Less is more—unless we’re talking about sleep

Nearly two-thirds of Americans fail to obtain the recommended 8 hours of sleep each night. Back in 1910, the average American adult slept 8.25 hours a night. Today, in our industrialized society, that number is closer to 6.75 hours a night, putting us below the critical seven-hour limit and making us sleep-deprived. But is the 1.5 hours of sleep each night that we’ve missed over the course of the last 100 years really that significant? The answer is yes. This universal sleep loss epidemic actually comes with a high price in the form of various negative effects on both our physical and mental health. Matthew Walker, professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of the book Why We Sleep has studied sleep for over twenty years, and his findings are both remarkable and alarming. Let’s look at the impact sleep deprivation can have on your physical performance.

During workouts

If you’re getting any less than eight hours of sleep, and especially less than six hours, you’ll experience a 10-30% drop in the time it takes for your body to reach physical exhaustion. Lactic acid will build up more quickly, and the ability of your lungs to take in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide will decrease. This will affect your peak muscle strength, vertical jump height and peak running speed. Your limits all correlate to the hours of sleep you get – the less time, the worse the outcomes.

Risk of injury

There’s also a strong correlation between sleep quantity and the risk of injury. The less sleep, the higher your risk. The difference between nine and five hours sleep? Almost a 60% increase in probability of injury. This is due to a combination of exhaustion and a lack of recovery from your previous exertions. Because along with the bigger primary muscles in the body, the smaller supporting muscles will also fatigue quicker when sleep-deprived. This will compromise your balancing skills and ability to quickly react to changes in the exterior environment. No wonder you’re increasing the risk of injuring yourself!

The evidence suggests that sufficient rest is essential to improving physical performance and increasing your muscle strength. So, what are you waiting for, go to bed!

“Sleep is the greatest legal performance-enhancing drug that most people are probably neglecting…Practice does not make perfect. Practice with a night of sleep is what makes perfect.” —Matthew Walker


• Go to bed at the same time every night, and wake up at the same time every morning. This programs your body when to sleep and when to wake up.
• Dim the lights one hour before bedtime. Turn off electronic devices or TV. Read, breathe, and relax. Do something you enjoy and that gives you the opportunity to wind down.
• Don’t eat a big meal or drink too much before bed. This is too hard for your body to digest and can keep you up during the night.
• Exercise regularly. Don’t miss your Pure Strength workout. Walk around during the week, hike, do yoga—find something physically replenishing that you enjoy!
• Breathe. Meditate. Take a hot bath or shower. Slowing the mind down can give you a better night’s rest!