There are many important elements of fitness such as exercise and eating healthy, but there is one sleeping giant, known as the greatest legal performance-enhancing drug: A good night’s SLEEP.

In one of Joe Rogan’s podcast episodes, he interviews Matthew Walker, a professor of Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, and Founder and Director of the Center for Human Sleep Science (see link below). In this interview, Matthew says: “Sleep is the elixir of life. It is the most widely available and democratic powerful healthcare system I could ever possibly imagine.”

So what do these precious 7-9 hours of sleep do for our fitness performance?

>> First and most important, when we are in REM sleep, our brain replays memory sequences you learn while awake, but ~20-30x faster than when you’re awake! This is why you come back the next day and you’re 20-30% better at your skilled performance, compared to the end of your practice session the day before

>> If you’re getting 6 hours of sleep or less, your time to physical exhaustion drops by up to 30%. For example, as a boxer, if you are trained to fight a 10 round fight, but suddenly your sleep has been reduced a few hours per night, your time to physical exhaustion will drop by up to 30%, so you’ll probably only be able to last 7 rounds in your next fight.

>> Sleep finds friction points or motor skill deficits and smooths them out/improves them. So if one day you weren’t able to nail a new movement, maybe the next day you can!

And the LESS sleep you have…
>> The less ability of your lungs have to expire CO2 and inhale oxygen.
>> The lower your peak muscular strength, lower your vertical jump height and lower your peak running speed.
>> The higher the risk on an injury. One study showed a 60% increase in the probability of injury comparing people who get 9 hours of sleep a night, to those who get only 5 hours.
>> Your stability muscles fail earlier when not getting enough sleep.

I’m pretty sure you now understand the importance of sleep, but how do you improve the quantity AND quality of your sleep?

– Regularity is most important – go to bed, and wake up at the same time every day
– Try to sleep in an environment you know and where feel safe. When you sleep in a foreign environment, like a hotel room, one half of your brain won’t sleep as deeply as the other.
– Keep your room cool and/or sleep (somewhat) naked. Your brain needs to drop its temperature in order to sleep.
– Warm your hands and your feet to move the blood away from your core out to the surface. (conclusion: sleep naked with only gloves and socks.. ;))
– Don’t go to bed too full, and don’t go to bed too hungry.
– Keep your diet low in sugar and high in fibre.
– Turn off most of the lights in your house at night 2-3 hours before bed.
– The last hour of the day, stay away from any screens.

Lack of darkness is destroying our quality of sleep, because
incandescent light bulbs suppress melatonin and screen usage on top of that suppresses it even further. One hour of smartphone use will delay the onset of melatonin production by about 3 hours and your peak melatonin levels will be 50% less. All of this adds up to less REM sleep, so less time to repeat and rehearse your new boxing skills!

So if you are reading this post now, and it’s almost bedtime, turn off your phone and enjoy some no-screen time before drifting off into an athletic power sleep.