Sleep: Is 8 Really Great?
Do you get enough sleep to recover and train at your best day in and day out? We all know the age old adage stating we should get 8 hours a night to remain healthy and function optimally the next day. However, in our technologically advanced world with internet, smartphones, and CrossFit Games re-runs airing on ESPN, 8 hours begins to seem like a daunting feat. Tack on work, family time, stress and even gym time and now it looks nearly impossible. As a result, people trick themselves into believing that as long as they get a few hours of shut eye a night they’re receiving adequate rest. Although they’ve tricked their mind into feeling this way that belief couldn’t be farther from the truth. So, with technology and all of our daily life tasks how can anyone be expected to get 8 hours a night? And if you somehow manage, is it enough?
Training, specifically CrossFit and its high intensity workouts, beat your body down daily. The WOD drains energy, depletes fluids and breaks down muscle. This is great, this is what we love and this is how we grow stronger to become more capable human beings. However, if we don’t sleep then our bodies can’t efficiently replenish our energy stores or repair muscle. As a result, this high intensity training coupled with lack of sleep leads to low intensity levels during workouts, effectively slowing progress and halting results. In the case of CrossFitter’s this means increased WOD times, decreased strength numbers and potentially unfavorable changes such as increased body composition. We need intensity to have results, and we need rest to have intensity.
Furthermore, according to the National Sleep Foundation research suggests that sleep deprivation increases levels of cortisol (stress hormone). Now, not only are we stressing our bodies during training but also during the times when we are supposed to be relaxing and recovering. This leads our bodies to be in a continuously stressed state, putting one at risk for a myriad of other health problems besides just decreased performance. Interestingly enough, one such problem is the inability to sleep or sleep well. This leads to exacerbation of the current problem and causes a negative snowball effect that ultimately leads to even less sleep, lower intensity and even slower progress. Now, to compound the problem even further, lack of sleep has been shown to decrease production of glycogen and carbohydrates that are stored for energy use during workouts. As a result, our body is overstressed, under recovered and now under fueled. This does not sound like a favorable condition to train in to progress towards results. In essence, skimping on sleep is a surefire way to decrease energy and performance, increase potential for fatigue and in extreme cases decrease an individual’s overall health .
Now that we have this basic understanding of why sleep is important to our training how do we know how much is enough? The simple, yet irritating answer is that it depends. Our need for sleep varies among age groups and activity levels. While striving for 8 hours is great, it may not be enough for some people, particularly those living the CrossFit lifestyle. Compared to the general population, CrossFit athletes maintain very high activity levels. As mentioned before, intensity requires rest. While there is no “magic number” it is a suggestion from Barbell Shrugged Podcast member Chris Moore (Barbell Buddha) that highly active individuals strive for 9-10 hours of sleep a night, or an extra hour added to the recommended 8 for every hour spent in the gym. Again, individual needs will vary but it is definitely worth your performance to give this prescription a try. With that in mind, go home, hit the lights, count some sheep and watch your progress skyrocket!
1. Sleep, Athletic Performance, and Recovery. (2010, July 16). Sleep & Athletic Performance. Retrieved July 13, 2014, from https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-news/sleep-athletic-performance-and-recovery
A) Establish 1RM Front Squat
B) Pull up: Re-test
C) AMRAP 5:
10 Thrusters (45/33)
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