If you are reading this blog, odds are, you are a CrossFitter. Or at least someone who trains a few times a week. In my years of working in fitness, I have found that while people have a variety of reasons they choose to exercise, most of them include health and "looking better naked" on the list of reasons. People will go to the gym multiple times a week and get after it to chase those goals. Many will spend $100+ on supplements to help with the pursuit of pumping iron. Others spend hours meal prepping for the week and counting their macros (and bringing portable scales to restaurants) to improve their back squats, lower their blood pressure, or drop a dress size or two. That's a lot of hard work! The crazy thing is the same people can do one pretty easy thing to help increase their performance, drop some fat, and live a better life and it is like trying to catch a greased pig to get them on board with it. This little thing is called "SLEEP".

"Oh, you want me to jump over this little wire 1,000 times without stopping? No problem. Wait, you want me to sleep 7+ hours? That's asking TOO MUCH."

"Oh, you want me to jump over this little wire 1,000 times without stopping? No problem. Wait, you want me to sleep 7+ hours? That's asking TOO MUCH."

The National Sleep Foundation (yes, that's a thing I didn't just make up) suggests adults should get 7-9 hours of sleep a night (and kiddos need more). The Center for Disease Control reports that roughly 1/3 of adults sleep 6 hours or less per night. So we don't sleep enough but why should you care about that? Well...

  1. Not getting enough sleep makes you hungry (even if you are NOT hungry). This is a little complicated and science and boring and I am trying to keep you guys all the way to the end of the article but essentially not sleeping enough messes with some hormonal signals (cortisol, ghrelin, & leptin) that handle hunger cues. So your body doesn't actually need the calories it is telling you it needs. And you're grumpy because you didn't sleep enough. Add in a little hunger and you are full blown hangry. Nobody needs that person in their office at 3pm, Diane...On the science side, a study done by the Mayo Clinic found that by cutting 80 minutes out of the research pool's regular sleep schedule, the participants ate 549 more calories the following day. 
  2. Not sleeping enough can make it easier to store food as fat. Your body seems to be "less good" and producing the right amount of insulin if you didn't sleep. Insulin is (for the purposes of this completely elementary explanation of how you metabolize food) like the garbage truck collecting all those carbs you just shoveled down and taking them to the dump. That dump is your love handles, pal (or hips or stomach or wherever you hold fat the easiest). In addition, not properly regulating insulin makes it more likely that your body won't respond correctly to insulin in the future.

Ok, so you get that sleep is good for you. If not, here is some more stuff that you might ignore but we will give it a shot anyways:

  • A meta-analysis showed that people who "didn't get enough sleep" were 50% more likely to be obese (and kids that didn't get enough sleep were 90% more likely to be obese) than their peers getting appropriate amounts of sleep.
  • A lab controlled study done by the University of Chicago found that, "Participants who slept for 5.5 hours lost 55 percent less body fat, and 60 percent more of their lean body mass than those who slept for longer." (Both groups were on a 550 caloric deficit).
  • Recent studies point to a lack of sleep increasing inflammation and even messing with your guy flora. (If you workout hard already, you do NOT want to add more inflammation into your world.)
  • University of Cal-Berkely found that sleep deprivation decreased your frontal lobe activity (this is the "complex decision making" part of the brain) and increased the activity in the mesolimbic pathway (which is the "reward center" of the brain) which just so happens to light up like a Christmas tree when you eat the foods you love. Like Little Debbie® Christmas Tree Cakes (aka sugar and whatever else makes them last for 10 years without expiring).

Take home point: Sleep. You need to prioritize your sleep if you a) want to be healthier b) want to look sexier in that new Target bathing suit you got on the end of the season 40% off clearance rack and c) want to improve your athletic performance. 7 to 9 hours. Do it. What's the worst that could happen? You have to wait to watch the 4th season of Parks and Rec until tomorrow even though you have seen it 5 times already and have, literally, dreamed of opening your own Entertainment 720. It could be worse. You could be from Eagleton, Indiana.