The importance of sleep, as it turns out, really cannot be overstated. To find out how people really sleep, and how it really affects their everyday fitness routine, we asked three of our guest blogging badasses to offer their opinions. While they varied in the specifics, one thing is abundantly clear: the right amount of sleep is crucial for your body to perform at maximum capacity. Meal management systems get you through the day; sleep gets you through the night.
The Science Behind SleepBefore we delve into the real-world sleep insights from our fitness freaks, a quick breakdown of the science behind sleep. We all know that sleep recharges us, but we may not know exactly how this happens. The main fact about sleep is that it comes in two forms: REM (rapid eye movement) and non-REM. For most of the night, you're in the latter stage, working toward REM sleep roughly every 90 minutes. The later stages of sleep are when recovery occurs, but you only make it to the end if you cycle through all the stages properly. Wake up during the first stage, and you lose what you had. This is why quality is just as valuable, if not more, than quantity. When you're sleeping is when most of your growth hormone is produced, the benefits of which include stronger biceps, increased calcium retention and fat loss, and reduced fat storage. The importance of sleep relates to hunger as well, since the body evens out two of the hormones that control hunger - ghrelin and leptin during sleep. One study showed a correlation between less sleep and higher levels of ghrelin, which induces hunger. In other words, not getting enough sleep can actually make you fat. And we still haven't mentioned all the benefits of an adequate sleep schedule, because scientists are learning more about them every day.
Fun Fact: Sleeping less than usual? Take a 90-minute nap the day after not getting enough sleep, and it could lead to more REM sleep during that nap.
6 Pack Sleep Q & AScientifically speaking, the importance of sleep is quite evident. But in the real world, it can be easy to succumb to an inconsistent sleep schedule, especially if you're as busy traveling fit as we suspect you are. That's why we asked Jaime Filer, Tiffany Gaston, and Leah Berti, three of the most fit ladies we know, for some of their experiences with sleep, energy, and the Goldilocks Theory (aka, getting just the right amount).
1. Does sleep deprivation noticeably affect your workout? What were some of the effects on your workout?
Jaime: Oh heck yeah, both physically and psychologically. If I'm exhausted, then my head isn't in the game the way it should be, and I'll have already psyched myself up for a poor quality workout. The fatigue will affect me mentally. Physically, my body will just give out earlier; either preventing me from lifting more weight, doing more reps/sets, or getting cardio intervals in. I find that my muscles will also fatigue faster and ache more during the workout.
Tiffany: YES! I am a person that requires a solid 7-8 hours nightly. Without it, I'm easily more irritable, lethargic, and unfocused. I would say I most notice myself slacking in the gym when I don't get enough rest. I will cut workouts short, quit before failure, and just not push myself as hard in general. While we all have days like that, I try to get enough sleep to avoid these types of situations.
Leah: If you try to work out sleep deprived, you will not be functioning at optimal levels and you will increase the chance of injury. When I have not had a restful sleep, I notice that my motivation in the gym is challenged and my endurance and strength is affected. At times over caffeinating yourself with coffee or relaying on energy drinks or pills can become a common practice, but know that it is a short-term fix.
2. If you don't get a good night's sleep, do you have any tips for increasing energy the next day?
Jaime: First and foremost: CAFFEINE. Start your day off with either a large cup o' Joe or a large green tea if you're more sensitive to caffeine. Sometimes you have to "fake it 'til you make it." If the energy doesn't come naturally, then make it happen until it finally does. Alternatively, when you wake up, just do something you enjoy. It can be a workout (maybe just cardio if you're tired), a Spotify dance party in your kitchen, quality time with a significant otherÃ¢‚¬¦ anything to get your blood flowing. Make the morning fun.
3. Have you ever had difficulty in the past with getting enough sleep to fuel your workout/fitness routine? How have you dealt with it?
Jaime: Absolutely! Whether it's because of work deadlines, pre-competition jitters before a show, pre-photo shoot nerves, or staying out late with girlfriends, often my workouts have suffered as a result of poor sleep. Fortunately, I don't have chronic sleep issues, so any issues I DO end up having, I've brought on myself as part of my lifestyle.
Tiffany: Yes! When I got too lean during a competition prep in 2012, I began to wake super early and be unable to fall back asleep. This pattern continued until my body fat increased after the competition and I definitely feel there was a connection between the two.
Leah: In my line of work, following the around the clock shift-work model, I am constantly fighting my body's desire to sleep at the Ã¢‚¬Å“normal" times. My mind needs to stay not only awake, but also alert and vigilant at all times. For me, it's important to have a sleep routine in place, [including] a Ã¢‚¬Å“winding down" period, especially after a hectic day at work or late night gym training session. Sleep preparation is an essential process to develop and repeat [in order] to teach and train the body and send the correct signals to ensure that the process becomes innate and natural.
My wind-down process relaxes me and helps to reduce stress and anxiety. One thing that kills two birds with one stone is preparing my next day's meals and having everything packed in my Innovator Mini meal management system. This ensures that I am ready to battle the next day's activities with the proper nutrition. Creating a positive sleep atmosphere that you feel comfortable in is essential. Sleep is something that you cannot cut corners on and just expect to happen. Spending the extra money on a great pillow, mattress, blankets, and PJs is well worth the investment in your short- and long-term health and wellness.
4. Thoughts on amount of hours needed for optimal performance?
Jaime: As much as I'd like to quote scientific literature and scholarly journal articles on [the importance of] sleep, I'm going to have to quote a friend and say, "The body is not a textbook." I've known corporate CEOs who function and train hardcore at 100% with only 4-5 hours a night, and I know IFBB pros who NEED 8-9 minimum! So I'd like to say that everyone has their own "optimal." Personally though, I don't know how people who get less than 6.5-7.5 train efficiently, unless they nap.
Tiffany: Only speaking from my experience, 8 is great for me!
5. How do you feel about sleep trackers?
Jaime: I think the best sleep tracker is your own assessment. If you wake up tired, you either didn't sleep enough or you slept poorly. I don't need an app to tell me that. Log your sleep in a journal/post-it note for a week or so, and jot down how you feel each morning. If you see more negative patterns, and feel more lethargic throughout the day, then consider investing in herbal/natural sleep aids, or even enrolling in a sleep study.
6. Any parting words?
Jaime: Fat loss. Muscle gain. Better workouts. Positive mood. Enhanced performance. Improved mental capacity. Not being a cranky jerk. All benefits that attest to the importance of getting enough sleep. And I use "enough" as a relative term - relative to how you feel, and what you think you need to function and train optimally. Remember that discipline and reaching your goals are a reflection of what you want vs. what you want MOST. So yeah, I want to go out until 2am every Saturday to clubs, and yeah, I want sugar before bed because Pop Tarts are tasty, but what I want MOST is a healthy mind, a sweet disposition, and a hot body. So I prioritize sleep. 'Nuff said.
Leah: My best advice [is to] train your body to the max. Train yourself to eat the proper nutrition. Train your mind to de-stress, relax, and practice your sleep routine until it becomes a good habit!