How much does sleep affect your athletic performance?

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By Martin Rawls-Meehan, CrossFit Journal

Think back for a moment to what your life was like before you were introduced to CrossFit. What did you eat? How did you work out? How did you measure your fitness from one week to the next?

Good sleep is one of the most important elements of health maintenance, as well as athletic performance and improvement.

If you’re like most of us, you probably thought about what you ate a bit. Maybe your diet was based loosely on some nutritional tips you’d picked up along the way, but it probably wasn’t based on sound science. The same probably can be said for how you worked out. You used the machines that were available and probably picked up workout tips from friends, coaches, magazines, etc. Chances are you never did a squat snatch before CrossFit, nor did you stay away from bread and grains in favor of lean meat, nuts, seeds and veggies. Now compare your level of fitness and health now to then. Big difference, right?

CrossFit’s workout methodology is based on science. Like science, it is continually evolving. Similarly, Paleo nutrition principles are based on science and an evolutionary framework. Workout methodology and nutrition are two essential elements of fitness and general well-being. When you follow scientifically sound principles that are consistently tested, proven and refined within a large community of experimenters, you are going to see strong results. For many of us, the results have been quite amazing.

Sleep: Another Key to Fitness

How much do you think about how well you sleep? How important do you think sleep is to your CrossFit performance? What about your general health? Stay up too late watching TV, and it will haunt you during your WOD. If you’re like most, you probably don’t think much about how well you sleep. All know they feel better when they sleep more, so you probably want to sleep well and are upset when you don’t sleep as much as you want.

Exercise, nutrition and sleep make a virtuous circle comprising the three essential elements of fitness.

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But getting good sleep is more than just sleeping more, and it does a whole lot more for you than make you feel a little better during the day. Good sleep is one of the most important elements of health maintenance, as well as athletic performance and improvement.

Like the science of nutrition and exercise, sleep science has been undergoing a revolution over the last few decades. Researchers are beginning to understand how sleep impacts our performance over the short term and long term.

Just how much can sleep impact you as an athlete? Consider the following:

  • Researchers conducted a study of over 30 years of National Football League game data and demon- strated that teams that traveled three time zones to play night games experienced disrupted sleep and exercise schedules and were 67 percent more likely to lose even when the point spread was factored in.
  • Studies have shown that athletes who consistently get around 10 hours of sleep per night show marked improvement in strength, speed, agility and reaction time.
  • Athletes who get around 10 hours of sleep demonstrate significantly better muscle memory for movements learned the day before.

• People who don’t get enough sleep are more prone to diabetes, obesity, hypertension and other various cardiometabolic and endocrine disorders.

• Researchers have shown that just a few days of little to no sleep impact the body’s insulin sensitivity by more than 25 percent in normal, healthy people. This essentially brings them to a pre-diabetic state—the equivalent of gaining 18 to 30 lb.

• Military research shows that sleep-deprived soldiers demonstrate decreased ability in marksmanship, judgment and overall performance in mental and physical tasks.

• People who don’t sleep enough are often more irritable because the brain works differently when we are sleep deprived. An irritable athlete usually is not a positive athlete. Thus, sleep deprivation can rob you of the mental edge necessary for success.

To see significant improvements in performance, we have to train right and eat right. But without enough sleep, that work is wasted and could even be harmful for a body so sleep deprived it can’t heal itself. Exercise, nutrition and sleep make a virtuous circle comprising the three essential elements of fitness. You can’t achieve your body’s maximum potential in athletic performance or be at peak levels of health unless you pay attention and work hard at all elements.

The good news is that you can improve your sleeping habits and realize your maximum potential as an athlete.

 

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