Category Archives: Sleep

How Athletes Sleep

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.

The Healthy Way To Recover From An All Nighter

All nighters aren’t healthy, regardless of your age. So if you can avoid them, the smart thing would be to do just that. With this in mind, it might be helpful to know why. When you pull all nighters and experience significant sleep deprivation, you will also experience memory loss, weight gain, and even heart disease, especially if it is a continuing pattern. If you have had an all-nighter or you are on the tail end of a string, here is how to get yourself back on the right track the healthy way, and I’m not talking about binge sleeping.

  1. Don’t Give Into All Of Your Cravings: Studies have shown that people who don’t get enough sleep tend to crave and eat more junk food, which only does more harm to your body if you haven’t noticed. They eat more calories than those who get enough sleep. So stay clear of the refined carbs, sugars, fat, croissants, pizza, candy, etc. Those types of foods will only make your crash and your challenges that much worse.
  2. Lean Proteins And Natural Sugars Instead: Instead of eating junk food and tons of carbs, stick to lean proteins and natural sugars that can keep you energized and healthier. These natural sugars could be things like fresh fruit.
  3. Take a Walk: Move around and go for a walk. This will tell your body to increase its alertness naturally, and even if you’re not sleep deprived (maybe especially if you’re not), it can help you to be more creative at work. A little fresh air also never hurts.
  4. Control Your Caffeine: Caffeine is the obvious way to increase your natural energy levels, but don’t go overboard. Too much can leave your heart racing, and it can leave you jittery and anxious. Stick to a normal size cup of coffee instead of the super size that you’re tempted to get. Then sip instead of gulping it down.
  5. Get Plenty of Water: Getting too little water can leave you feeling tired normally when you are getting enough sleep. It only adds to your problems when you’re not.
  6. Take a Nap: Okay, so maybe you don’t have time to get a full night’s sleep. So take a nap every once in a while. Listen to your body and take 20 minutes to give your body a little bit of time to recover between sets. If you can get more sleep, all the better. You will be sharper and better able to keep up with your fast-paced life.

The Odd Health Effects Of Too Much Sleep

You have heard all about how it’s crucial to get your full 8 hours of sleep. Then there have been the reports about maybe you just need 7. Then again, there are athletes who sleep a whopping 12 hours a night. It’s crucial to get the right amount of sleep to rebuild your body, refresh your mind, and even maintain a healthy diet and exercise plan. Too much sleep is a different story though. Is there really such a thing as too much?

In a 2 day study, researchers tracked 16 people as they slept. They woke them up 4 times per night to ask them to record their dreams. Then they rated the intensity and connection to their actual life in the mornings. According to preliminary reports, the deeper you sleep, the stranger your dreams may get.

As the researchers found, the later it got, participants’ dreams began to become more strange and even emotional, going from true life visions to bizarre and unrealistic.

There has been other research that has shown that sleep is when your body is able to form and store memories in the brain. Researchers believe that this explains why dreams are so unusual and passionate later into your sleep. If you remember your dreams, you may have a different brain chemistry according to research. French studies have shown that dream recallers as they call you have higher activity in the medial prefrontal cortex and temporo-parietal junction.

Signs You Might Be Sleep Deprived

You may be excited that you fall asleep fast. Doctors tell us all the time that if you don’t fall asleep within a certain period of time, you might be suffering from insomnia. However, if you are falling asleep immediately, this may actually be a problem in and of itself. Call it an obsession with being in the middle rather than either extreme.

Shelby Freedman Harris, YouBeauty Sleep Expert and director of Behavioral Sleep Medicine at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City has narrowed it down to a few major signs that you may miss when you are not getting enough sleep, which may be affecting everything from your work performance to your weight:

  1. You Fall Asleep Immediately: In the past, we’ve been taught to think of this as a sign of being a good sleeper. Isn’t that healthy? Not exactly. If you fall asleep within about 5 minutes of laying own, you could actually be suffering from serious sleep deprivation. You may even have a sleep disorder according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

  2. You’re More Impulsive Than Usual: If you grab a donut at the morning meeting when you normally wouldn’t, this may be a bad sign. If you are a little angrier and more unusual in your driving habits, it may be a sign of sleep deprivation. According to Harris, The prefrontal cortex is greatly affected by sleep deprivation. This area is associated with judgment, impulse control, visual association and attention. Less sleep leads to poorer judgment and acting impulsively, e.g. poor eating when sleep deprived, buying things without thinking about the consequences, irritability and mood issues with others.
  3. You Rely on Cliches: If you are throwing around cliches like there’s no tomorrow, using beggars can’t be choosers, better safe than sorry, and you’re not going into the throes of dementia, we have a problem. You lose your creativity when you are lacking sleep, and this may lead to repeated phrases and fallbacks. Harris notes, The frontal lobe is associated with speech, constructive thinking and novel thinking/creativity and is greatly impacted by sleep deprivation. Sleep deprived people find it difficult to have spontaneous complicated speech, leading to more slurring, use of cliched phrases, stuttering and monotone speech.
  4. You Have Become Forgetful: You were just thinking about making sure that you had fresh clothes to change into after the gym, and you forgot. You’re running to dinner, and you forgot your dad’s birthday present. You realize that once again you forgot to turn off the lights. Sleep can cause you to forget a number of things, and Without proper rest, it’s harder to form memories. It is harder to put emotional memories into context, and thus, it is more difficult to act rationally and thoughtfully.
  5. You’re Hungrier Than Usual: When you aren’t sleeping enough, you end up eating and craving more. You end up eating more unhealthy foods to go along with that. Why? Because sleep deprivation affects two key hormones in the body: leptin and ghrelin. Leptin is the hormone that tells our body to stop eating, giving us the sensation that we are full. Ghrelin, on the other hand, is a hormone that gives us a hunger signal and tells us to eat. When we don’t get enough sleep, the leptin/ghrelin balance is shifted, with a drop in leptin and an increase in ghrelin. In short, if you don’t get enough sleep, your hormones tell you to eat more.
  6. You’ve Read This Sentence Twice: Not absorbing what you read? If you are having problems concentrating, you will find that you are not getting enough sleep time. Sleep deprivation can impair your ability to make split-second decisions, remember, process, and it can help us to avoid accidents when driving.
  7. You’re Clumsy: Okay, sometimes you’re just clumsy, but if you’re not usually clumsy and this is a recent development, then you may had a bigger problem. Sleep problems can lead to people being more clumsy, falling, being unsteady on your feet, and even dropping things. It interferes with your basic motor skills.
  8. You’re Fighting With Your Partner: Your partner may be irritating you, or maybe it’s the other way around. Either way, one of you is getting more short-tempered. In 2013, a UC Berkeley study showed that couples are more likely to engage in longer and more serious fights when one or both are sleep deprived. Not getting enough sleep can make it more difficult to avoid and/or handle potential conflict.
  9. You’re Zoning Out: If you find that you are spacing out while driving, missing freeway exits or turns, or otherwise going on auto pilot throughout your workday, you may be getting too little sleep. If you cannot be present in the moment, you may want to get more sleep.
  10. You Sleep During Inappropriate Times During the Day: You can fall asleep when you get to bed. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, you may find your body trying to make up for it. If you fall asleep during work, a daytime flight, or the movies, you will find that you should definitely be getting more shut eye.