Seven is the new eight in your sleep cycles, at least if you listen to the Wall Street Journal. Personally, I like the sound of 10, especially on weekends. But figuring out that magical sleep number is harder than it may seem, especially if you a regular exerciser, especially an athlete or fitness professional.
Ideally, the right amount of sleep will help with fat loss and muscle gain as well as optimizing tissue repair, protein synthesis, appetite regulation, and the release of growth hormone throughout the body.
The National Sleep Foundation has done plenty of research to establish the sleep guidelines we know now. When adults sleep less than 7 hours a night, they find that it can lead to decreased alertness and increased risk of chronic disease. Sleeping more than 9 hours a night likewise, for most adults, could lead to a shorter life and a higher risk of chronic disease. Now, that number could go down.
The 7 hour a night recommendation has been around and growing since 2002. The original study involved 1.1 million people, and they found that those who are sleeping 7 hours a night are living longer. 8 hours a night was associated in this study with diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. But of course, it’s hard to say which is the chicken and the egg here.
The problem is that the journal did not consider that those who exercise regularly need a lot more sleep. You are beating your body and keeping up with a busy life, wearing down your muscles. You need more time for sleep to effectively repair your body for proper recovery.
Usain Bolt for example tells us,
Sleep is extremely important to me. I need to rest and recover in order for the training I do to be absorbed by my body.
Roger Federer also says,
If I don’t sleep 11 to 12 hours a day, it’s not right.
It’s not just ideas in their heads either. The studies prove that less sleep is a problem athletically speaking:
- Bench press performance dropped 20 pounds after 4 days of less than optimal sleep
- Tennis players can achieve a 42% increase in hitting accuracy with proper sleep
- Perceived exertion increases by 17-19% after 30 hours of sleep deprivation
I feel like we’re building a pretty good case for more sleep, not less. No, I’m not a hardcore professional athlete, but they need an average of 10-12 hours a night. That’s pretty significant compared to just 7. The typical hardcore crossfitter or Ironman triathlete requires 7.5-9 hours of sleep per night.
Ultimately, your nervous system and brain need the time. They clean up your garbage essentially when you sleep, which allows you to remember things better, it helps your muscles to recover, and you wake up more sharp and ready to go.
So in short, the more stress you put on your body, the more time (sleep) it needs to complete all that work.