T Nation

Sleep and Performance

I know we all here about the importance of adequate sleep, but I’ve noticed that sometimes I seem to perform better just slightly sleep-deprived. In fact, if I sleep more than 8 hours, I know that like clockwork my performance will be off at the gym that day.
To be clear, I’m not talking about serious deprivation, like 4 hours a night. Rather, 6 1/2 to 7 hours seems to be the sweet spot. Less or more than that seems suboptimal. At that point, I still have to have an alarm clock to wake up and I’m slightly groggy until I get my coffee, but then I seem to become sharper and more focused, both with work and the gym, than I would be if I slept longer.
Anybody else noticed anything like this?

Same here. My work usually has my sleep all outa whack and routinely go 24+ hours without rest.
On the days like you describe I think it had something to do with sleep cycles. Idk much about them, and am half a believer and half it’s rubbish. But it’s the only logical thing to explain it.

I’ve found more sleep better for performance in the gym and gains overall. 6.5-7 hrs ain’t bad at all. In the short term performance can fluctuate all over the place because is influenced by a lot of factors in addition to sleep. If you could somehow get everything else perfectly consistent then u can suss out the effect of sleep but that’s impractical. Over a training block or two i.e. longer term more sleep on average has got me more gains. Me training app is tracking it so pretty confident of that correlation. Other factors going into it as well but still sleep is good.

How u feel subjectively upon waking is not indicative of how the gym sesh is going to go (unless u go straight right away). The best indicator is how well u can perform in the gym but again lot’s of factors affect this so is hard to put it down to sleep. I try not to create self fulfilling prophecies and placebo myself into having bad sessions. Ye sure my sleep was bad last night and me stress is sky high but I’ll adopt the mind set to go in and take what is there. Almost always have a productive sesh these days, some of my best sessions were under conditions that were theoretically certainly sub optimal.

The body has natural peaks and troughs in energy and performance during the day. For most people early/late afternoon is a good time assuming like reasonable waking hours. The body also gets good at training at certain times if you are consistent even if that’s contrary to what your body’s clock would have u. So let’s say if u consistently train at a certain time waking up later would mess up your body’s schedule a bit.

I don’t really find that to be the case, unless that involves not sleeping much one night or doing something you don’t normally do before training. For a while I was barely working and the kids were at home due to COVID bullshit and I was just going to sleep and waking up whenever, some days I trained at 9am and other I didn’t start until after 3pm and I saw no correlation to performance.

Is this only on some rare occasions or a consistent trend? I have had good workouts after a bad night’s sleep, and I have set PRs while hung over too, but I see that more as doing well in spite of the situation than as a result of it.

You talk bout suss? Well suss me out.

Hmm that’s y I used could because it could have that affect and it could be a small enough effect to not really be noticeable.

As far as ur own training goes what % of ur training days are good days for you? Like feeling stronk or at least able to do the work u want and be productive? If ur meh days are often enough then it’ll be hard to tell if anything throws u off because the usually pattern is being off frequently enough.

I would say at least 75%. If I have a bad day it’s usually due to not sleeping well (often more than one night in a row) or going too long without a deload or easier sessions. Sometimes my expectations are too high, but I wouldn’t call that a bad workout.

Rather, 6 1/2 to 7 hours seems to be the sweet spot

Less than 8 hours is not necessarily sleep-deprived. 6.5 hours is still normal.

Initially, I find that how I wake up has more to do with how rested I feel than for how long.

After about 2PM, that’s when the length of sleep starts to really count.

Same. It’s my understanding u can still be productive on shitty days but I personally don’t like going and feeling bad in all the ways.

Trying to get the good days as frequent as possible for myself. Maximising recovery for sure but also balancing stimulus and fatigue is big for me.

Think we are on the same page with not overdoing volume. Staying in the pocket is what I’ve heard it called, managing volume as well as not overshooting on intensity or proximity to failure. Little bit over in one sesh bleeds into the next and so on.

Before my son was born, I was pretty regularly in bed 8-9 hours every night, and my sleep quality was piss poor. Performance was fine, but just couldn’t fall asleep well (even with caffeine out of the picture) and would wake up frequently to toss and turn. I’ve always been a pretty shitty sleeper though, even as a kid. The past 8 months, however, I’ve been getting closer to 7 hours a night with no decrease in training quality. Sleep quality is substantially better and I feel more rested when I wake up. I haven’t looked much into it, but my best guess is like all things, optimal sleep is probably individual specific to an extent, some people need more, some less, some it doesn’t matter much, and for some things go way out of wack if it’s off.

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No. The more I sleep the stronger I am. Plain and simple. Generally speaking the “I slept too much and feel groggy” is from waking up in the middle of a REM cycle instead of after. 90 minute increments are where it’s at. So 6/7.5/9/10.5 is where it’s at.

There are a ton of studies about sleep, yes some people can function just fine without a lot of sleep but just imagine if they COULD get the sleep.

Waking up and chugging coffee within the first hour is a bad idea. Why are you drinking coffee first thing in the morning? You should be refreshed ready to go! Adenosine should be lowest upon waking.

What most people have are just poor sleep conditions and bad habits.

You just might be lucky enough to do great with 7.

I haven’t used an alarm clock in years, I’m going to wake up between 5:30-7 every day, if I wake at 5:30 and I don’t have to get up I go back to sleep till 7, very rarely will I sleep past 7. I’m also almost consistently asleep by 9:30

Finding the optimal sleep schedule is key, if for some reason I don’t get enough sleep I try to force myself into a power nap before training. Thankfully it’s real easy for me because my apnea will wake me up within 15 minutes if I lay flat on my back so it’s quick for me to adjust my self so the apnea kicks in.

At the end of the day it’s slightly specific to a person but quality is going to matter over quantity. Getting 10 hours of sleep but never hitting full REM cycles is going to leave you more tired than 6 hours of solid sleep with 4 REM cycles.

I am still in bed about an hour after waking up (going in and out of sleep while my alarm radio plays). I would stay there until lunch time if I could. Not refreshed, but I also probably don’t have caffeine for 2ish hours.

I know a guy who was really good at falling asleep, and what he would do for his power nap is drink espresso quickly, nap and wake up about 15 minutes later ready to go. I wish I could do something like that.

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Yeah the best way to power nap is with coffee.

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Pushing too hard through fatigue not only causes more fatigue but also inhibited recovery from the existing fatigue. It’s like picking a scab and cutting yourself again. If you feel like shit it’s better to take it easy. Kevin Oak says the same:

Today’s training advice is when you’re training feels off it’s like being in quick sand. Don’t try to force through things. Work smart until you’re out so you can work hard when it’ll pay off.

You could still do a few hard sets but don’t push the volume just because you had such and such planned, and if it really doens’t feel good then maybe shut it down during your warmups. It all depends.

You can push close to failure here and there, like look at Westside with the max effort work. You just can’t go to failure on everything like some HIT type of thing. Last spring I experimented with pushing assistance work harder and I burned out after a few weeks, for hypertrophy alone there might be something to it but not if the main objective is getting stronger on three lifts.

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It’s a consistent trend. I realize it sounds odd and goes against everything we read about the need for sleep, but I’ve experienced it time and again. Those “off” days that Kevin Oaks talks about? For me, those are days when I’ve slept more than 8 hours. At 6 1/2 to 7 hours, I’m rested enough to train but still feeling some piss and vinegar.

I don’t know what to tell you, it defies logic. I know some people can function just fine with less sleep than most, but for it to be an actual benefit doesn’t make much sense. But you know what, if it works for you then do it.

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It might have to do with cortisol release correlating to less sleep. I do know what you mean, there definitely is a sweet spot. My theory is that circadian rhythm has a lot to do with it.

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