Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
1 May

How to Get Fitter, Faster and Stronger with Quality Sleep

overtrainingAh, sleep. We all know how much we need it, mostly because when we don’t get enough, the world takes on a different, more negative hue. Lights seem brighter and sounds more vivid, and not in a good way. Perpetual fogginess clouds our thoughts, slurs our words, and prevents us from focusing on anything but the coffee pot timer. And then there’s the sleep deprivation research corroborating our experiences and explaining in lurid detail just how vital sleep is for our health. I’ve done my part in bringing this information to you, focusing for the most part on the metabolic health benefits of getting sufficient quality time with everyone’s sweet slumbery mistress. I’ve linked to articles discussing the links between poor sleep and ill liver health, disrupted metabolic function, and cancer. If you’re a regular reader of MDA, you’re probably aware of all this. Bad sleep can make you fat, sick, and prone to serious degenerative diseases.

That’s not the focus of today’s post, though. Today is for the people who miss out on sleep to catch an early morning workout, who stay up late reading fitness blogs and trading fitness memes on Reddit, who tell themselves that all that yawning they do in between squat sets is just weakness leaving the body. Did you know that sleep deprivation also hampers our athletic performance? That bad sleep makes us slower, weaker, and less coordinated? That sleep deprivation reduces the effectiveness of our workouts, and sometimes even reverses their beneficial effects? That it can hamper our ability to build lean mass?

Let’s look at some of the research.

Sleep and Muscle Mass

Lean mass accrual is a common motivation among fitness enthusiasts. Muscle looks good, makes us stronger, tends to accompany other benefits like increased bone density and fat loss, and helps keep us alive longer. There are a few lines of evidence suggesting that sleep loss increases the loss of lean mass and makes it harder to build it in response to exercise.

  • One older study found that total sleep deprivation increases urinary excretion of nitrogen, which could be indicative of muscle breakdown and loss of lean mass.
  • Sleep-deprived rats experienced muscular atrophy, an effect that appeared to be mediated by decreases in testosterone and increases in corticosterone (the “rat cortisol”).
  • more recent one found that insufficient sleep curtailed the efforts of obese human subjects to lose body weight and retain lean mass. Compared to the control group, the bad sleep group saw their lean body mass losses increase by 60% and their fat mass losses decrease by 55%. Markers of fat oxidation were reduced as well, suggesting that lean mass was being broken down into amino acids for energy.

Simply put, lack of sleep is a potent stressor, which means it increases the catabolic glucocorticoid family of hormones like cortisol and decreases the anabolic triad of testosterone, IGF-1, and growth hormone, effectively accentuating the “degradation pathways” while reducing the “protein synthesis pathways.” Few of us are experiencing the total sleep deprivation of 24-36 hours used in some of these studies, but 5-6 hour nights – chronic low-level sleep deprivation, the kind that’s endemic nowadays – do add up and exert many of the same effects, as shown in the study on obese humans limited to 5.5 hours a night.

Sleep and Performance

The effect of sleep deprivation on physical performance can’t be neatly summed up with a few tidy sentences. Sometimes it impairs performance and sometimes it has no effect at all. It really depends on what you’re measuring and what the subjects are actually doing. For endurance work, acute sleep deprivation doesn’t impair performance as much as you’d think, whereas for activities that demand greater motor control (like basketball or volleyball) or greater power output, acute sleep deprivation may have more negative effects. Let’s look at some of the studies that have been conducted.

Of course, that’s just talking about acute sleep deprivation, like going a night or two without sleep. That type of sleep deprivation is easy and inexpensive to study, because you only need the subjects for a day or two, but I’d argue that it isn’t very relevant to most people’s concerns. What I’m interested in are the effects of chronic sleep deprivation, like getting six hours of sleep every night for a year. Many, perhaps most, people are getting suboptimal sleep on a nightly basis. That’s tougher to study, because you need to track subjects for days, weeks, or (ideally) months and years (an expensive undertaking), but I think you can make some educated guesses:

Consider that during slow wave sleep, growth hormone is released to build muscle and repair tissue damage. If you’re not sleeping, or your sleep is disrupted, you’re going to limit slow wave sleep (which already begins to decrease in duration the older you get) and therefore limit your body’s ability to recover from and adapt to your training.

Consider the protein-wasting, lean mass-catabolizing characteristics of sleep deprivation described earlier. A big part of adapting to training and improving performance is the increase in lean mass that usually accompanies exercise. If you’re not sleeping, you’re limiting your ability to pack on lean mass and increase performance.

Consider the increased cortisol and decreased testosterone associated with bad sleep. A high cortisol:testosterone ratio is strongly linked to “declines in the maximal voluntary neuromuscular performance capacity.”

And finally, consider that getting more sleep than normal, or accruing sleep surplus, has repeatedly been shown to increase physical performance:

  • In a study, aiming for at least ten hours of bedtime each night over several weeks improved the Stanford men’s basketball team’s free throw and three point field goal percentages. 
  • In swimmers, six to seven weeks of ten hours of sleep a night decreased their 15-meter sprint time by half a second, increased their speed off the blocks, improved their turn time, and increased their kick stroke by five kicks.
  • In college football playerssix to seven weeks of ten hours of sleep a night decreased their shuttle run and 40-yard dash times.

What does this mean, in practical terms?

To get the most out of your workouts, and to be the best you can be, you need more sleep. Aim for ten hours, an unrealistic goal for most, but a worthy one nonetheless.

If you can avoid it, work out at a reasonable time that allows you enough sleep. Skipping sleep to exercise may be counterproductive, or at least less effective than working out at a time that allows sleep. If you absolutely need your daily morning WOD, go to bed early enough to make up for it.

Take naps when and where you can. Sleep adds up, no matter where it comes from.

As training intensity or volume increase, so too must sleep. There isn’t an easy formula or anything. Just sleep more.

Eliminate sleep impediments. Follow the usual best sleep practices we’ve talked about before.

That’s all well and good, but not everyone can get perfect sleep all the time. In the event of an unavoidable night of bad sleep, what can you do to ameliorate the negative effects on performance the next day?

  • Meditate. Meditation is an effective counterbalance to the negative cognitive effects of poor sleep, some of which include hampered reaction times.
  • Drink coffee. As always, caffeine is a dependable stalwart. It increases the “voluntarily chosen resistance training load” after a night of poor sleep, for one.
  • Take creatine. Creatine has also been shown to reduce the negative effects of a poor night’s sleep on performance about as well as caffeine.

We all know how much sleep matters, but we rarely think about its effect on our strength and fitness. Hopefully this post helps you realize the extent of its reach. If you want optimal results, you cannot compromise on sleep, nor can you train your way out of a deficit.

Thanks for reading, folks!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. What do you do if you hate to sleep? Yes, sleep is necessary, but for me it has always (even as a small child) felt like a waste of time. At the same time, even if it has been good sleep, and I’m rested, it doesn’t make me want to get to bed “on time” the next night, but rather to keep going until I crash even later than usual because I feel good. It is hard to make myself go to bed if I’m still feeling alert; all I do if I go to bed when feeling alert is lie there and wish I wasn’t in bed. Any suggestions?

    Walter wrote on May 1st, 2013
    • Go for a 5 mile hike a few hours before bed? That always works for me.

      Fritzy wrote on May 1st, 2013
    • “It is hard to make myself go to bed if I’m still feeling alert; all I do if I go to bed when feeling alert is lie there and wish I wasn’t in bed.”

      Oh hey that sounds like me.

      My suggestion is to be on a weight training program, preferably of the heavy variety. I play rugby (in the past played soccer and hockey), lift weights, road bike, hike. Rugby does a good job. But in the off-season when there’s no rugby, I cannot sleep without lifting HEAVY 1-2 times a week. Only running, only biking, hiking etc isn’t enough for me unless it is excessively long ( >2 hours). I just lay there alert. It probably has something to do with the CNS. Heavy lifting is asking your CNS to focus all of its energy on a huge task.

      chris wrote on May 1st, 2013
    • I have similar issues. Here are some things that can help:
      - don’t allow yourself to use electronics after a certain time (TV, computer, mobile devices etc. — the kettle is probably okay though!)
      - take supplemental magnesium in the evening (Natural Calm brand works well)
      - try to look forward to the ‘daydreaming’ that you do before falling asleep
      - take a cool bath

      Mike Lucas wrote on May 1st, 2013
    • There’s no good reason to force sleep on yourself when you aren’t inclined to it. The world would have major hell to pay with me if I made myself lay in bed for 7 to 8 hours every night.

      John wrote on May 1st, 2013
    • You just have to get yourself into a routine, which is much easier said then done. It took me 21 years and I still fall out of it from time to time. Turning the 80-20 rule into a 95-5 rule and heavy lifting definitely helped. What was most helpful was to start gradually toning down my activity level, and start turning off lights as it got closer and closer to bedtime. The reason that you feel so alert at night is that artificial light and a high level of activity are keeping you from producing the chemicals that make you tired.
      If you are anything like me you will be more alert and poductive thoughout the day than you ever were even though you felt so alert before at night.

      Devin wrote on May 1st, 2013
    • Walter, do you spend lots of time on the computer or looking into bright cell phone lighting at night.

      There’s lots of research showing that looking into backlit LED screens delays the onset of melatonin release, which prevents the natural onset of sleepiness that usually occurs in the evenings.

      As a kid I used to never be tired at bedtime, because I was playing video games through midnight.

      As an experiment you could try removing backlit LED devices for a week or two, after 8 pm, to see if that helps you pass out quicker.

      – Alex

      Alexander wrote on May 1st, 2013
    • I’ve had great success with melatonin. I put 3mg (I’ve used 5 at times) under my tongue 30 minutes before I wish to be asleep. It’s worth a try. I get great quality sleep most nights.

      Mark Cruden wrote on May 1st, 2013
      • Thanks to all who have responded. Lots to consider. Now, time to get ready for bed…

        Walter wrote on May 1st, 2013
    • Going to bed when you’re not tired is the worst. I jokingly pretend to envy my 2-year-old nephew who cries because he has to take a nap, but I totally get where he’s coming from – I’d be exactly the same way if someone tried to put me to bed before the Star Trek Next Generation marathon was over…

      If you’re going to bed when you’re tired (without using stimulants to artificially move that point) and waking up when you’re not (without using an alarm clock or other external sleep disruptor), it doesn’t sound broke :-) (I’m trying to convince myself to wean myself off the alarm clock – this week’s experiment is to set it for the absolute latest I can get up without it affecting work & other responsibilities, and see what happens with that….)

      BobG wrote on May 2nd, 2013
    • I know what you mean about ‘waste of time’. I frequently miss one full night plus several hours a week: as a shift worker when I’m on nights (12 hours) I don’t sleep before the first one, because I’m not tired, and I don’t sleep after the last as it’s a waste of my day off. Plus I don’t sleep as well during the day- despite black out blinds, eye mask, ear plugs etc- i seem to just have a strong circadian rhythm, and I average about 4 hours, as opposed to about 6 hours when I’m on days (up at 4am, you can only go to be so early!)

      I have almost the opposite problem to you, in that I usually have no trouble at all falling asleep, but i seem to only need a certain amount of sleep, and so will wake up when I’m done. If I try to stay in bed after that I either just lie there or, if I do fall back to sleep, I wake an hour later feeling like i have a hangover- headachy and sluggish.

      In winter I can sleep much more than in summer- which does seem very grok-ish to me, as I tend to wake with the birds and sun. I just figure my body knows what it wants, and some days (like the first night after a set of night shifts) I’ll sleep for maybe 10 hours, and then I’m all caught up.

      Maybe I should try to sleep after my last night- even if just a couple of hours- rather than going the full 32 or so hours without.

      jade wrote on May 3rd, 2013
  2. My alarm clock has two alarms. I keep one set for 5:30 AM (and yes the coffee pot’s alarm is set for that same time!), and the other one is set for 9:20 PM, so no matter what I’m doing, when it goes off I have to get up to go turn it off. Then I can brush teeth and go to bed. Otherwise I would stay up to read “just until a good stopping point” yeah right. It makes a difference to have that reminder, because getting to bed even 1/2 hour late each night leaves me dragging by thursday or friday.

    Laura wrote on May 1st, 2013
    • This is brilliant. I just set my 9:30pm alarm. Thank you for the idea!

      Bryn wrote on May 1st, 2013
    • This is an awesome idea Laura!

      Someone else just recently told me about setting a “go to sleep” alarm clock.. will have to try this.

      – Alex

      Alexander wrote on May 1st, 2013
    • I really like your idea, it is easy to get distracted in the evenings and go to bed way too late. I just set my alarm for 10 pm.

      Mark wrote on May 1st, 2013
    • So glad to hear someone else does this! My husband makes fun of me every night for my “go to bed” alarm.

      Emily wrote on May 1st, 2013
  3. Great timing. I was just complaining to my wife about how sleepy I am. I know I have to get to bed earlier. Thanks for another great post, Mark!

    Larry wrote on May 1st, 2013
  4. It’s good to know that occasionally getting woken up by my roommates isn’t severly affecting my performance. Now, what years of poor sleeping habbits have done to my health is still up for debate.

    Devin wrote on May 1st, 2013
  5. I love sleeping, but I just started a new job where I have to wake up at 4 most days. It’s hard enough going to bed by 8 (especially with these long days in the PNW), so I can’t imagine going to sleep by 6. I take a nap as soon as I get home, but it doesn’t seem to be enough. Any other early-morning risers have some tips?

    Lisa wrote on May 1st, 2013
    • Stop taking naps when you get home! <<<<< My tip :)

      Kia wrote on May 1st, 2013
    • Instead of naps…try power naps. When I worked early, I would come home after work and set an egg timer for 20 minutes and then I could get through the rest of my day. Plus it didn’t interfere with my sleep at night. You would be surprised how much just 20 minutes of quiet can rejuvenate. I have always found that a nap that lasts an hour or longer leaves me feeling groggy.

      Marcie wrote on May 2nd, 2013
  6. As the mother of a future high school swimmer, who’s child will be required to attend 0500 practice as well as afternoon practice, your article could not be more timely. I have always been concerned about the health impacts of this standard practice. I think it is time to have a conversation with the swim coach and this is a great place to start.

    Deb wrote on May 1st, 2013
    • I was there at the advent of double swim workouts when I was in the 6th grade in 1962. Though I held national records, I burned out quickly, and my parents were reasonable enough, at least in that department, to not push me. There is a sea of information culled by Mark Sisson to demonstrate that this is not physically healthy. Beyond that, is it a worthwhile question whether this is mentally or even spiritually healthy? What is the premise behind this dedication? What is it I am dedicated to? Where do I think I am going? It might be interesting to talk to the coach, and it might also be interesting to have a gentle talk with oneself.

      billy wrote on May 1st, 2013
  7. Walter,

    I used to be the exact same way. I’m most productive late at night but I’m a personal trainer so I’m up very early. If I stay up late I pay for it the next day.

    You just need to develop the routine. I used Valerian Root and Melatonin with great success on those nights where I couldn’t get to sleep to help develop that routine. A few articles back Mark did a whole thing on Tea. You might have some success with those as well.

    Just like eating Primal once you get going and develop the routine it’ll be much easier.

    Luke wrote on May 1st, 2013
    • Hey Luke -

      Have you noticed a concrete impact from valerian root and melatonin? I’ve considered using them when I travel.

      - Alex

      Alexander wrote on May 1st, 2013
      • Alex,

        I definately have. In the past I used Melatonin alone and didn’t notice much but adding the valerian root it’s done wonders. Sleep used to be a huge struggle for me. That being said I did use it more as described above to help develop the routine rather than the one time here and there such as a plane ride. Can’t hurt to try though.

        Oh and not smashing half boxes of kashi cereal before bed has improved the sleep too ;)

        luke wrote on May 1st, 2013
        • Is there a preferred brand of melatonin? My wife mentioned that some of her co-workers use it. Just wondering if there are good types and bad types for us primal folk. Thanks.

          Thomas wrote on May 2nd, 2013
        • I have been using Puritan Pride’s Super Snooze. It combines 5mg. of melatonin with several herbs and is the best natural sleep aid I have ever used. And very affordable.

          C.A. wrote on May 8th, 2013
  8. Note to Mark’s helpers, someone needs to fix the URL which is on “sleep is a potent stressor” it should be on “lack of sleep is a potent stressor”. The way it is now makes it look, at first glance, like sleep is bad!

    Mike Lucas wrote on May 1st, 2013
  9. I’m glad Mark mentions meditation practice. In addition to lessening of the hours needed for sleep, there are numerous other mental, psychological and spiritual benefits to be gained from a regular meditation practice.

    Corey wrote on May 1st, 2013
    • I am just starting to learn more about meditation and its benefits. The reduction on the amount of sleep required due to meditation practice is very interesting and something I will definitely be doing some research on!

      Although I guess we shouldn’t really substitute good solid sleep with meditation unless absolutely necessary; however, I assume adding a meditation practice to a solid sleep practice would give us superpowers :-)

      Great Post Mark!

      Andy wrote on May 2nd, 2013
  10. Let’s see, pregnant + toddler + changing shifts including nights… I’m screwed.

    Rebekka wrote on May 1st, 2013
    • 3 children in 5 years (that child spacing, or lack thereof is definitely not primal!) has done a number on me as well. Co sleeping helps a lot but only consider that if you can do it safely. My youngest is 13 months old, nurses 2 to 4 times over night, and has a sensor for when fun things are about to happen. Therefore, when her older siblings wake up ungodly early, she wakes up within 5 minutes just to make sure she doesn’t miss out on anything.

      I have stopped trying to find time to work out by myself. It’s not practical and I don’t think it’s very primal either. Instead, I’ve developed a roster of activities that are child appropriate and “work out” with my children. We dance, do yoga, use the crossfit kids WOD’s (google for the website :-), lift heavy things, and walk. We usually do a few sprints somewhere in any given walk. Children, I should mention, make very good heavy things to lift because their natural inclination to wiggle requires active balance and stability throughout a movement.

      eema.gray wrote on May 2nd, 2013
      • +1

        homehandymum wrote on May 2nd, 2013
  11. I feel ya Rebekka. Seven month old teething, still nursing in the early morning hours. I haven’t slept well since before he was born. My workouts (if any) are either at 4am before I feed him or at 9:30 at night. Screwed as well. Any suggestions from other moms are greatly appreciated

    Vinnie's Mom wrote on May 1st, 2013
    • Hey! I have a teething 7 month old too and he has started nursing twice a night from once!
      I guess we have to read these posts and stock them for future reference :) sleep will probably never be the same again. But maybe throw in some quick home workouts, mark has plenty on this site, or walk with the baby in the sling. That’s what I do, walk and walk and walk :)

      Aloka wrote on May 1st, 2013
      • Grokette had babies too, and you can bet she wasn’t getting up at 4am or staying up after 9.30 just to squeeze some extra exercise in.

        Children are a wonderfully primal thing to have – you just can’t live your life the way you used to do without them! And exercise advice designed for 20-something males becomes totally impossible. I’ve got three children, and I haven’t had a consistent night’s sleep for nearly 10 years :)

        My tips (your mileage may vary): black-out blinds and no night-lights. Use a really dim light for when you need to attend to baby. Have baby sleep in the same room as you, and learn to feed lying down in bed (wearing a dressing gown to bed keeps you warm without worrying about baby getting lost under the covers). Investigate safe co-sleeping when baby is really little, but transition baby to their own cot and room once they’re down to about 1 feed per night. Use really absorbent diapers for night-time and don’t change them at night (unless your baby tends to wet right through everything) – the key is to not get yourself too ‘awake’, but to make sure that if you do doze off, baby is safe.

        For exercise, having baby in a sling (moby wrap was my favourite) and walking around doing your usual stuff is great. And the 10BX exercises for women (canadian airforce drill – google it), takes only 10minutes and can be done 3 times a week. But remember to make sure your post-partum core strength is good first (check out special exercises if you have separated abs, which I did after every pregnancy). Planking is great for this. But don’t ever let exercise take priority over sleep.

        Enjoy your children – families are the natural unit for humans to exist in, and babies are utterly primal :)

        homehandymum wrote on May 1st, 2013
        • +1

          My oldest baby is 13 and I have no idea when that happened.

          Amy wrote on May 1st, 2013
        • Yes absolutely agree. Carrying them around in a sling is really a lovely way to get some movement in plus enjoy spending time. My son loves his walks with his mamma.

          Aloka wrote on May 2nd, 2013
    • Cosleeping. Definitely helped me get more sleep.

      allisonK wrote on May 2nd, 2013
  12. I love to sleep, I just can’t seem to do it for more than 6 hours to a time, and even that’s usually broken by a bathroom call. I usually have no problem falling asleep, even if I go to bed earlier, but then I just wake up earlier. Maybe 2 or 3 times a month do I get 7 hours or more.

    Keith F wrote on May 1st, 2013
    • Do you feel rested?

      Darcie wrote on May 1st, 2013
      • No.

        Keith F wrote on May 2nd, 2013
  13. Great post Mark.

    Personally, I really value sleep. In the last five years I’ve really started listening to my body, and I’ve learned that poor sleeping habits were (and still can be) the root cause to a lot of issues for me. I make 7 hours of sleep a priority now, with that, everything changes for the better.

    Bryan wrote on May 1st, 2013
  14. Good article. Since becoming primal at the start of the year, with the prescribed foods, workouts, philosophy, etc., I’m more and more convinced that getting sleep under control is hugely important, and unfortunately the most wiley part of being primal.

    Ken Cobler wrote on May 1st, 2013
  15. same here single mum of a sleepless toddler so totally screwed and too tired to even work out most of the time. iits a one off if i manage to do anything!

    jan wrote on May 1st, 2013
  16. Try grounding yourself as you sleep with an electrical grounding device from earthing.com.

    They have devices that use the grounded outlet of an electrical receptacle to ground your body and cost under $20.

    Stan wrote on May 1st, 2013
    • I started grounding a few months back with a bed sheet from earthing.com, a bit pricey at $149.99 but they work. I have NEVER slept better. Now my 19 year old son who has always had a problem falling asleep, has one, falls asleep almost immediately. He also does not sleep as long and we both feel much more rested.

      Ross wrote on May 1st, 2013
    • I’m not familiar with this technique. How long did it take for you to feel the effects of grounding?

      Nick T wrote on May 1st, 2013
      • Grounding yourself has an instant effect. Improvement in sleep is just one benefit. It’s also the best method for protecting yourself from electromagnetic radiation, like that from your computer and other electric devices.

        Everyone knows how good it feels to walk on bare earth or wet sand. The pleasurable sensation is attributable to more than just tactile sensation. It feels that good because you’re getting grounded.

        earthing.com

        stan wrote on May 1st, 2013
  17. What can you do about a snoring bedmate that prevents restful sleep? My only solution so far- sleep in another room (not very romantic).

    Brenda wrote on May 1st, 2013
    • Earplugs! They’ve been my saving grace when it comes to this problem.

      Stace wrote on May 1st, 2013
    • My bedmate is a snorer as well. We found that taking him off grains vastly improved the situation, and the lashing out, and apnea (along with a few kilos around the middle) disappeared. If he is very tired he will snore a bit, but now the 2 bedroom scenario is no longer on the table.

      Heather wrote on May 1st, 2013
      • Awesome, Heather! Change is slow to happen but I hope a grain-free (snore-free) scenario is in the future.

        Brenda wrote on May 2nd, 2013
    • I read that the ancient Romans had separate beds for sleep and a bed for coitus. Sounds great to me! There is nothing romantic about real sleep.

      Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on May 1st, 2013
  18. This topic always intrigues me. Up until my sophmore year in college I could easily sleep 10+ hours. Something happened and now 5-6 hrs is the norm. When I wake up I am up. My mind is racing with thoughts and I have all kinds of energy. About 2pm I am dragging. If I get a nap, then I feel great otherwise I get through it, but I am not as mentally sharp.

    It doesn’t matter if I go to bed at 9:30, 12 or 2am….I only sleep 5-6 hours.. This has me a little worried.

    Doug wrote on May 1st, 2013
  19. There’s a circuit that I regularly walk. Recently, because it was fun and why not, along part of it there’s a 2′ wall that now I climb onto and walk across. I figure it’s good for me to practice balancing, and again, it’s fun.

    Usually, it’s no problem for me to walk along the top of this wall. There was one day, however, when I kept falling off — couldn’t balance at all.

    It also happened to be the day after only getting 4 hours of sleep.

    Coincidence? Probably. But it’s something I’m going to watch for in the future.

    Rozska wrote on May 1st, 2013
  20. Bikram yoga has helped the quality of my sleep more than anything. The health benefits I receive from Bikram yoga are amazing. I highly recommend it.

    JulieD wrote on May 1st, 2013
  21. I never had any trouble sleeping 8 or 9 hours a night until after menopause. Now I feel that I haven’t slept well in years. I am lucky to get 4 hours unless I take a pill. I follow all the recommended sleep hygiene advice and exercise. One thing I don’t do (that used to work)–have a bowl of cereal before bed. That would make me sleep pretty well No cereal now.

    Casey wrote on May 1st, 2013
    • I wonder if it was the cereal or the milk that made you sleep well? Maybe try having a glass of milk (if you do dairy) before bed to see if that helps. =)

      Stace wrote on May 1st, 2013
    • My MIL has very similar issues. What I notice about her most is that she eats way too much sugar (which is possible on Paleo, too, but she’s low fat SAD) and spends most of her waking moments trying to avoid work. She does exercise – a yoga class. But it’s not enough. She doesn’t walk any where and routinely asks my FIL do all but the lightest of household tasks.

      The only time she sleeps properly is when she finally resigns herself to the idea that she’s the only person who can do the physical work. And then she’s tired and sleeps.

      Not that you asked ;) , but you may find sleep a whole lot easier if you mindfully choose light to heavy housework and very long daily walks with the goal of working off some energy. (I’m assuming it’s not part of your routines now.) Good luck.

      Amy wrote on May 1st, 2013
    • Hi! I had the same problem when I hit perimenopause last year. My naturopath put me on kavinace. It’s b-6 and amino acids. I also added melatonin. Melatonin will put you to sleep and kavinace will keep you asleep. I use 3mg melatonin and 3 kavinace. I am 6′ tall and weigh about 200 pounds. I hope that helps!

      Erin wrote on May 2nd, 2013
  22. Timely post… I need lots of sleep but usually have to settle for 7 hours a night during the week… on weekends, I get 8 or 9 and then have a 1.5 – 2 hour nap in the afternoon. Less than that and my performance suffers in every area.

    Merry wrote on May 1st, 2013
  23. Sleep is one of those things that you don’t really realize how much it affects you until you are not getting enough. In my situation this is mainly due to a 5 month old grockling. He sleeps better at this age then his brother, now 2 yrs 5 months, but still this means up once or twice during the night coupled with the time it takes to get him back down after my wife nurses him.

    Any advice on dealing with that kind of sleepus interruptis?

    Frank McPartlan wrote on May 1st, 2013
    • Cosleeping worked great for me. I didn’t even have to get up. Just whipped out a boob and fell back asleep while babe suckled.

      allisonK wrote on May 2nd, 2013
  24. Or quit drinking caffeine all together! Many of us will sleep much better every night when we get off the vicious cycle of caffeine. There is still as much as %50 in your system 12 hours later. Lots of us are way more sensitive to caffeine than we think too. And, you can become more sensitive over the years. You don’t know how you feel with out caffeine for about 1-3 months. But, once your poor tired adrenal glands recover you start waking up full of energy!
    I get it. I love the buzz!!! Zoom Zoom Zoom!… I actually originally quit to help relieve muscle tension. And, it has worked. The tension in my neck and shoulders is greatly improved. Caffeine is a neural stimulant. Chronic muscle tension is due to hyper neurological activity. Get it?: Neural stimulant = Hyper neurological activity!
    Caffeine is way too socially acceptable of an addiction.

    Tasha Bird wrote on May 1st, 2013
    • This is exactly what I was going to say. You’re absolutely right about the lingering and cumulative effects of caffeine–and it is a vicious cycle; i.e., you don’t sleep so you load up on caffeine to make it through the day, then you don’t sleep and you load up on caffeine again, etc., etc.

      Shary wrote on May 2nd, 2013
  25. I have had a horrible time sleeping for many years and I think it is one of the reasons I can’t lose easily despite all the right things.

    I try to keep a very regular sleep schedule but wake up a zillion times a night or fall asleep and wake up wide awake 20 min later or can’t fall asleep. I workout hard enough that I am physically tired. I have a body media fit and can see on the graph my sleep and wake cycle. It is ridiculous.. I never really sleep long enough to get into deep sleep and dream constantly. I always wake up before 5am regardless.

    I have tried every natural remedy under the sun. If I get super exhausted and can’t take it anymore I will take a shot of NyQUIL and sleep like a champ. Anyone have any ideas?

    beenthere wrote on May 1st, 2013
    • Every try a spoonful of raw honey before bed, perhaps mixed with some herbal tea? Works for me.

      Chris Sturdy wrote on May 1st, 2013
    • I’d start by letting go of the worry about how much you’re waking up at night. Throw away the charts. It’s not helping at any rate. :)

      I can only offer what works for me: get an MP3 player, sleep headphones, and a non-stimulating but enjoyable audiobook. (A story that you like/love but have heard before works well.)

      Get into bed, start listening to the audiobook and enjoy.(I don’t find that “white noise” focuses my mind as well.) You may just fall asleep if you’re not worrying about when you fall asleep. I generally put the timer on to shut off the player after 30 minutes. If you’re still awake, just turn it back on — remember: even if you’re not sleeping, you’re still resting peacefully.

      And when you wake up at 1am, pull the player out again. :) It works really well for me.

      Amy wrote on May 1st, 2013
      • I didn’t get the body media to track sleep but it does. I got it because I thought I had to be over estimating how active I was based on only losing a pound about every 9 weeks. It just confirmed what I already knew about the sleep stuff. I consistently log 15,000 to 18,000 steps and burn over 2900+ calories per day. I lift 3 x a week. I really think the no sleep issue is the key. The only week I had a good loss I had a cold and took Nyquil nightly and slept like a bear.

        beenthere wrote on May 1st, 2013
        • Hmm..I still stand by my premise that fretting nightly about how much you sleep is a zero sum game. I watched my Mother do it for decades. Never helped her get one wink of sleep. The MP3 player thing, on the other hand, has been field tested. :)

          Anyway, given those stats, maybe you need to be less active to sleep better?? Maybe it wasn’t 100% the Nyquil, but the forced inactivity of the cold that helped???

          I’m basing that comment from our experiences in child rearing. Ironically, over tired children are very difficult to get to sleep. Well rested children with rock solid routines are usually much easier to put to bed. I can always tell when our small children have blown past the energy level of easy sleep and it’s going to be a long night for all of us.

          There’s a level where physical tiredness helps tremendously. Past that (and if it’s chronically so), however, and sleep does not come easily. I might experiment with a week (or two) of rest and see how that goes. And the MP3 play thing, because you know, I like company. ;) Good luck. :)

          Amy wrote on May 1st, 2013
        • I am going to try it. I know you are right about the over tired thing. I was very tired about 7pm last night but couldn’t hit the hay until 9:30. I was wired by that time and ended up reading a very boring book. That didnt work.

          beenthere wrote on May 2nd, 2013
    • I’ve never really had any issues falling asleep or staying asleep, except for the occasional night when I drink too much water. However, I recently read Mark’s post on proper sleep posture and even though I’ve never had any issues I could tell a pretty immediate improvement on the quality of sleep I was getting. On a side note because everyone is giving it, I normally get 7-9 hours of sleep depending on how much and how hard I’m training.

      Dalton K. wrote on May 1st, 2013
  26. I’ve said this on here before, but you should really do a post about Sleep Apnea. Im a technician at a sleep disorder center, so I see every possible problem a person could have with their sleep on a daily basis.

    If you have Obstructive Sleep Apnea then it doesn’t matter how good your sleep hygene, what supplements you take, or how many hours you lie in bed. If you snore or stop breathing at night you need to be on CPAP therapy as soon as possible.

    Jackson wrote on May 1st, 2013
  27. I’m a new nurse working night shifts and wondering if anyone has suggestions for dealing with that type of schedule. Anyone else out there find a schedule of awake/sleep that works for them?

    Tammy VW wrote on May 1st, 2013
    • For years, my husband worked over nights as a police officer. The best we could do was limit the amount of caffiene and sugar he consumed, have him stay up for an hour or 2 after getting home to unwind, and then into bed, with black out curtains, as little noise as possible, and no lights. I think if I had insisted on no computer time between getting home and going to bed, that probably would have helped also but I didn’t know then what I know now.

      Currently, he works 4:30 to 2:30 so his sleep is still pretty wonked out by normal standards. Currently, there is no caffeine after 6 pm (compromise, he thinks he can’t live without it). We turn off the computer/TV/electronic devices at 8 pm, into bed at 9. I’m looking for an analogue alarm clock without a glowing face (much harder to find than one might think) to replace our digital clock, to eliminate all lights in the bedroom. Keep a window cracked open but bedding appropriate to the time of year. His sleep is **better** than it’s been in a long time but I know his cortisol levels aren’t resetting properly overnight. There’s not much more we can do though until he retires.

      eema.gray wrote on May 2nd, 2013
  28. Oh no! Super article but just not what I need right now. My 7 month old has started waking more frequently off late and reading about how sleep disruption is making me slower and weaker is not helping!
    I can see it though because I stress about how my less than ideal sleep is taking a huge toll on my physical health. It’s taking a toll on my metabolism too. Though I’m eating primal again, my fitness levels are just not what they used to be.
    Oh sleep! I miss you.

    Aloka wrote on May 1st, 2013
  29. sleep deprived parents: I’ve been there, and those years seem like a blur. there really isn’t much to do but wait it out, since they DO grow up! my oldest is now married, so the cycle begins again!

    HopelessDreamer wrote on May 1st, 2013
    • If co-sleeping is an option, it works. A few blurry days here and there, but chronic sleep deprivation during the infant years (including for the infant) hasn’t happened to date in this household.

      You don’t always have to “wait it out”. :)

      Amy wrote on May 1st, 2013
  30. Of course, a post about sleep the day after I’m up till 3 am writing my seminar paper!

    Good thing that’s not a chronic habit. =)

    Stace wrote on May 1st, 2013
  31. Oh no! Super article but just not what I need right now. My 7 month old has started waking more frequently off late and reading about how sleep disruption is making me slower and weaker is not helping!
    I can see it though because I stress about how my less than ideal sleep is taking a huge toll on my physical health. It’s taking a toll on my metabolism too. Though I’m eating primal again, my fitness levels are just not what they used to be.
    Oh sleep! I miss you.

    Aloka wrote on May 1st, 2013
    • It might be hard, but try not to stress about losing the sleep. Making yourself stress over it is only making it worse than just the sleep loss alone. If you can, sleep when baby sleeps, and know it won’t be like this forever. In the meantime, make use of that meditation idea Mark had. This can help you accept your current sleep situation so you’re not stressing out over it even more. Remember, it’s temporary. Good luck!

      Stace wrote on May 1st, 2013
      • Thanks :)
        Yes I know it’s temporary and honestly it’s not that bad. I just need to learn how to let it be rather than worrying about not sleeping coz that’s what keeps me up more than the baby !
        Will try the meditation!

        Aloka wrote on May 2nd, 2013
  32. In the context of following a primal fitness plan(walking lifting sprinting), never being overweight ,or having a serious health issue , I’ve found a little extra cardio 20- 45 mins on a stationary bike per day either in the mourning or around 6pm has improved my sleep the last two weeks I’ve been doing it.

    45mins on friday mournings and 20 – 30 min the rest of the week on the lowest or second lowest setting.

    Zen wrote on May 1st, 2013
  33. My wife and I are fond of the SNAP (Sex and a Nap). ;~)

    JtC wrote on May 1st, 2013
  34. I can remember a time when a freight train couldn’t wake me, now I’m lucky when I can sleep 3 or 4 hours straight through. My sleep has been reduced to a series of longish naps. I love that oh so rare night when I sleep undisturbed the entire night. Part of the growing older process I guess.

    Fred C wrote on May 1st, 2013
  35. “Sleep adds up, no matter where it comes from.”

    This is incorrect. Though we don’t yet know why, we have figured out that REM sleep (the deepest sleep) is crucial. As we sleep we cycle in and out of REM sleep and, the longer we stay asleep, the longer that REM cycle gets. A two-hour nap after six hours of sleep will therefore not get you the same benefits as the last two hours of eight straight hours of sleep.

    Susie wrote on May 1st, 2013
    • Maybe, maybe not. I was on a website of a guy who had really experimented with his sleep cycles – he tried just 4 hours – then fitting in 2 hour naps throughout the night and day.

      It turns out that we can train ourselves to slip into REM almost right away. That experience was of course, not definitive for all humanity but it suggest this sleep thing is surprisingly flexible.

      Amy wrote on May 1st, 2013
      • I have Narcolepsy and slip into REM sleep within 60 seconds of falling asleep everytime. REM sleep is only restorative if you ease into it via the other stages of the sleep cycle. You can’t just dive into it. This is the reason why I have Narcolepsy and why I never feel like I have slept.

        Brandon Warren wrote on May 5th, 2013
  36. Even after a long day of scaling the climbing wall, I can’t be tired enough for ten hours of sleep! How does one get a full 10 hours?

    Timothy Johnson wrote on May 1st, 2013
  37. From Mark’s post about tea, I’ve done some self-experimenting. Valerian root does indeed work well for me, as does lemon balm.

    Another super effective thing is lavender oil. I sprinkle it on my pillows and it works like a charm for deep sleep.

    P.S. A must-read for parents: “Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child” by Marc S. Weisbluth, M.D. It’s all about how to get babies and kids to sleep well. Much of the info is counterintuitive but super effective. When they sleep better, so do you.

    Susan Alexander wrote on May 1st, 2013
  38. So cats have had it figured out all along.

    Peter C. wrote on May 1st, 2013
  39. As a personal trainer, I would love to tell my clients that working out is the most important thing ever…but it isn’t.

    Diet and sleep are way more important honestly…And that is coming from someone who makes a living off of people working out and who LOVES working out herself.

    But I’ve noticed a huge change in my results over the years as I’ve worked out less and slept more, maintaining a healthy whole foods diet.

    Recovery is where you rebuild and get the results you worked so hard for in the gym. Without recovery, you won’t get results.

    And sleep…well it is the best recovery method out there!

    Cori wrote on May 1st, 2013
    • This is awesome!! I hope your clients love you and pay you well!! Trainers so often don’t get this concept. :)

      Amy wrote on May 1st, 2013
  40. I really like most of Mark’s stuff, but have to disagree here. Longer rest may improve athletic performance to some degree, but that could be due to greater amounts of REST as opposed to more SLEEP.
    I have read many scientifically supported claims that sleeping beyond 7-8 hours a night is a large factor in chronic disease later in life. Oversleeping is attributed to greater levels of obesity etc. If adequate measures are taken during the day, 5-6 hours can be totally adequate, but 7 is generally ideal.
    http://archpsyc.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=206050

    Barnaby wrote on May 1st, 2013

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