“The amount of sleep required by the average person is five minute more.”
How many hours are night do you get? If it is anything less than 8 hours I suggest you take the time to read and digest the information in this blog.
We go on about nutrition, training and mobility, but one area that is on a same level as all these is sleep! Without enough sleep each night you WILL fail to see the results you are chasing in the gym and kitchen.
Short term problems from not getting enough sleep include a lack of awareness, impaired memory, moody feelings, tiredness and a lower quality of life. Long term problems that can arise include high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attacks, heart failure or stroke, as well as, potential problems such as obesity, depression and lower sex drive. (What happens to you body when you don’t get enough sleep, Health Essentials, https://health.clevelandclinic.org/happens-body-dont-get-enough-sleep/)
According to Rowan Minnion who is a well respected ‘sleep expert’ and exercise physiologist from the University of Glasgow and Iowa State University, there are three hormones that connect sleep and physical recovery; which are; the growth hormone, leptin and the ever-dreaded cortisol. 50%-60% of the Growth Hormone, which aids in bone and muscle recovery, is released at night when you are asleep. Growth Hormone also stimulates the release of triglycerides from fat cells allowing us to use more energy from fat if we are getting adequate amounts. So for those CrossFitters who are regularly training in which your muscles are being broken down requiring repair, and everyone chasing body fat % improvements, optimizing the amount of quality sleep we can get each night will help release more of the ever important growth hormone into the body.
The second hormone is leptin which does a couple of important things including repressing your appetite while you sleep (so you’re not waking up at 2am to eat each night) and regulating insulin. Simply put, “if you don’t sleep properly, you don’t release leptin, and it messes with your cravings and your diet.” (Minnion, Make Your Life Better: Get Horizontal, The CrossFit Journal, 2013).
The final hormone is cortisol. “Good sleep is basically a way of reducing cortisol levels” and we don’t want high levels of cortisol. Cortisol is raised by two things; stress and overtraining. High levels of cortisol in the body can stop you using energy from food properly and cause you to put on weight and break down muscle tissue. (Rowan Minnion, 2013). One way to reduce cortisol levels is getting a good night’s sleep.
“Rest equals recovery, and recovery is the key to making consistent progress”. Sleep is simply crucial to your overall health and well-being, without enough good quality sleep, your hard work in the kitchen and the gym are likely not to pay off. Bill Starr in the CrossFit journal (2017) gives a good explanation on how sleep occurs and the different stages. He “discovered that sleep doesn’t come in a rush; it dances about in stages. When you first lie down, you might drift off for a short while, then awaken. This light rest is known as the “threshold of sleep.” Should you awaken completely during this stage, you will most likely feel as though you haven’t slept at all. Next comes the first genuine sleep stage, known as Stage 1. It is brief, and you are easily awakened from Stage 1 sleep. Steadily, you descend into Stage 2 and Stage 3. In Stage 2, your body temperature drops and your heart rate slows. Stage 3 was formerly divided into the third and fourth stages, but this distinction is no longer common. In Stage 3, the brain produces slow delta waves, and you become less responsive. Stage 4 is characterized by rapid eye movements (REM), which supply the name “REM sleep.” The brain is more active but muscles are more relaxed. This is when you dream.”
How much sleep people need varies but as a general guide 7-8 hours is a good start for most people and for athletes under high training volumes and intensity something closer to 10 hours per night is recommended. There are a few different strategies that can help improve sleep quality and duration, here are just a few:
- Stay away from screens. Light from electronics can totally throw off our natural sleep mechanisms and keep you up for hours. Melatonin, the sleep hormone sends a signal to the brain that it is time to sleep and when you are exposed to light your body’s internal clock doesn’t function properly making it difficult for the brain to recognize it is sleep time.
- Create and stick to a routine. Your bed time routine needs to be low-energy and relaxing. Do some light stretching, read a book, plan your daily tasks for the next day etc, and make sure you schedule your routine so you can get 8 total hours sleep each night. If you plan to be awake at 6am, plan your routine to allow you to be in bed and asleep by 10pm.
- Avoid long naps during the day. A quick power nap during the day is probably ok but the more prolonged naps of an hour or more can affect you negatively during the night.
- Limit caffeine. Setting yourself a ‘cut-off’ time for coffee or tea, usually at least 5-6 hours before you plan to go to bed will help reduce the effects of the caffeine and help promote a good night’s sleep. Working out after your ‘cut-off’ time can also help you work the caffeine out of your system.
Here are a few articles of recommended reading that may also help you get an insight into getting a better night’s sleep:
- Mapping and recording your own sleep cycle:
- 3 supplements to help improve your quality of sleep:
- Explanation of what is adrenal fatigue and how it can affect your training performance:
- More articles explaining the importance of sleep and its impact on your training and body composition goals:
“Roger Federer and Lebron James have said they sleep an average of 12 hours per day! Usain Bolt, Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova and Steve Nash sleep up to 10 hours per day.” (Zach McCann, 2012) Sleep is critical for athletic performance as well as, you overall health and well-being. It is definitely not something that can be overlooked and is just as important as the food you eat and your training in the gym. So however you plan to go about it, getting a good night’s sleep needs to be a priority.
“When you follow a regular routine of working, eating, training and resting, sleep comes much easier.”