Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Sleep Conundrum

What's one thing we always want more of and can never seem to get enough of?

No - it's not THAT. Get your mind out of the gutter! I'm talking about SLEEP, of course!

Quality sleep is not only important year-round, it's especially important during contest prep. Yet, getting enough sleep, or even being able to fall sleep, is a major issue for many competitors.

During contest prep, I find that I need more sleep in order to function during the day. Off-season, I need about 7-8 hours a night, but during prep, I need at least 8. Why? My activity level is increased, my metabolism is screamin', and my body is depleted. Without getting too scientific, sleep gives my body time to repair, heal, and recover from the daily trauma I induce through training and diet. It's no wonder I'm short-tempered when I don't get enough sleep! (poor Jerry)

I very rarely have a difficult time falling asleep, and once asleep, it's quite difficult to wake me up. Apparently, my cat walks all over me at night, paws at my face, meows in my ear, chews on my hair, and lays on my head. I'm completely oblivious to it all. It's only when I'm a couple days out from a show that I sometimes have difficulty sleeping. I chalk it up to nerves.

On the other hand, there are many competitors who have a very difficult time sleeping during prep. I've heard so many stories of competitors who are extremely tired during the day, and can barely make it through the day without at least one nap. But when bedtime rolls around, they're wide awake. Or they fall asleep quickly, but then wake up an hour later and can't fall back to sleep for three hours. Or they fall asleep, but wake up every two hours to pee, and then have trouble falling back to sleep.

Jerry & Ed are napping buddies. Ed's always up for a nap.

It all boils down to not enough hours or quality of sleep. I wish I knew the science behind this, but I don't. And I haven't taken a science class since, um ... I think 10th grade?? (Hooray for being an English major in college!)

It's very common for competitors to take multiple naps throughout the day, grabbing sleep whenever they can. Jerry has told me stories about how he's fallen asleep while training clients, at stoplights (dangerous! A big reason I don't let him drive when he's prepping), and watching TV. One time, he was sitting on an exercise ball in the gym, fell asleep, and ended up sprawled on the floor (I'm trying to picture my 230 lb boyfriend falling off an exercise ball. Tee hee.)

Why does this happen? It's not narcolepsy. My very unscientific explanation is that we starve and deplete our bodies to the point where the body just wants to shut down in order to survive. Since sleep helps repair the body, when it thinks it's dying, the body tries to shut down and go to sleep.

Healthy? Uh, not at all. Do we still continue to compete? Yep! It's all part of the game.

It's no surprise that you'll find a various assortment of sleep aids on bodybuilding supplement sites. Every body is different, and everyone needs a different amount of sleep for optimal body function. Make sure you get enough sleep, especially during prep, so your body can recover from the stress of training and diet.


  1. The demands of comp prep can cause many competitors to deplete their adrenal glands, sometimes to the point of total burn-out. Our bodies require quite a bit of energy to sleep so it is important for people whom partake in 'extreme sports' ie. bodybuilding to support their adrenals with the right supplements. Usual symptoms of adrenal fatigue are restless nights and partial insomnia which causes them to be dead tired all day long! ;-)

  2. I think I've messed something up with my body from competing because I always seem to be tired now! If I didn't have my fat burners some days, I don't know how I'd make it!

  3. ahhhhhh,sleep? whats that? LOL!but yes,i agree-contest prep can and will mess with sleep patterns....but like you siad,its part of the game sometimes and one of my favorite sayings during prep is "i'll sleep when im dead"