Is Sleep Important? Sleep for performance.
After speaking with many, I have heard a repeating theme… “I’m tired… I’m sore…” When I ask, “How much sleep do you get?” I usually hear “oh I don’t know, 4-7 hours.” That just simply is not enough. Even for those of you who are getting 8-9 hours, is it good sleep?
The Crossfit Journal published a great article dedicated to the study of sleep for athletes. According to multiple medical studies, the high level athlete needs around 9-10 hours of sleep! Who out there is getting that many GOOD hours? Here is a basic overview of the sleep cycle, how sleep deprivation affects the body, the benefits of GOOD sleep and a few sleep tips.
The 4 stages of sleep:
Stage 1: Last approximately 20 minutes during which your heart rate slows and your body temperature drops. You can be awakened easily and often experience muscle twitches and the sensation of falling. This stage has been linked to muscle memory and internalizing movements that were learned and practiced throughout the day (Make sure you sleep well after the Olympic Weight Lifting Seminar!).
Stage 2: This is the transitional period from light to deep sleep. During this time, eye movement stops and brain waves start slowing.
Stage 3: This is when you fall into DEEP sleep. Your breathing slows and your body temperature cools even more. Your body also starts to release the hormone HGH and blood is pushed to all your muscle and tissues. This stage is most closely linked to recovery and strengthening of the immune system. During this stage, it is very difficult to wake someone. If you are startled during this time, you will feel groggy and it may take several minutes to reach full consciousness.
REM: “Rapid Eye Movement Sleep” is the stage in which you experience dreams. Our body is essentially paralyzed to help protect our bodies from our minds. During this time our bodies fully absorb what we have learned throughout the day. If you study all day for a test, this is the stage in which that knowledge is internalized into long term memory.
Infants spend almost 50% of their time in REM sleep. They are like little sponges absorbing knowledge, such as speech and behavioral patterns learned. Adults spend nearly half of sleep time in stage 2, about 20% in REM and another 30% is divided between stages 1 and 3. Older adults spend progressively less time in REM sleep.
Effects of Sleep Deprivation:
A study by the National Sleep Foundation and the Mayo Clinic shows sleep loss is rampant in the United States. Sleeping problems are now estimated to be the number one in health problems overall in America and have been linked to heart disease, diabetes, and many more preventable diseases.
- 39% of adults sleep less than 7 hours on weeknights.
- People generally sleep 6.9 hours per day on an average, which is almost an hour less as compared to a few decades ago.
- Over 70,000 car accidents with injuries are caused by drowsy drivers.
- Military research shows that sleep-deprived soldiers demonstrate decreased ability in marksmanship, judgment and overall performance in mental and physical tasks.
- Men whose sleep was restricted to 4 hrs per night lost 30% of their ability to secrete insulin, suggesting a link between sleep loss and diabetes.
- Women who slept five hours or less per night over a 10-year study period increased their risk of developing coronary heart disease by 30%.
Benefits of Deep Sleep and Exercise:
According to the Mayo Clinic, regular physical activity has two notable benefits. It can help you get to sleep faster, deepen the sleep cycle and prevent restless nights of tossing and turning. Deep sleep naturally produces the hormone HGH, which for athletes is a major component of recovery and recharging. This hormone is also linked to “Beauty Sleep”. HGH along with muscle rejuvenation, is also linked to skin cell rejuvenation. While asleep, the skin makes new cells twice as fast as it does during our waking hours. Once skin cell replacement falls behind, wrinkles and slackness may result. Deep sleep also suppresses cortosol levels which in turns helps regulate sugar levels in the blood throughout the day as well as regulating stress, mood swings, and depression. The regulation of cortosol levels and blood sugar decreases the chance of type II diabetes and obesity. Deep also suppresses the sympathetic system which causes stress.
To see significant improvement in your physical performance, appearance and overall health, you have to train right, eat right and sleep well! Without the proper amount and quality of sleep, you can lose much of your hard work. A lack of sleep can not only be irritating, it can also be harmful for your body if it doesn’t get the chance to heal itself. Health is a viscous circle comprised of exercise, nutrition and sleep! I know we preach a lot about nutrition and exercise in the gym, but sleep is what holds the two together. Without proper sleep, you are less consistent with your nutrition and exercise, which in turns affects your quality of sleep.
I know, I know, getting GOOD sleep is easier said than done. However, you have a lot of control over how well you sleep. Here are a few tips:
- Stick to a sleep schedule- your body is regulated by your circadian rhythm. This is the internal device that tells you when you are tired and when you wake up. By sticking to a schedule, your body will naturally fall asleep and wake… no need for alarm clocks when you have an internal one.
- Pay attention to what you eat and drink- regulate caffeine to the morning and limit alcohol consumption before bed. Choose foods that have an even distribution of sugar release such as paleo food items.
- Create a bedtime ritual- do the same thing each night to help your body wind down for bed. Relaxing and peaceful activities such as baths and reading a book can make the transition between wakefulness and sleepiness easier.
- Get comfortable- make sure your room is dark, quiet and cool. Because your body is very easily awaken during the first stage, noises need to be kept to a minimum. Also, because your body temperature cools during the night, what may be warm when you fall asleep, might turn into HOT in the middle of the night.
- Limit daytime naps- Limit naps to under 30 minutes. If a nap is longer than 30 minutes, it can disrupt your circadian rhythm and make it more difficult to fall asleep during bed time.
- Include physical activity into your daily routine- regular physical activity promotes deeper and more relaxing sleep. Try to keep exercise to at least 3 hours before bed time in order to let your body fully wind down from the activity.
- Manage stress!!!!- If you have too much to do and too much to think about, you will find yourself stressing about the next day while trying to fall asleep. If this is the case, make sure you have a pen and paper next to your bed side. This way you can write it down and FORGET ABOUT IT!
Ultimately, you work hard with exercise and nutrition so take that extra effort to make sure you're getting as many hours of GOOD SLEEP that you can. It will help with your recovery and soreness.
The Crossfit Journal, Sleeping for Performance by Martin Rawls-Meehan. Find here.
Mayo Clinic research: Find here.
National Sleep Foundation research: Find here.
Strength: Backsquat Establish a 3RM
Push Press (75/55)