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Importance of sleep and how to improve your sleep

If there is one common misconception present in the CrossFit community, it is that more is always better. To be fair, in my judgement this happens across the fitness world in general; even medical doctors tell their patients “just move more and eat less” when giving weight loss advice. However, one thing we try to highlight at Summit Strength is that progress is not made only in the gym, but in the other 23 hours a day when you are not training. While supplements, food, and recovery techniques such as stretching, foam rolling, and massage can help you recover quicker and hit your next workout harder, nothing is as important as a good night’s sleep.

Why is sleep so important?

While there seem to be limitless reasons that sleep matters for day to day bodily function, including emotional well-being and decision making, this will focus on the physical reasons to always get your sleep:

  1. Lack of sleep makes you more prone to obesity. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood institute, every hour of lost sleep increases your odds of become obese. This happens due to the increase in production of the hormone ghrelin, and the decrease in the hormone leptin. Ghrelin is your hunger hormone; the more ghrelin your body produces, the more hungry you will feel. Leptin is the exact opposite; it allows your body to recognize when it is full and to control your appetite. So, if you are producing more ghrelin than usual and less leptin than you should be, it is only logical that you will feel more hungry than usual, and probably overeat. This pattern over time leads to obesity and potentially diabetes, as well as a host of other health issues such as hypertension.
  2. Deep sleep promotes the natural production of human growth hormone. While human growth hormone is typically in the news because of some sports allstar getting busted for using it illegally, your body actually produces a small amount of growth hormone which is secreted as you sleep. This allows your muscles to recover from your hard training, and boosts muscle development.
  3. Improved training performance. A Stanford study found that when athletes slept 10 hours they experienced marked sprint speed performance, as well as more stamina. Similar studies found improvements in basketball free throw shooting and, as well as improvements in swimmers and tennis players. With all of these studies finding improvements in such different sports, it is fair to say that more sleep equals better performance in all athletic endeavors.

How to improve your sleep:

  1. Turn off your phone and stop watching television an hour before going to bed. The blue light emitted from screens plays tricks on your natural circadian rhythms and makes it difficult to fall asleep.
  2. Spend ten minutes stretching before bed. Not only will this relax your mind and let you chill out, but it will also help you feel better the next morning and during your next CrossFit or fitness session.
  3. Write down a “To Do List” for the next day. This may seem like a small step, but it is hard to sleep if you’re worried about all the craziness the next day and your mind is racing trying to solve all of your problems. By writing down what you need to do, you won’t worry about forgetting something and will be able to relax and sleep.
  4. Take melatonin. If you are consistently having trouble sleeping, consider taking a melatonin supplement. This will naturally allow you to sleep better, and is something to consider doing even if your sleep has been decent.  

Check out this page from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to learn more about sleep.

http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sdd/why

 

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