Decade-Long British Study Says, For Best Results, Sleep Could be as Important as Exercise

July 25, 2023 by
Photo Credit: Brent Fikowski
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As CrossFit athletes, we tend to prioritize fitness and nutrition and think we’re good to go.

But according to new research—a decade-long study published this month in The Lancet Healthy Longevity Journal—there’s another key pillar to the overall health and wellness sauce that we sometimes don’t emphasize quite as much. 

That ingredient is sleep.

OK, so maybe this isn’t new news. We have, after all, heard since childhood that eight hours a night is the magic number, but the reality is we’re busy, we have children, life is unpredictable, so eight hours a night eludes many of us, and then we trick ourselves into believing all we need is six hours.

We digress. Back to the research. The new UK study discovered that sufficient sleep is required for the full cognitive benefits that should come from physical activity.

The details: The research, which followed 9,000 adults over the course of a decade, found that the highly-active adults in their 50 and 60s who participated in the study, who slept less than six hours a night, essentially lost the cognitive advantage exercise provided, as they experienced the same cognitive decline levels as those who don’t exercise. 

  • In contrast, those with a high level of physical activity, who also slept between six and eight hours a night, experienced better cognitive function as they aged than those who didn’t sleep as much. In this sense, for best results, physical activity, combined with enough sleep, is required, especially in aging adults, the authors concluded.

The bottom line: Six hours of sleep probably isn’t enough for you, nor is it enough for the elite CrossFit athlete.

  • Food for thought: Brent Fikowski and Sam Briggs told us their ideal number of hours of sleep a night is 10, while Noah Ohlsen aims for nine hours a night during competition season.

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