Dr. Ruchir P. Patel MD, FACP, Medical Director and Founder of The Insomnia and Sleep Institute of Arizona and avid CrossFitter, talks about sleep basics and CrossFit performance. This is the first of more articles to be produced by Dr. Patel for Wodstar.
When reading the question, “Does good sleep impact an athlete’s performance?” one will unequivocally answer, “Well of course it does!” Now while that answer is absolutely correct I doubt most individuals will be able to understand why good sleep is important other than the fact that most individuals believe you need to sleep so that you have energy to be able to perform and train well as an athlete.
As a sleep medicine specialist and a CrossFit athlete as well, I did not fully understand the significance of “good sleep” and an athlete’s ability to perform well until I began my attempts at CrossFit. Yes, we all know that if one is sleep deprived that he or she will be tired and you cannot lift as much weight or push yourself through that WOD as well as you would be able to if you had slept 7 to 8 hours the night before. But, there’s actually much more than simply attempting to sleep 7 to 8 hours per night to be considered “good sleep”.
While the actually quantity of sleep is a very important factor and one that most of have a tendency to sacrifice very frequently as a result of our busy lives, the quality of sleep is equally as important. It is the latter aspect of sleep that most individuals do not seem to pay attention to or recognize could be impacting his or her ability to function in daily activities as well as performing as an athlete.
When we, in sleep medicine, describe good quality sleep we are specifically looking at how much time an individual spends in the various stages of sleep and how frequently does the individual’s brain wake up briefly out of sleep. The latter aspect of sleep is the one of the main elements of sleep that determines how much time we will spend sleeping in light sleep, Stages 1 and 2, and deep sleep, Stage 3 and REM sleep.
There are many sleep disorders that impact athletes, which can result in spending excessive amounts of time sleeping in the light stages of sleep. This is an important fact as many patients I see in my own clinic report that he or she sleeps 6 to 8 hours per night but when I review their sleep during a sleep study it turns out that while he or she is in fact obtaining the appropriate amount of sleep that the quality of their sleep is quite poor as they are spending majority of the time sleeping in the light stages of sleep.
This is a extremely important as not obtaining enough time sleeping in the deep stages of sleep affects the body’s ability to repair and regenerate itself, which intuitively is very important for excelling as a CrossFit athlete but it also impacts cardiovascular health and performance as well. There are further connections with changes in metabolism as well as cognitive performance that can also impair your ability to excel as a CrossFit athlete.
So, all in all, is good sleep important to be the best CrossFit athlete one can be, you bet it does!