lot harder to get back up than it would have been to keep moving in the first place.

John Vonhof

Subject: Sleep deprivation

Andy MacGinnitie wrote:

"Some people are just better at it than others."
Very true. Some people need a short nap every few hours in order to make it through the night. Others have a more natural ability to deal with the sleep loss.

"Staying well hydrated and fueled helps a lot."
I always try to stay fully hydrated and find it helps.

"You start thinking short-term (if I do this I can lay down) and forget about the big picture (this patient is dying; I have xx miles to go) "
Working in an ER and Trauma center, I work different shifts every week and that included many night shifts, evening shifts and a cross between the two--in addition to day shifts. I have found that my experience in ultras, 24-hour track runs and WS100, has given me a valuable understanding in how my body reacts to sleep loss. I can tolerate it fine. It helps that I am goal orientated and see the end of the shift as the light at the end of the tunnel (shift). Many nights, like last night, we have no time to sit down, no lunch break, and are lucky to find time to drink your soda. I have found that many other doctors and nurses have a difficult time with the shift changes.

Short naps help. In the first Gibson Ranch 72-hour run, I finally learned the value of a 20 to 25-minute nap. One of these every six hours with your feet raised helped a great deal. In 24-hour runs, I never lay down or rest until the event is over. For me, that works, for others, it doesn't.

I was fortunate to learn from runners like the late Dick Collins, Jim Skophammer, and Gard Leighton.

Mat Kavanaugh

Subject: Sleep Deprivation

Single most effective item for me: hot chocolate and coffee, loaded with sugar, fat and caffeine, and hot. If the aid stations have, it's a great treat. I don't drink coffee after lunch so I find I don't need to abstain in advance of an ultra to get the benefit of caffeine during the night.

Julio Vegas

Subject: Sleep Deprivation

Hi, I would like to have some ideas on training for sleep deprivation. Have any of you tried conditioning yourself to stay awake when tired by taking sleep medication before training.

To me, this seems rather analogous to altitude training.

Has anyone tried this?

Matt Mahoney

Subject: Sleep Deprivation

I don't believe you can train for sleep depravation. Many people chronically don't get enough sleep for years, but their need for sleep does not decrease as a result.

I can stay awake all night by taking caffeine: 100 mg at 10PM, 100 mg at 1AM, and 200 mg at 4AM. I don't normally use any caffeine, so I don't need a lot. 100 mg is 1 cup of coffee or 2 sodas, but I usually take 1/2 a NoDoz. I don't need any caffeine after sunrise. Sometimes I will take a 10-15 minute nap around 3AM to prevent hallucinations. It will be much harder to get up if you sleep longer than that.

I didn't know what to expect the first time I stayed up 2 nights. That was at Hardrock in 1998 when I got lost at the end and finished unofficially in 51 hours. I slept 15 minutes the first night as planned (around 5:30 AM), but surprisingly I was not sleepy on the second night, maybe because I was angry at being lost. However, after the race at the awards around 10AM, I was so sleepy that I could close my eyes while standing and fall asleep in 1 second, only to wake up as I started to fall. I took an 8 hour nap and slept 10 more hours that night.

At Nolan's 14 (55 hours), I slept 3 hours on the first night (in order to make the difficult descent of Mt. Huron in daylight) and had no trouble not sleeping on the second night.

Al Sauld

Subject: Sleep Deprivation

I Work in a paper mill with a southern swing shift so we put in one midnight shift seven days in row once a month great training on sleep deprivation. Have used sleep medication to try and get some sleep in the AM after work doesn't even work than. Sometimes I will run for a couple of hours after midnight shift hard to beat training doing the real thing.

Ray Krolewicz

Subject: Sleep Deprivation

You can not train for sleep deprivation. In fact stay rested, then when on occasion you need to be mentally tough it is easier.

Jeanie Baker

Subject: Sleep Deprivation

I think taking medication is bad enough when you need it, but when you don't need it, certainly it should not be used. As Matt stated, there is no real way to train physically for sleep deprivation, however, you can train mentally somewhat by doing a long run after a full day's work and run through the night.

Pete Stringer

Subject: Sleep Deprivation

I think sleep deprivation could be a learned thing, though I could not explain physiologically how this takes place. Perhaps similar to the minute adjustments the brain must make for the endocrine system to function as it is required to provide its operation way beyond previous perimeters as we run way past previous distances? Surely that requires some "training" on a subconscious level.

I remember nearly falling asleep as I shuffled along in the wee hours of my first hundred, absolutely fighting to stay awake.Then, with each succeeding race, it simply becoming less a problem, or at least more manageable and therefore not so annoying. Now, it simply does not represent much of a factor.

I have not done multi-day races, where I am sure my limit would be reached, but again, I would learn to push the limits ever further without being able to scientifically explain how the body accommodates these extravagant requests. The body seems to come up with the answer by its own self, 'specially if not unduly bothered by the mind's imagined limits!

Blake Wood

Subject: Sleep Deprivation

I agree with the list wisdom that you can't train for sleep deprivation. However, there are a number of tricks you can use so it is not a problem.

I'm not a natural stay-up-at-night guy, and always had terrible problems staying awake before figuring out these tricks. Now I find I can make it through two nights in row without too much trouble.

Keeping your mind engaged is the best way. The only times I had trouble during the second night at Barkley or Nolans is when I was on a put-one-foot-in-front-of-the-other section. Otherwise, the mental challenge of route finding and avoiding cliffs and mine shafts was enough to keep me awake. Having someone else along to talk to helps, but only if you can hold a coherent conversation - if you're tired enough that you can't do much more than grunt, it's doesn't work as well.

Like Matt, I find that a bit of caffeine helps. Unlike Matt, I DO drink coffee, but I lay off the stuff for about 3 weeks before the event. Back before I figured out this layoff technique, caffeine during the night in an ultra had little effect on me - my system was too used to it.

The real miracle item for me is sunflower seeds. Shelling the seed with the tongue and spitting out the shells is enough mental activity to keep me awake. I also use this on long drives and in boring meetings. Get the unsalted seeds so you don't pickle your tongue and lips.

Steve Simmons

Subject: Sleep Deprivation

There are different variables to sleep deprivation. The level of effect that lack of sleep has on people mentally and physically is different. And even more, people have different tolerances to lack of sleep as well. I agree that you can't simply train for sleep deprivation, and expect it not to effect you, but I do think a person can physically and mentally adapt to lack of sleep over a longer period of time, like years. Also in my opinion it is as much a discomfort that can be dealt with as with anything else, and some people can handle it better than others. Doesn't mean you can turn it on or off, but it's no different than the way some people could handle pushing forward on stiff legs or on blistered feet for many more miles more so than others.

As it pertains to running 100 mile distances or more, there are also many variables. Without a doubt in my opinion, the biggest key is how rested a person is overall in the days leading up to a long race. Obviously how rested a person is at the start makes a big difference in how well they are rested later, or during the night of a race, regardless of their level of tolerance.

Also as it pertains to running races, for much longer races especially, as in days, 1 or 2 hours sleep during the event makes a big difference. I have considerable experience with lack of sleep, not necessarily from running longer races, but from a lifestyle that has adapted from increasingly less and less sleep over a period of almost 14 years now. I also have nocturnal habits, and I think that makes a big difference when it comes to tolerance of lack of sleep, as many people are programed in a sense to associate night time and darkness with sleep. It's natural for most, but not so for others.

But something I have learned about serious sleep deprivation is that what a person often requires or desires more than they realize is not physical, but mental, and that is to shut the mind down for a while. When I am most tired, particularly after 2 days without sleep or more, the thing I desire the most is to shut my mind down for awhile, to be able to stop thinking for awhile. Think of your mind like a computer, always computing while it's on, but when we sleep we shut our minds down as much as shut ourselves down physically, and bring closure to many mental events.

Another thing to consider about lack of sleep, particularly as it pertains to racing is how it effects your eyes, your eyes are heavy, and the amount of straining your eyes that you are able to reduce makes a considerable difference.

Lighting is a big factor. To bright a light can tire your eyes, as can straining to see a trail in light that is to dim. The better a medium is reached the less your eyes are strained overall. Also in my opinion, a moonlit night is easier to handle.

Making it through the night is a big step, as sleep deprivation diminishes in the light of a 2nd day, again in my opinion, much because the strain is taken off your eyes considerably.

A last thought to consider is the effect lack of sleep has "hallucinations". I mention this because it's my opinion there are big differences in hallucinations and your eyes playing tricks on you. As the lack of sleep builds your focus isn't as good, and what I think many people consider hallucinations I think of as having your eyes play tricks on you. There is a difference.

Hallucinations seem to be when your mind is in a different state, and isn't reacting what you see visually, but is functioning from within, like daydreaming.

At Hardrock I had 2 vivid incidents when my mind played tricks on me. Just after darkness on the 2nd night as I was descending the trail into Silverton on the last section, I entered the tree line and as I took a slight curve I thought I almost came upon an eerie looking person crouched down behind a small tree, and it slightly alarmed me, but there were only some small twigs and brush there and I quickly, almost instantaneously, saw that it wasn't a person, and took a deep breath not stopping.

Not long after, not far from the stream crossing in the heavily pined forest I came around a curve in the trail and just at the end of my light I thought I saw a wolf standing there facing me which took my breath away for a slight second, but again I almost immediately realized it was nothing but my eyes playing tricks on me and continued after a slight hesitation. Never was I "out of it" mentally during this time, but rather my eyes were strained at this point.

Again hallucinations come when your mind isn't registering or thinking according to what your eyes see visually.

If a person has a conversation with someone or something then that comes from within the mind then they are out of it. If a person sees something strange that no one else there with them sees while going along again, that persons thoughts have receded into their minds and they aren't in touch with their actual surroundings.

I wrote something about hallucinations and Badwater many months ago that slightly pertains. A person can often read about how spiritual Badwater is, my opinion is this is because of the environment.

During most of even the longest ultra events, there are many sights and highs along the way, as well as intermediate goals to be met, often right from the start. The experience is outward overall, and most hallucinations, if any, most likely come late during the race when under exhausting or trying conditions a person resorts to thinking inward.

At Badwater, there is considerable discomfort because of the intense heat right from the start, and despite the fact that I think it's a beautiful and fascinating environment, it is overall void of interminate goals, visually, and in strategy.

All in all, a person handles it by retreating into their minds to escape the discomfort, not long after the start. Over a period of 135 to 157 slow miles, it is physically and emotionally extremely trying, much more so than almost any other endurance event there is, I consider it to be by far the most extreme of events for much this reason, and one could easily imagine the level at which people would retreat deep into their minds overall through such an event.

That has everything to do with the reason most people who have attempted it conclude what a spiritual experience it is, in addition to the reason for the extreme hallucinations one can read about that come from Badwater. All of this adding to the notion that in fact, ultra running is as much, if not more, mental, than it is physical.

Jeff Washburn

Subject: Sleep Deprivation

I found last year, in my first 6-Day race, that getting off my feet was more important than sleep. I went for the first 27 hours without taking a rest and have learned from that mistake. This year I plan to put my feet up every six hours for an hour. All the main meals are at noon, 6PM & 6AM, plus whatever you need in between. As for sleep, I plan to do it only as necessary or during my one hour breaks, whichever I can get away with.

David Sill

Subject: Sleep Deprivation

I have only done one six day race and I did what you propose - I slept only when I got very tired. For a person that usually needs a lot of sleep I actually slept very little - a total of four hours in six days.

I found that the adrenalin was pumping and I had difficulty sleeping! I had daily targets and wanted to meet them. Also, whilst I only went there to run against myself and the distance, I actually ended up in competitive situations with other runners which had a big influence on when I decided to come off the track.

It was surprising that even a sleep of half an hour really picked me up. So much so that in future if I start to get very slow I will go off for a short sleep because the improved performance afterwards quickly recovers the time off the track.

When you can pick the time to sleep I would suggest just before dawn is best.

I think the most important issue in races of six days and longer is to stay injury free. I struck problems with shin splints from day three.

Tom Andrews

Subject: Sleep Deprivation

I am enjoying the talk on the list about going without sleep. I have done 4 of the 48 hour races and sleeping has not really been much of a factor in them. The runners who do real well at the 48 hours races can take only an hour or even two of sleep (at the most), in my experience of only 4 races.

But I am now entered in my first 6-day in New York City at the end of April and wondering just how I will handle sleeping.

For training for my first 48 hour race I tried to run off and on and also stay awake for 36 hours. It showed me I could handle being up that long OK so I only did it once. Psychologically it helped me.

The banter about sleep is very timely - thanks all! I will give my input when I get back from there in May.

My plan is to go into the race well rested and just play it by ear to stay healthy for the entire time. I will take rest only when I am very sleepy, and since the race starts at noon, I will not sleep probably for the first 36 hours.

But my plan is to stay flexible and weigh a lot of ongoing factors; I won't plan to run to any schedule.


Subject: Sleep Deprivation

When I first ran a 100 ten years ago, I cruised through the night so excited by the whole deal that sleep was literally the furthest thing from my mind. Re-enforcing my anti-sleep mentality was the sight of a fellow runner dead asleep at 90 miles (as I recall, this was the last aid station before the barn at VT); try as he might his pacer couldn't wake the guy, he ended up a DNF.

That image has haunted me to this day. During the last couple of 100s I've done/attempted I have been possessed by the need for sleep. I mean we're talking about The Land Of The Walking Dead here. Stumbling along, mumbling to myself, falling off the trail, etc. (Some of you may recognize me from this description!)

Obviously I could benefit from sleep in situations like this, but I'm afraid I'll end up like ComaBoy mentioned above. As I rarely run with a pacer, the dilemma is even more dire.

Anybody have some constructive solutions??? Caffeine doesn't work, audio stimulation doesn't cut it, it's frustrating. I hate to think I'm destined to a life spent sleepily watching late-night NASCAR reruns in the Barkelounger...

Matt Mahoney#2

Subject: Sleep Deprivation

If you have to sleep during an ultra it should either be less than 15 minutes or for 2-3 hours. Someone else mentioned about sleep cycles of REM (dreaming) sleep and deep sleep, each cycle lasting a couple of hours. It is very hard to wake up from a deep sleep, so you should finish the cycle and wake up during your next REM stage when it's easier. Don't use an alarm. Instead, plan how long you are going to sleep. You should be able to wake yourself if you are in the right part of the cycle. I find that if I start hallucinating or staggering around 3-4 AM in a race, that I can sit and close my eyes for 15 minutes in a light, REM dreaming sleep and easily wake myself up and be alert afterwards. Sometimes I don't sleep at all, but then find I need a 5-10 minute nap of REM sleep in the early afternoon. I did this my last 2 times at Hardrock when I finished around 42 hours.

At Hardrock 3 years ago when I went 51 hours, I slept 15 minutes around 5:30 AM on the first night and did not sleep on the second night. I was alert because I was mad at being lost, but the reason I was lost was because I made stupid mistakes because of sleep deprivation. I was sure that I had never seen this trail before, even though it was marked and I had trained on it a week earlier. You can ask Blake Wood and David Horton about how the second night affected their ability to think clearly during their fourth loop attempts at Barkley. You don't know until you experience it yourself.

At Nolan's 14 Eric Robinson and I slept 3 hours during the first night and had no trouble staying awake during the second night traverse of Harvard and Columbia. I plan to use the same strategy this year. Blake Wood did not sleep during the first night and built a big lead, but it caught up with him during the second night when he stopped for about 4 hours between Yale and Princeton.

George Beinhorn

Subject: Sleep Deprivation

Watched a documentary on the Navy Seals' "Hell Week." Talk about an ultra. Six days of continuous hard exercise and verbal abuse, with a maximum of four hours' sleep. Sixty-five percent dropout rate--and these are very tough guys going into the training.

Interesting--one of the commanders said the single thing that separates the successful candidates is their ability to forget about themselves and work for the good of the group, after the thinking brain has long since gone south. Amazing.

Similar in that respect to the Eco-Challenge, I suspect. The best teams always seem to have that undaunted attitude of...what is it? Heart? Old Seals said that, decades later, they still remembered the names of everyone in their Hell Week class, and that many of them had become lifelong friends.

Dan Bratches (BUD/S Class 170, SEAL TEAM TWO)

Subject: Sleep Deprivation

It is a hard realization and comfortable understanding of your limitations as an individual versus that which comes from the strength of being part of something bigger than yourself.It is out there for anyone as long as they choose to believe in this.What allowed me to carry on in Pittsburgh last Saturday for 50 miles and 14 hours was far beyond my physical conditioning.My victory was achieved by seeing all these studs lap me, watching them give everything they had,the selfless volunteers working away,the constant "hang in there"and "good jobs",and fellows like yourself George who leave information behind for us first timers to tap into.The list goes on.Thats the beauty of it.We are physically all out there as individuals but in reality we do represent something bigger and stronger.Through this,we can and will endure.

Ray Krolewicz#2

Subject: Sleep Deprivation

48 hours 217 miles 2 naps 2 1/2 hours, 1 1/2 hours 4 total hours
48 hours 222 miles 2 naps 1 1/2 hours 3 hours 4 1/2 total hours
48 hours 225 miles 1 nap 5 1/2 hours (same total for those mathematically challenged)

6 days, sleep just before the hallucinations start

Dave Elsbernd

"Anybody have some constructive solutions??? Caffeine doesn't work, audio stimulation doesn't cut it, it's frustrating."
Similar to Blake's use of sunflower seeds, I find that tootsie roll pops do the trick on those long nocturnal drives. Besides the taste, the hand is occupied hanging on to that stick and that seems to make a difference in keeping the brain occupied.

Never tried it to keep awake, but it seems smoking would have the same effect.

Ginny La Forme

Subject: Sleep Deprivation

I found some chewing gum with caffeine and used it during my second night at HRH '98. Seemed like the chewing really helped me wake up and it was easy to use only the necessary amount of caffeine, as compared to tablets. The gum was cinnamon flavor and I found it at a convenience store. I've looked for it ever since, but have never seen it again. Any one know where to get it ?

During my two 46+ hr finishes at Hardrock I found that even a two minute nap was extremely effective, but it's important to have someone there to make sure you wake up. In '98 I didn't sleep at all, but suffered from some disorientation and "moving rocks", which was corrected with a brief pause, and the gum. In '99 I used the 2 min nap and a 15 min one which was no more effective as I couldn't really sleep for most of it. In the 8 1/2 day Eco-Challenge we usually rested 3 hrs per night. However I found that at our official sleep breaks I couldn't achieve a deep sleep, but did much better during short breaks when I just conked out for a few minutes.

I'm planning to use a strategy of taking short sleep breaks whenever I get really groggy at HRH and Nolans this year. Guess I'll find out the first time whether I can rely on my past tendency to wake up by myself.

Tom Andrews#2

Subject: Sleep Deprivation

A doctor friend told me that when the body is very very tired, it will directly into REM sleep rather than have to go through the regular long cycle.

Once I got so tired on a track run in the second night of a 48 hour, that when the radio stopped being broadcasted for the night from the speakers, and the fog rolled in on the place from the ocean, the looks and feel of the place had changed enough that I was confused. I asked my wife if we were going to go back to the track where we had started or were we going to finish at this one the next morning? She just went along with it and said we were going to stay here for the rest of the race.

One runner was jumping over the shadow of a pole that was on the track. In the contrast of light and dark it looked like a solid object to her that would trip her if she didn't jump over it.

One runner in a 6-day was trying to pick bugs out of the air in front of his eyes (there were no real bugs.) He was r-e-a-l tired.

I imagine this 6 day will be one of the biggest adventures I will ever be a participant in. I am looking forward to it in some ways.

Lisa Demoney

Subject: Sleep Aids

A belated response to this question........For nights when I have trouble sleeping, due to muscle discomfort and/or I'm mentally wound-up, I take this wonderful supplement called A-B Calm. It's powdered calcium gluconate and magnesium carbonate that you mix with hot water or tea. It really works for me, and it's all natural and non-habit forming. The label says:

Calcium and magnesium have been used for years as a natural remedy for pain, tension, stress and strain. However, conventional cal-mag supplements are sometime difficult to assimilate.....Take before bedtime to prevent night leg cramps and twitching. Calm is beneficial for menstrual and other muscle cramping. Calm helps relieve pain and aching muscles caused by sports related activities. Calm helps you relax and sleep without prescription drugs.

I have found all of this to be true, and I have no ties to the company nor anything to gain from endorsing it. I get it at my local health food and vitamin stores. You could probably also get it from a chiropractor. I'd love to hear if anyone on the list uses it and what your experience is.

George Beinhorn #2

Subject: Sleep Aids

Melatonin is one of those perennials of the health food trade that spring up every five minutes, promising a cure for ailment X and no side effects. Take it for one night, and you'll feel sorta okay. Take it two nights running, and you'll begin to feel as though you had poor-quality sleep. It definitely deprives the brain of "some" kind of sleep that it needs.

Valerian, another health food store sleep potion, tends to make the mind drowsy and dull. If you can get hold of some jatamamsi, an India herb (search the Web!), it does pretty much the same things as valerian, but without the mental dulling.

Paul Comet

Subject: Sleep Aids

Anybody have ideas for getting some sleep the night before a race? Is melatonin the answer? If so, when is it taken - at bedtime?

I can tell you what does NOT work: Scotch. Linus Pauling said that what kept him healthy was not the megadoses of Vitamin C, but the drink he had every day. I agree. I take a drink or two before bed. I listen to music and/or read while relaxing with a drink. At the Philly marathon in 97 I opened a bottle in the hotel room for a nightcap. Despite the drink, I couldn't sleep, so I poured another. And another. I woke up with a pounding headache and hangover, and discovered that the bottle was half empty.

In a second stroke of running genius, I decided that the way to avoid losing time due to bathroom breaks was to not have them. So the day before the race I took laxatives with the idea that my bowels would be empty during the race. But what the laxatives apparently did was to strip my body of energy and nutrients. The combination of the laxative plus the alcohol resulted in a monster case of hitting the wall at 18 miles. I finished the marathon, but it was a near-death experience; at the end I was hallucinating.