Why More Zzzzz’s = More Gainz
Lately Phil and I have noticed something slightly amiss with our training. We haven’t felt as prepared going in to our WODs, or felt like we could lift as heavy during our strength sessions. We even seemed to be taking longer to recover from our training than we normally would do.
Any guesses on why this is?
It’s because, for the past couple of weeks, we haven’t gotten enough of that beautiful, magical elixir, SLEEP.
I have been reading up on sleep, how much you should get, the different stages, how to give yourself the best sleep, and, most importantly, why you need it. The website, Mark’s Daily Apple, and CrossFit Journal, have proven to be the most informative, giving me tons of reasons why you need more of those Zzzs (or Zeddddss, if you're Phil).
First and foremost, the main reason why you need more sleep is that no one likes hanging out with a Grumpy Gus. The less sleep you have, the grumpier you are = Zero Friends (this equation I figured out on my own, no need for Mark’s Daily Apple).
Then there are the more scientific reasons…
A chronic lack of sleep (getting 6 or less hours of quality sleep for multiple weeks, which is an all too common scenario in our hectic worlds) means that in the long term, you are more prone to diabetes, heart disease and other metabolic issues. Check out this article for a breakdown as to why - Damn that lazy rev-erb!
Getting even more specific, a chronic lack of sleep will also have a significant, much more externally observable, affect on your athletic performance.
In our experience, what the vast majority of people want to achieve from their training is an increase in lean muscle mass. Why, you ask? Lean muscle mass typically goes hand in hand with improved strength, fat loss, and in general makes us feel good because we look good.
Mark’s Daily Apple cites many different studies and reports, all pointing to one common denominator: Lack of Sleep is Bad for Gainz.
If you are regularly getting 6 or less hours of sleep per night, your body is being subjected to increased level of cortisol aka the ‘Stress Hormone’ (not bad in small doses, very bad in regular, large doses!) and decreased level of testosterone, which is an integral hormone for muscle development.
Furthermore, and potentially one of the reasons why Phil and I were finding it difficult to recover after training, when you enter ‘slow wave sleep’ (the sleep cycle before REM which happens about 15 minutes after falling asleep), your body begins to secrete hormones such as prolactin, gonadotropin (I mean seriously, who comes up with these names?!) and the all-important Growth Hormone. Together, these hormones aid in tissue repair, which is absolutely necessary if you are going to aim to hit another WOD the next morning.
So, my apologies for potentially just preaching to the choir with this blog (with a few big, science-y words added in). Even though you may not have known why EXACTLY sleep is important to your health and athletic performance, we all know that we should get more sleep. And better quality sleep at that. So HOW do we do this??
Below are a few tips that have worked for me in the past...
1) Stop using your phone or any other electronic gadget as an alarm clock.
Having your phone close by keeps you connected to the stress of the real world when you're meant to be sleeping. I’ve even been known to wake up in the middle of the night and, without even thinking about it, check my phone for messages! Keeping your phone in another room will help you get a more relaxed, deeper sleep.
2) For one week, aim to go to sleep 15 minutes earlier.
Think of what you can accomplish in 15 minutes... not a whole lot! So why not sleep during this time?? 15 minutes doesn't seem like long, but in one week, that adds up to just less than 2 additional hours of sleep. If 15 minutes seemed doable, the following week, try getting to sleep 30 minutes earlier than normal.
3) Cut down on your coffee intake (this worked better for Phil than it did for me...).
Don't go cold turkey, but try limiting yourself to 1 cup per day and not having any later than mid-afternoon. Similarly to not using your phone as an alarm clock, this will lend itself to a more relaxing, deeper sleep.
Have any other suggestions that worked for you? Let us know in comments!