Sleeping. Ah, the best of painkillers, the escape from your worries, the balm that restores you.

When you can get it.

Nothing replaces a restful night’s sleep. A rest day will not restore you if you don’t get good sleep. Unfortunately, some of us have issues with sleep. Actually, according to a recent study, more and more of us (up to a third of American adults) don’t get enough sleep. I have been a chronic insomniac, unable to shut my brain up when I lie down at night. And recently I have found that the best predictor of whether I’ll have a migraine is the quality of my sleep.

If you are exercising regularly, whether CrossFit or something else, chronic sleep deprivation can effect your body’s ability to continue making gains with the exercise — and that’s the best case scenario. If you’re working out and not getting good quality sleep, you can end up ill or injured (yes, I know, I’m obsessed with not getting injured. If you’ve had as many MRIs, physical therapy sessions and drugs for injuries as I have, you know what I mean. Vicodin doesn’t do much more than aspirin for me anymore, I’ve had it so many times.)

An article called “Sleep Deprivation Can Hinder Sports Performance” at’s Sports Medicine explains what experts believe is the problem when athletes don’t sleep:

Glucose and glycogen (stored glucose) are the main sources of energy for athletes. Being able to store glucose in muscle and the liver is particularly important for endurance athletes. Those who are sleep deprived may experience slower storage of glycogen, which prevents storage of the fuel an athlete needs for endurance events beyond 90 minutes.

Elevated levels of cortisol may interfere with tissue repair and growth. Over time, this could prevent an athlete from responding to heavy training and lead to overtraining and injury.

What about those who do shift work, staying up all night and trying to catch Zs when the rest of us are (at least theoretically) awake? Brent Behringer at “BrentsCrossFitPaleoLife” addresses how he deals with getting sleep while keeping nontraditional hours in his post, “What About Sleep“:

I chose to look inward, identify unhealthy sleep habits, determine how they got that way, and chart a course for improvement. Here are some things I have learned …

1. Prioritize at all costs … When I know it is time to sleep, there is no negotiation.

2. Combat fatigue with….sleep … Go figure. I have spent most of my night-shift life combating my fatigue with snacks, sugar, carbs, and caffeine. Now, when I’m thick and stupid with fatigue, I take a little nap …

3. Watch the caffeine …  I have found that using caffeine as a wake up is the most useful. That’s it. Right when I wake up. If I use it to try to STAY awake, it just doesn’t take. I end up being fatigued …

4. Listen!! … You can’t bank sleep. It either is or isn’t. You are either tired or not. Listen to your body …

5. Relax …  I force myself to relax every muscle from the top of my head and work all the way down to my toes. It sounds like BS, I know. But it really works.

If you are waking up during the night because you snore or twitch, you  may need a sleep study and, if you find you have sleep apnea (like me, whoo-hoo), you’ll find yourself with a little friend called a CPAP. We dubbed mine “Snuffleuppagus” because I look like an elephant with the mask and hose. Once you get used to it, you sleep better. At least until the plastic that makes contact with your face starts deteriorating; then you get face farts when the seal breaks, which, oddly enough, wake you up repeatedly through the night.

But sleep apnea is just one of the things that may be interfering with your sleep, hence the point of the sleep study, although I’ve had yet to have one where I even slept as much as my usual lousy night’s sleep. Being told “Go to sleep now” is like giving me an infusion of caffeine.

If you’re lucky, you can get sleep without medication (I wish. I think most rhinos would be incapacitated by the amount of drugs I take that have sleep as a side effect). Some of you will have to get some prescriptions to get there, although maybe not on a regular or permanent basis. Even with drugs, good “sleep hygiene” (that’s really what they call it; sounds like you should be cleaning up while you snooze) is still important. I resisted the “always go to sleep and get up at the same time” advice for years, but I pretty have much resisted anything that tries to make me keep a routine. I always thought “routine” equaled either “boring” or “something is controlling me.”

Anyway, here’s the classic set of sleep hygiene instructions from the National Sleep Foundation:

  • Avoid napping during the day; it can disturb the normal pattern of sleep and wakefulness.
  • Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol too close to bedtime. While alcohol is well known to speed the onset of sleep, it disrupts sleep in the second half as the body begins to metabolize the alcohol, causing arousal.
  • Exercise can promote good sleep. Vigorous exercise should be taken in the morning or late afternoon. A relaxing exercise, like yoga, can be done before bed to help initiate a restful night’s sleep.
  • Food can be disruptive right before sleep; stay away from large meals close to bedtime. Also dietary changes can cause sleep problems, if someone is struggling with a sleep problem, it’s not a good time to start experimenting with spicy dishes. And, remember, chocolate has caffeine.
  • Ensure adequate exposure to natural light. This is particularly important for older people who may not venture outside as frequently as children and adults. Light exposure helps maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle.
  • Establish a regular relaxing bedtime routine. Try to avoid emotionally upsetting conversations and activities before trying to go to sleep. Don’t dwell on, or bring your problems to bed.
  • Associate your bed with sleep. It’s not a good idea to use your bed to watch TV, listen to the radio, or read.
  • Make sure that the sleep environment is pleasant and relaxing. The bed should be comfortable, the room should not be too hot or cold, or too bright.

Sweet dreams, y’all!


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