You put chia seeds in your oatmeal. You meticulously measure out your post workout snack so that it has the correct ratio of carbs to protein.You have your training schedule perfectly periodized so that you allow yourself time to build up a base and “peak” at the right time. You drink enough water so that you pee every couple hours. You foam roll. You do yoga. You warm up, cool down, and stretch.
Sounds like you’ve got a pretty good hold on perfect training, doesn’t it?
So… what’s holding you back? Where are those dead, heavy legs coming from? Why is your mind in a fog? Why don’t you feel happy and energized after your run? Why is that nagging injury coming back, or not going away?
It could all be as simple as one thing: Sleep.
Last night, I figured this out the hard (and weird) way.
When I got home from squash yesterday evening, I felt as though there was a large cloud of “blah” hanging over my head. I knew that low blood sugar wasn’t the culprit here, since this feeling persisted after dinner, and throughout my cashew butter snacking (which is also happening at this exact moment), and as the night went on, I found myself getting more and more tired.
Eventually, it came to a point where at 8:45 pm, I was lying on my bed, still in my day clothes, unable to even concentrate on blog reading (which is one of my favourite things to do).
“What is happening to me?!”, I thought to myself. “Should I just call it a night and go to sleep before 9 pm?”. I considered this option, but decided against it, knowing that my body would think it was taking a nap, and that I would wake up around 2 am, unable to fall back asleep.
I ended up taking a nap from 9 pm – 11 pm, when I got up to grab a glass of water, make my breakfast, brush my teeth, and get changed, and finally went back to sleep for real.
And, from roughly midnight to 8:45 am, I slept relatively uninterrupted, and woke up still feeling as though I could have kept sleeping.
Almost 12 hours of sleep and I still felt tired?!? What??!!
My body was so tired from training, walking, and researching, that it hadn’t had enough time to rest during the day or at night.
The Real Deal
We’ve all had it drilled into our heads that 7-8 hours of sleep is the average amount needed per person per night. But what if that isn’t enough? What if you’re training so hard, or so active, that 8 hours isn’t enough for your body to recover? After some digging around, I was shocked to find the following stats from fatigue science.com:
“Roger Federer gets 11-12 hours of sleep per night”
“Lebron James gets 12 hours of sleep per night” (source)
These are fully grown men, who are sleeping more than newborn babies!
Still Not Convinced You Should Be Getting More ZZZZ’s?
- Sleep improves split-second decision making ability by 4.3%. Might not seem like a lot, but during a high pressure situation, such as a sports game, this could make all the difference.
- After 4 days of restricted sleep, an athletes bench press max drops 20 lbs. 20 pounds?!?!? I know people that barely bench that weight! Granted, this study was conducted on hockey players, but still!
- By incorporating adequate sleep into their routine, tennis players get a 42% boost in hitting accuracy. I’m a little skeptical as to how they tested this, but 42% is nothing to sneeze at. If I can get even a 10% increase in shot accuracy in my squash game just by increasing my amount of sleep, I’m game.
Alright, I’ve talked your ear off enough about sleep, and hopefully this hasn’t been soooo boring to read as to make you want to fall asleep right now. (Or, if you’re reading this before bed, maybe that would actually be a good thing).
Bottom line: Want to increase your overall performance? Try going to bed an hour earlier, and see if it makes a difference!
How much sleep do you get per night? (Or try to get)
Do you notice that a lack of sleep hinders your athletic performance? On the flip side, do you notice that an adequate amount of sleep improves your performance, state of mind, etc?