Failure to Sleep = Failure to Train

How much do you sleep a night? Do you make sure that you get a full eight hours? Or do you settle for whatever you can fit into your busy schedule? Well it turns out that a failure to sleep at least eight hours a night can significantly affect your climbing performance. And also your ability to function well in other areas of your life. In fact, our need for eight hours of sleep is so important that we should actually be trying to build the necessary time into our training programs.

To really hammer the importance of sleep home, here’s an article by professional climber and coach Dave MacLeod. In his article he shares a video about the negative effects a failure to sleep can have on our performance and then summarizes what we can do to in an effort to sleep better.

Failure to Sleep – Why it is So Detrimental

The video itself is rather long (about an hour). It is presented by Kirk Parsely and The Institute for Human and Machine Cognition. While it does not pertain to climbing directly, it does a great job of outlining exactly why not getting enough sleep is so detrimental. As well as showing you the science to back these claims up. Watch the video here for yourself or click through below for the original:

MacLeod’s Summary

If you aren’t interested in watching the entire video or don’t have a spare hour, here is what Macleod pulled as the most important points for climbers:

  • The research shows that everyone settles out at 7.5 hours sleep or more. Genetic exceptions might be more resilient to short term sleep deprivation, but that’s all. They are still slowly breaking themselves by chronically sleeping less.
  • The sleep deprived adapt to feel like they can cope with the deprivation and perform normally. But the research shows that they do not. Their performance remains significantly depressed. They just don’t realise it.
  • Are you sleep deprived? It’s extremely likely.
  • Digital screens, caffeine, light in your bedroom, noise in your bedroom are all problems. If you want to respond to your training, you need to address them. Thankfully, they are all fixable.
  • To sleep, cortisol must fall to low levels and melatonin must be released. Nutrition plays a role in both and you can easily manipulate this to make sure you have the raw materials to make what you need.
  • Can’t lose/control weight? It may well be the sleep.
  • Injury risk skyrockets for the sleep deprived. Dose-response relationship.
  • The bottom line – failure to sleep = failure to reach potential. It is therefore the foundation on which any training plan must be built. Don’t kid yourself otherwise.

In conclusion

Clearly, sleep is extremely important to both performance and recovery. And it is something that we as climbers should be making a much bigger priority. While committing to getting eight hours of sleep is not a change many of us can make over night. In fact, the eight hours mark is not absolute. As MacLeod’s points out in his summary, we have control over lots of factors that affect the quality of our sleep. Even if you can’t always get a full eight hours, we should be making as many changes as possible to ensure we are getting the most and highest quality of sleep possible.

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