August 13, 2014
The Importance of Sleep—14 Tips to Help You Rest Easier and Perform Stronger
By Brad McLeod
August 19, 2014
It goes without saying that we put incredible stress on our bodies and minds during high intensity CrossFit workouts. Couple that with a hectic 50 hour work week, city traffic, social media, you name it – and we have a recipe for chronic fatigue.
In a recent online article published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) it was reported over 60% of American adults suffer from a variety of sleep disorders.
But what if I could show you one tip to improve your performance overnight? Sleep and proper rest are two of the most over looked and underrated performance strategies that we know. It is not only the amount of sleep you get (experts say that we need 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night), but the quality of your sleep that matters.
Lets face it… sleep is not as sexy as learning the latest snatch technique or carving a minute off your Fran time. But it is one of the easiest single items we can perform without the use of a weightlifting coach or extra funds withdrawn from the bank account.
Improved sleep equals improved performance. The key is in how you sleep and rest.
It has been reported that we are a sleep deprived, caffeine-fueled nation, as we get on average only six hours of sleep and drink three and a half cups of coffee a day. Together, 100 million Americans consume 400 million cups of coffee per day, equivalent to 146 billion cups of coffee per year, making the United States the leading consumer of coffee in the world. That is not a good combination for long-term rest to your mind and body.
“Sleep is the best meditation.” Dalai Lama
Check out these tips to help your restore your body and mind and hit your peak performance.
1. Most days, plan 15-40 minutes of intense training in your routine. But once a week take that time and schedule some quality shut-eye.
2. On a recovery day, try scheduling 15-40 minutes of extra sleep.
3. Do a short and slow mobility workout before going to sleep. Drink a half-liter of filtered water and keep the other half next to the bed. The mobility work will help your muscles to release toxins and lactic acid. This prevents you from waking up in the morning feeling so sore that you can’t get out of bed. We’ve all been there.
4. Sleep in a cool room or one with a fan or with the window open (with a screen if needed) in the warm months. A cool room is helpful because body temperature drops during sleep. Sleeping too warmly increases the pulse rate, which then makes it more difficult for the body to relax enough to sleep soundly.
5. Take breaks during the day if you can. I know we all live hectic lives but lying down on the couch for 30 minutes can rest your mind and help rejuvenate you.
“Naps can restore alertness, enhance performance, and reduce mistakes and accidents. A study at NASA on sleepy military pilots and astronauts found that a 40-minute nap improved performance by 34% and alertness 100%.”
–The National Sleep Institute
6. Vigorous exercise for at least an hour a day insures the body will be tired at night. I don’t think many CrossFit athletes have to worry much about that one.
7. Take a yoga class and stretch the body and rest the mind. It is said that twenty minutes of yoga is equivalent to a two hour nap. At home you can perform a simple Legs-Up-The-Wall or Viparita Karani Pose if you don’t have time to get to a formal class.
8. Drink a glass of milk. This helps the body relax and the carbohydrates help fuel and provide nutrition to the brain.
9. Treat yourself to a deep tissue massage along with a therapeutic recovery. This can help increase blood flow and heal injuries that may keep you up at night. It also allows for the body and mind to relax, enabling you to sleep easier that night. If you don’t have time for a massage then break out the foam roller and do it yourself.
10. Sleep in darkness. Sleeping in complete darkness is important to getting a good night’s rest because darkness increases the production of Melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain and controls the body’s sleeping cycle. Melatonin is believed to cause us to fall asleep faster and sleep better.
11. Eat healthy foods. Avoid excessive grains and processed foods. The benefits of a paleo diet are well known within the CrossFit community.
12. In coach Mark Divine’s lectures at SEALFIT Kokoro he speaks about resting your mind and avoiding the excess daily chaos that comes with smartphones, a continual digital media presence of TV and traffic and congestion. Unclutter your life and disconnect from some of the excess tension to help rest your mind and body.
13. Eat very little within two hours of bedtime. Don’t stuff your face with a pound of steak thirty minutes before you lay down. Your body does not process food at the same rate while sleeping so avoid heavy meals before you hit the hay.
14. Long and deep breathing sets the stage for the body to wind down to enable you to fall asleep quickly.
Photo by Tambako the Jaguar/CC BY-ND 2.0