Over the past four weeks, we've covered a lot about how to dominate the CrossFit Open. In week one, we dove into mindset, in week two we talked about nutrition, and week three was recovery. This week, we take on perhaps the most important topic yet: sleep. CrossFit Open sleep strategies are an incredibly powerful performance enhancement opportunity, and one you can't miss. In this post, I'll go over three easy ways to optimize your sleep, and why it is so important.
Let's begin with why sleep is important. According to the National Heart, Blood, and Lunge Institute, sleep plays a vital role in heart and blood vessel health. When you are sleep deprived, your chances of a stroke are increased. Yikes. Additionally, driving on less than 5 hours of sleep is considered to be the equivalent of driving drunk. If those two basic life reasons aren't enough to get you to turn off Netflix and go to sleep, then I don't really know how to help you.
However, let's think about it from a purely physical performance standpoint. Sleep is the time when your body repairs itself. Think about yourself as a large battery. Over the course of the day, you are draining your battery without a recharge. Your mid-day coffee doesn't count, sorry. Similarly to your best friend, the iPhone, by the end of the day, you need to be plugged in. If you didn't charge your phone overnight, it would be dead the next day. Same for your energy levels. Your CrossFit Open sleep strategy is going to determine if you are fully charged, or running at 50% battery life during your workouts.
Additionally, there are two times in your everyday life in which your body releases Human Growth Hormone (HGH). Yep, you read that right. HGH, as the illegal steroid your favorite baseball player suspended for using last season, is naturally produced by your body. The only times this happens are after a very intense workout (thanks, CrossFit) and during deep sleep. Therefore, if you want to get legitimately near "illegal" benefits, start getting good sleep.
So, we now know sleep is important. You're probably wondering how to make the most of your hours between the sheets. The first tip I want to give is one you've probably heard before: limit blue light exposure at least one hour before bed. Notice, I didn't say turn off the screens. Yes, it would be great for you to shut down your computer, turn off the phone, and quit clicking through channels. But I also know how difficult it is to actually do that. In fact, I find it can increase my stress levels because I'm worried every time I am watching a video before bed time. Plus, as a self-proclaimed sports fanatic, I am often watching games before bed.
Here is the trick to solve the problem. Buy a pair of blue light filtering glasses. I'm sure they don't work as well as turning off the screens. I'm also 100% certain they are better than looking at the screen with your eyes. I have been using my Zenni glasses for two weeks now, and I have noticed improved sleep and ability to fall asleep quicker. Start doing this ASAP - it is the best hack I've ever done.
You're going to notice a theme here: light is not your friend when you sleep. Similarly to blue light, simply seeing any light is an indication to your body to repress melatonin and stay awake. This is one of the reasons people living in the city tend to have worse quality sleep than those who live in more secluded areas such as suburbs or rural areas.
But, for many of us here in Indianapolis (and around the country/world) getting away from city light is near impossible. It is such a simple tip to take away this problem, however. Buy black out curtains, stat. Black out curtains turn your somewhat-dark room into a completely reclusive black hole with zero light issues. Just do it. Spend the money. Don't let light ruin your CrossFit Open sleep and minimize your results.
My final tip for today on how to optimize your CrossFit Open sleep strategy is to create a bed time routine. A bed time routine will essentially signal to your body that it is time to relax, unwind, and produce melatonin (thereby letting you sleep more). While many people will recommend things such as turning off the TV and reading a book, if you HATE reading, I really don't support this.
Like most things, you need to find the thing that works for you and YOUR situation. I love to read. Therefore, turning off the TV, turning on a little chill music, and cracking a book works great for me. However, I know plenty of people who really don't enjoy reading, and therefore get a little stressed out by trying to get into a book. Imagine back to doing your homework before bed when you were in school. Chances are, you went to bed with your mind racing, because it was difficult and not fun.
There are many ways you can tackle getting a bed time routine. Reading is the most common first suggestion, but there are so many others, as well. For example, some people like to meditate before bed. Others enjoy prepping their lunch or breakfast for the next day. Perhaps a cup of warm tea (obviously no caffeine here) is your recipe. It may be a combination of things. Whatever it is that you do, do it consistently, and see how it's working for you.
Currently, I'm spending time reading, listening to music, and packing my bag for the next day. Nothing particularly impressive or unique, but it works amazingly well for me, and my sleep has greatly improved. I have to admit though, with the NCAA Basketball Tournament starting, I'm going to be spending some nights watching games. Good things I have my Zenni's!