The serious business of sleep

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the role sleep plays in our overall health and fitness pursuits. It’s a factor often discounted, placed well behind training and diet. We weight and measure our food, we diligently count reps and record times, but we get home and put bedtime off for a few hours in favor of watching our favorite TV show or surfing the internet. I’ve been guilty of it myself – staying up late writing blog posts but still dragging my butt out of bed at 5 AM for a workout. I would think, “Suck it up – once you get up and slam a coffee, you’ll feel much better.” And I prided myself on my discipline and motivation that early in the morning.

Let’s face it – our Western society encourages this. I won’t even get into our long work weeks, self-created family demands, or the technology distractions that keep us up late and wake us up early. No, I’ll just wrap all of that up by saying that somehow along the way, functioning on less sleep has become a point of pride, and a trait to be admired. You shake your head in awe at the guy who claims he runs just fine on five hours of sleep a night. He’s a superhero, the model of efficiency, a Person Who Gets Things Done. I’m here to tell you, he is also sorely mistaken. NOBODY runs really, truly well on five hours of sleep a night. He may think he’s doing just fine, but Google “lack of sleep” + “(insert disease here)” and you’ll quickly realize that sleep deprivation will smuck up a whole host of bodily systems, and contributes (in part) to stress, inflammation, cancer, heart disease and diabetes. As one University of Chicago researcher puts it, “Lack of sleep disrupts every physiologic function in the body… (and) we have nothing in our biology that allows us to adapt to this behavior.”

And here’s where I hit all your 30 day’ers where it hurts. I’m not just talking about sleep affecting your recovery from training, or reducing your stress… no, I’m pulling out the big guns. While diet plays a crucial role in body composition, sleep also plays a significant role… specifically, in fat loss. There are all kinds of studies relating sleep to insulin resistance, leptin levels and cortisol levels… all related to fat loss. Robb Wolf also has a great post on the effects of sleep on those pesky love handles – read the article and all the comments for the details. And here is a quick abstract that gives you yet another reason why getting that 8-9 hours of sleep a night is CRUCIAL to fat loss. (Have I said “fat loss” enough? Do I have your attention?)

So, it looks like we’ve been missing the bus here. Sleep is more than just lovely – in fact, from everything I’ve been reading and researching, my working theory is that getting good sleep is the second most important success factor in your health and fitness pursuits. That’s right, NUMBER TWO… just behind cleaning up your diet, and AHEAD of perfecting your training routine. I’ve been preaching sleep to my clients for a few weeks now, and I’m about to step up my game with the rest of you blog readers. Think of sleep as a factor JUST as important as whether you’re eating grains and dairy, or how often you’re picking up heavy stuff. Experiment, just as you did with some dietary factors. Try getting 8+ hours of sleep every single night for two weeks, and see how you feel. And don’t tell me you can’t, because you have some special circumstance that the rest of us don’t. We all work, we all have families, and friends, and outside pursuits, and stress. Figure out how to make it happen, because it’s as worthy a pursuit as changing every aspect of your diet was more than thirty days ago. Easier said than done, I’ll give you that, but Mercola has some good tips on how to improve the quality of your sleep. And consider getting the book Lights Out – Sleep, Sugar and Survival for what I have heard is a good read on the subject. (I just ordered it, in an effort to educate myself a bit more about the importance of sleep as a factor in nutritional and performance coaching.)

By the way – I AM taking my own advice, I assure you. Yesterday morning, my alarm went off at 5 AM for the gym. It was a less than stellar night, however, as I was up tossing and turning until after 11 PM. So I turned my alarm off and slept until the sun woke me up at 7:20. My “training” that day consisted of eating really well, taking all my fish oil and getting a massage to help me de-stress. THAT’S what I did to take care of myself, and I know it did me far more good than dragging my bleary-eyed butt out of bed for some mediocre met-con action.

So do your homework, plan ahead and turn the lights out nice and early tonight. And if anyone does take me up on my two week Sleep-A-Palooza, let me know how it goes.

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  1. Melicious says

    Based on your advice, I turned the thermostat down to 70, shut the TV off at 10, put on my eye mask, and… zonk! Got 8 awesome hours. When i get back from Vegas (whooooo! VEGAS!), I'm committing to 8.5 minimum most nights of the week. It's going to be tough for me — I'm a notoriously bad sleeper. But doing CrossFit and eating dino-chow seemed unconquerable once, too. Yay, new habits.

    Go, cave people… and hit the pillow!

  2. Leya says

    LOVE this post Sleep for me is huge. I got into a regular sleep schedule after I was diagnosed with PCOS and I decided to tackle it with lifestyle changes. It's part of the trifecta of awesomeness along with diet and exercise. All three have made a huge difference but if one of them falls by the wayside (especially sleep), I get all out of whack pretty quickly.

  3. Robbie says

    Funny you should post this, my alarm went off this morn at 5:45 and I thought, hmm…is 7 hours enough to repair the damage you've inflicted the past three of training(Helen,The Bear, FGB)? Probably not…going to hit it early tonight and maybe grab a midday nap.
    On that note, being a father, I am a big fan of the "sleep when they sleep" rule of having kids. Naps saved my life when my 2nd son was born. Here is list of nappping techs:
    HE MICRO-NAP: two to five minutes
    Shown to be surprisingly effective at shedding sleepiness.

    THE MINI-NAP: five to 20 minutes
    Increases alertness, stamina, motor learning, and motor performance.

    THE ORIGINAL POWER NAP: 20 minutes
    Includes the benefits of the micro and the mini, but additionally improves muscle memory and clears the brain of useless built-up information, which helps with long-term memory (remembering facts, events, and names).

    THE LAZY MAN’S NAP: 50 to 90 minutes
    Includes slow-wave plus REM sleep; good for improving perceptual processing; also when the system is flooded with human growth hormone, great for repairing bones and muscles.

    Most of us prob can't nap midday, but if you can…'s worth it.
    @Mel, I think Imma get one of those masks, do they come in bad ass cammo print or buffalo hide?

  4. carney says

    Totally agree that sleep is important, but not below training and nutrition on a linear, 1st – 2nd – 3rd, progression. Instead I tend to think and talk about it as a balance. One needs to balance the stress of life (including training) with their recovery (food, sleep). No one is going to eat and sleep their way to fitness. We need the stress of training and the following adaptation (recovery) to increase strength, bone density, CVR function, etc. Word.

  5. Chelsea says

    I love sleeping! Who wouldn't want more? Sometimes I get a little tweaky when my tivo box starts racking up shows, like I need to watch all 5 of those True Blood episodes NOW or the box might fill up! Not that it ever gets close to full…got to remind myself that the whole point of the box is so that you DON'T have to watch it 'right now'. Tivo solved that problem, but I still sometimes have a hard time putting a good book down at night…

  6. MelissaG says

    Okay, you've beat me over the head with the sleep thing, called me full of shit for claiming to be able to function on way less, and now you dare to bring in fat do hit where it hurts and hit hard.

    So here, out in public, I'm committing to sleep for a min of 8 hours a night for the next 2 weeks. Yes, that means no kickboxing for two whole weeks…god help my poor husband, he's going to need it.

  7. Brandon P. Petersen says

    I've been telling myself this for so long, but just can't seem to go sleep!!!
    AAHHHHH my dam brain don't stop!!
    i usually get to bed between 2a-3a, and wake up between 7-7:30…

    I need to work on this, and shoot for that 8 hour mark!

  8. Brandon P. Petersen says

    Anyone taking Melatonin(sp)? I've heard this can really put you right out and give you a great night sleep…

    also i was reading a ton yesterday about 5-HTP…but after reading, this would not mix well with Adderall so i have to stay away from that stuff…

  9. MelissaG says

    @ Brandon

    I'm trying ZMA right now. It was something Melissa recommended. It's only been a couple of nights but I've noticed improvement in staying asleep and feeling more rested in the morning.

  10. hannah eileen says

    I've tried melatonin. I loved it when I was taking it, but the day I stopped I got HORRIBLE headaches and was achey everywhere. Don't reccomend it.
    As for the sleep, I have been getting way less than 8 hours lately. School just started back up again, so I am contributing it to that. Hopefully, after a relaxing weekend in Minnesota I'll be sleeping my 8 hours each night!

  11. Jamie says

    Holy cow and wow, sign me up for the Dino Chow!
    I have been trying to better my health since Jan '09 when I started hitting the gym regularly. I realized I had a bad relationship w/ food so I chose NutriSystem. That was really just a crutch and it dawned on me that all of that shelf stable food is really just embalming me well before I take the dirt nap.
    For the past few weeks I have been trying to Zone and I admit – I failed. Well, I really don't see it as my failure. I don't feel the need to measure, etc. and with my current state of chaos I don't have time to care about those little details that add up to too complicated for now. Grad school is back on the day to day schedule and I have ended my engagement so I am in the process of moving to my fiancee free home (hugs to Jen, your courage helped me make this leap in the midst of such craziness!).
    Since I have to stock that fridge and pantry anyway, this is the best time to turn into a Cave Woman.
    I am in the midwest and trying to get the grocery list put together – will refer to the first 30 days comments to help with that. I see many references to particular stores – I do not know of a local Whole Foods. I have Fresh Market and Trader Joes near by. Are they a safe bet for the shopping trip? My local Kroger and Marsh leave alot to be desired…

    And, I might as well add 8 hours sleep to the program now and reap those rewards while I am at it – although sleeping more than 2 hours at a time now is a stretch.

    Day One will be Monday. MB – I just need time to do a change of address, move the remainder of the boxes, and grocery shop so please don't think I am stalling so I can hoover crap food all weekend.

    I don't think I have met any of you, but I appreciate all that you have shared so I can ride the coat tails. Long time lurker,

  12. Oh, what have I done? says

    A great book to back up everything in this post is Lights Out: Sleep Sugar and Survival by T.S Wiley. This book changed my life 2 years ago and started me on the crossfit, reduced sugar (and finally to paleo) and make- my- bedroom- like- a- cave lifestyle. They recommend a few pills, but never melatonin, because it ends up down-regulating your own natural production of it. that ends up affecting other hormones – insulin and cortisol namely. Melatonin enhances leptin (the appetite suppressing hormone that is needed at night so you stay asleep and dont raid the fridge when you should be sleeping). when you sleep less you make less melatonin and less leptin, and you keep getting hungrier and hungrier. This book is full of valuable hormonal information. It is totally worth reading.

  13. Melissa Byers says

    @Carney: Word, indeed. Your insightful comment leads me to clarify my position on Sleep = #2 Priority.

    I'm not sure many would argue with diet as the #1 factor in health and fitness. You can train all day long, but if your diet doesn't support that activity, you'll have a hard time getting healthy OR fit. (Conversely, if you eat perfectly but don't actively train, you may not be strong, but you'll at least be HEALTHY from the inside out.) If we assume that to be true, let's also assume that none of us around here live a sedentary lifestyle. In fact, I'm betting none of us UNDER-TRAIN. We're all really good at staying training motivated, working hard, pushing ourselves. And I'll argue, we're so good at that, we train at the expense of our bigger picture health.

    We'll discount things like sleep and rest in favor of training more, and training harder. And that, over the long term, has the opposite of the intention – improved health and fitness. So what I'll postulate is this: Sleep SHOULD be the #2 factor on your priority list, because it's the really important factor we suck at the most. We eat well, we train hard, but we fail to rest and recover properly. As such, I'm asking you to make sleep a real priority, and that means placing it AHEAD of the thing we already do really well – perhaps TOO well, at times.

    It's unrealistic to say, "I won't train unless I get 9 hours of sleep the night before." But we can set reasonable goals for ourselves, such as, "If I get less than 6 hours of sleep two days in a row, I won't train the next day." By making SLEEP the priority, ahead of training, it allows us to see the rest as playing an active part in our health and fitness. And, I'll venture to say you'll do more good in that direction by eating clean and resting than you would by training while chronically overtired.

    Hope that makes more sense.

  14. Oh, what have I done? says

    DOH I am sleep deprived and jumped the gun and missed Moxy Boss rec. of the book. skim reading….. DOH! Anyway, glad she hit that, it just proves how awesome and right she is.

  15. CrossFit Allegiance says

    Can I just throw it out there….LOVE YOU FRIEND!!!! Can't wait, 10 days you, me same place!!! So fun!!!!

  16. Melissa Byers says

    Whoo-hoo! Me and you in the same place – can NorCal handle that?!? Tucker BARELY could. I told Robb that his box isn't going to know what hit it once the two of us roll up… I'm sure he's going to try to turn that into something dirty. Ha! Can't wait!

  17. CrossFit Allegiance says

    Yeah I totally read that. Loved it!!! Yes we are definitely a little much to handle. We get to be partners in crime for a day and a half. Poor Dallas!!!

  18. Jen says

    I'm so signing on for Sleep-apalooza! I know how important it is, and have been shooting for between 7-8 hours…and feeling like I'm coming close to the mark when I get 6.5 a couple days a week. For, honestly, no good reasons! So I'm making it 8-9 starting tonight!

    Re: Melatonin – I just know that personally, it gave me the most restless sleep because I dreamed the most vivid, strange dreams all night long!

    Hi Jamie! Welcome, welcome!

    Off to work…

  19. Trey says

    I dont' mean to offend, and I'm not pretending to know anything science-y about the sleep subject, but to me taking something to aid one in going to sleep doesn't seem very Paleo. The point of paleo is to get your body back to a natural state. For me, and I'll just assume others, having trouble going to sleep has a whole lot to do what what I did that day.

    Did I slack off at work and feel guilty? Did I get into an argument with someone (wifey) for no good reason? Did I eat right?

    All those things go into how I sleep, and again will assume others as well.

    I'll also make an assumption that a good majority of us are Crossfiters. I started CF back in May w/ a Paleoish…zoneish diet, and since I have dialedish in the Paleo, which I think is the most important of the 2, I started sleeping a bit better. I've also vowed to myself that I will hit every WOD with the utmost intensity everytime I tell myself 3,2,1…GO.

    For me making sure I feel good about my day…feel good about my diet…and tackle each days WOD with my all. I really don't have much trouble going to sleep.

    Again not an expert and really not trying to be offensive to any person's particular life situation. just my $.02

    And if all of that doesn't work….150 burpees for time will do the trick.

  20. Melissa Byers says

    @Trey: Point taken, and you have some excellent suggestions to help all of us sleep more naturally. But I'll argue none of us are doing this because we want to be "Paleo". We're taking actions that are the best thing for our health and fitness. It just so happens to fit closely into the Paleo mold, but that's not at all the point. I eat, sleep, train and supplement in the manner that I know best suits my individual health and fitness pursuits.

    To that end, I personally take fish oil, a digestive enzyme and something else that I can't remember but Dallas told me to take it so I do. Those are all supplements that weren't available to "Paleo man"… and yet they are all natural, benefit my health and fitness and offer zero down side or side effects (unlike something like ibuprofin or protein powder). So, I won't discount the use of certain supplements in this pursuit.

    ZMA is nothing more than Zinc and Magnesium, both things found naturally in your body. If taking a little extra in the form of a pill helps you get that 8 hours, I'm all for it. (If you're leaning towards Ambien, though, we're gonna have another discussion entirely.)


  21. Robbie says

    I took ZMA for a month. It really did make me sleep deeper and faster. The dreams were pretty intense though and if I woke up a couple hours before I was supposed to, I had a hard time going back to sleep. I would consider trying it again, as this time around, my diet is 1000x times better, my sked is steady and I don't live in noisy building.
    A lot of things to consider.

  22. MelissaG says

    @ Robbie

    I've been using less than the recommended dose. It seems to cut down on the intense dreams, which made me feel like I was sleeping even better.

  23. Schway says

    Kinda blows my mind that some people need so much convincing and research/studies to realise they need sleep. I may only be 20 years old, but for those 20 years I have loved the hell out of sleep.

    This is a bit messed up, but there have been nights where I was lying in somebody elses bed after hooking up and I literally just got up and went home because their bed was full-on rubbish and I couldn't get to sleep.

    I'm glad you brought up training in relation to sleep. Every now and then we can't avoid having to run on 5-6 hours and on those days, training is probably not a good idea. Especially at regular volume and intensity. Doing something to get the blood pumping? Maybe. Max Effort work? Probably not.

    Not sure if I've commented on here before, but I definitely think your blog is one of the best out there. I wish more girls took responsibility for their health like you clearly do, rather than just not eating and justifying being thin as healthy. Keep it up!

  24. Steve says

    Day 13 of the 30 Paleo Diet thingie and all is well. As far as sleep, I already sleep eight hours a day because I cannot funtion without eight hours of sleep. Sometimes I will sleep ten or more hours.

    @Jen How are you doing?

  25. Jen says

    Hi Steve!

    Better!!! Talked myself hoarse last week and he's still leaving. But…and big but here!…I think there's hope. I started reading 'The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands' and it totally opened my eyes to how badly I'd been behaving also. I told him that today and apologized. And until I know that I gave my 100% to this marriage and it didn't work, I'm going to keep fighting. Hell,I'm a CF'r…we don't give up! He should expect that. Unfortunately, he's still leaving to give himself some room. We're telling the kids on Saturday (I didn't want to do it on a school night, so we waited a week). So still lots of hard things to get through, and I totally regret what this is doing to the kids. But I'm remaining hopeful that this will work out.

    Thanks so much for checking on me! : -)


  26. David X says

    Another great post!

    Personally, sleep is a huge factor for me in determining how, not only my WODs go, but how I feel thoughtout the day leading up to my WOD.

    Typically, my room in pitchblack and I'm in bed by 9:30 reading or stretching. NO TV, NO IPOD, NO NUTHIN. I'm asleep by 10 and up by 6:30.

    I had some onsomina problems a couple years ago and it had me on the brink on collapse–I was pushing myself beyond the limits and I Was cracking up. I started to incororate this "quiet time" an hour before bed and almost immediately I started to get better sleep quality and felt better quickly. I also stopped drinking coffee after 12 pm.

    Anyway, on vacation I didn't go to bed until after 2 am everynight and now I'm sick as a dog and having a harder time rebounding after a WOD or even after a long day at work.

    Melissa is right in saying that our society supports a lifestyle that is unhealthy in terms of sleep and relaxation, but just like altering our diets to a more natural way of life, our sleep must do the same.

    Keep fighting, the fight.

  27. johnj says

    What kind of side effects come from protein powder? On the same note whenever fueling post wod what are u consuming for protein? I wouldn't be able to handle any type of real protein (steak,chicken, eggs,fish…) without puking. Any suggestions. Oh also, anybody know any good mexican paleo recipes?

  28. Soulrich says

    Ok thinking outloud, I just breezed through most of the comments and I am honestly after hmmm around 50 days to the point of a breakdown. I am at a loss how you guys get this all done and I am trying so hard to keep up and I am embarrased I am having trouble. I got the diet down but that takes about 3 hours on Sunday and a solid 90 minutes each day (unlike some of you I am total OCD and HAVE to measure and write everything down on top of cooking/cutting/making). BUT SO WORTH IT, not a complaint, love this eating lifestyle. I work 8-10 hours have a 90 minute commute and I am having so much trouble getting my work outs in, in fact I am totally failing at this. TOTAL, and it is starting to change my eating and now 8 hours of sleep??? Again, I agree 100%, totally NOT a complaint and I want to make this work but crap… how are you guys doing this all? I know there are people out there busier than me, have kids, etc…

    So after typing all of this I wote down a schedule to get everything done… and I can do it, including the sleep but it involves zero sitting down at all, no social time, no phone calls, nada. Not even 15 minutes but I guess I will try to use my car time to decompress, and ask those I carpool with to just be quiet lol.

    Are some of you out there getting this done somehow and still finding 20 minutes just to sit in a room in silence if nothing else and HOW?

  29. Schway says


    Your dedication is awesome, but you do sound a bit like a guy who's about to snap.

    Don't take healthy living to the point where a backlash is almost inevitable. Do your best and keep it reasonable. If that means you train one day less this week or whatever, it may have to happen. It's worth it to keep your sanity and keep being healthy fun.

    As for cooking, dude that sucked for me too at first. The more I get used to it though, the faster I've been able to prepare meals. Having pre-made paleo friendly snacks helps as well. I've recently been making shakes and taking them with me. Shakes are rad 'cause they're really versatile. Mine are fairly high calorie 'cause I'm trying to gain weight, but they don't have to be. I do find it a bit weird that a lot of paleo recipes that come out take so much prep, but if you improv and have tolerance for some simpler meals, you can get it done.

    One last thing I'd say is that, for your sanity, keep your social life afloat. This was totally a breaking point for me a while ago. I was so concerned about getting my meals and training sorted that I basically ignored phone calls and invites to go out. After a while that really got to me and these days social stuff is a big priority for me.

    Funnily enough, after I got all this stuff sorted out, I'm now at a point with my job where I only work about 3 hours per day at most. The stuff I learned during crunch time was invaluable though.

    Keep at it man, and don't beat yourself up. 8-10 hours work plus 90 min commute is brutal, but I can tell from the passion in your post that you'll manage to make it work. Just make sure sanity/happiness is your #1 priority and hopefully some others will chime in with any tricks they've used to save on time.

  30. Jen says

    Poor Soulrich! I'm not working now full-time, but I remember when I was…with an hour commute and three small kids … so I totally can emphasize! And Schway's response was perfect – all of it. I would just add in to really, really really LOOK at a couple things. First – what of the gazillion things on your to do list are essential and which could honestly be weeded out? Sometimes it takes a third party to help with that, because we are so used to stretching ourselves so thin. But with your basics (work, sleep, training, eat, play)taking up so much time, you have to decide whether you really need to, say…watch TV? I don't know… : -) that's just the example I come up with because I don't! Don't have time for it! And second…look at your food prep and see where you can pre-prep even more. Why marinate 1 lb of chicken and grill it? Last week I marinated and grilled (at the same time) probably 16 lbs of meat…pork, sirlion, and chicken. After it cooled, I cut, portioned and froze half. The other half was cut and put in bags in the fridge (family of 5 – so that meat won't sit around long!) Cut your greens, cut your veggies..cook a big pot of paleo chili (I have some good recipes on my blog, if you're interested) and know that the week is covered. And everything doesn't have to be hard. Lunches this week, which was super busy for me, usually involved grabbing a hunk of meat out of bag 1, a handful of nuts out of bag 2, and then a veggie. One day I drove down the street gnoshing 1/2 a zucchini that I hadn't even had time to slice. Raw asparagus is easy to grab to.

    You have the right spirit. I know you can do this. Just cast a really critical eye over everything you're doing know and start fine tuning things!

    Good luck!

  31. johnj says

    Hey guys i am giving training at work on diet/nutrition to a group of people who live by the traditional/usda approved diet. I wanted some input on topics that could/should be covered and how to go about presenting the paleo vs. the usda diets. Any input would be appreciated.

  32. Mer says

    Jamie et al.,

    Hi. Longtime lurker via Melicious's fabulous blog. Notorious bad eater (sour candy is my Achilles heel) recently fallen off the Zone wagon but trying desperately to get back on and them some. Just settled into a new apartment back in my old stomping ground after taking a job just north of there. Ready to make yet another change for the better.

    Paleo Day 1 – Monday. You and me Jamie. :)

    aka Vargas Grrl
    TXRG Rec-n-Rollerderby

  33. Jamie says

    Awesome Mer – You are on!

    I am just about done clearing out of the old place. Tomorrow I start building up the pantry and fridge and settling into my new residence.
    I remember hearing from the original 30 day folks that made the think our first Paleo shopping trip can take a while since we will need to be so careful reading the ingredients, finding bad ones, picking up a different brand and starting over – fair warning. :) But, Farmer's Markets will be a fun hunt for sure.

  34. Melissa Byers says

    Speaking of… "What's What at the Farmers' Market" was our Rest Day post this week. You can read it here.


  35. Apolloswabbie says

    I concur with all of that, Melissa, when I feel some way I don't want to feel and can't shake it over a couple days, I find a way to get more sleep and presto – it's all good. I think with the food and exercise I get, I have not been in that place in many years which prevents me from being able to get that extra sleep when I make the time to get it. When I'm really off the sleep game, and don't want to make the sacrifice' to get to bed earliers, the 10 minute hypno nap after work is also potent. Great post, thanks. Paul

  36. Steve says


    The only advice I think I can give you is for you to be good to yourself and forgive yourself for not being perfect and then fight like hell for your marriage. But be good to yourself.

  37. Ben Wheeler says

    Lights Out is unreal! I have read it front to back twice and continue to read through chapters over and over. As soon as you read this you release you know nothing…zero…about what is really going on. Insulin is just one of the many many hormones and neurotransmitters that play a role. I just got T.S Wiley's new book today called Sex, Lies and Menopause and by skimming through it it seems even more indepth than Lights Out.

    Bottom line is not just sleep but the amount and the time when it happens matters big time! You can eat strict paleo all you want but if you aren't getting sufficient sleep (that means 9.5 hours at least six to seven months out of the year) then you are still in big trouble. Getting a six pack should be the least of your worries.

  38. Tamara of In the Night Farm says

    Oh. Ahem. Right. Was just off to brush my teeth…

    You are so right. An hour or two of sleep, give or take, makes a huge difference not only in my workouts, but also in my hunger levels (higher on low sleep) and afternoon energy.

    Seriously. I'm off to bed. 'night!

  39. Littles says

    I'm a cranky bitch if I don't get at least 7 hours. In the summer months, if I really really try I can get 7-8. The rest of the year I aim for 8-9. 9 is amazing. 9 is bliss.

  40. Robbie says


    I would consider making a handout comparing the two as far as what entail macro nutrient-wise. Carbs, protein, fat. People like having things faced off against each other. Sometimes they need a villian to hate and a hero to get behind. Then point out the problems of the high grain low fat diet as far it's impact on society and what you set out to accomplish through Paleo and the common results. Having a one day meal plan example would really help convey that they won't be starving. Oh, and make sure to grab the fat myth by the throat and squash that F'r. Probably your biggest challenge when droppping knowledge on Paleo. Rip it to shreds.
    Don't get too techy. My clients just tend to zone out when I start droppping too many big words
    Good luck!

  41. Gracewanderer says

    Someone needs to tell this to the military. They seem to think that operating on four hours of sleep a night for an indefinite span (months) is just fine, and if you start to feel bad you just need to brush the sand out of your (cough) genitals and keep going.

    At the end of Infantry school we all took a PT test to graduate. Two weeks later (after sleeping ridiculous amounts of time) I took another PT test and did about 20% better than I had before the rest.

  42. Cheryl says

    Hey Melissa, this is a great challenge! I usually get 8, but hormones get in the way sometimes and I end up with 5. Would love to know if a supplement will help during that 2-3 day hell. I just ordered the lights out book and can't wait to read it. I'm almost finished with the Paleo book. So I got through my 30 days and cheated the last two weeks like 4 times. I'm happy to say though I'm sticking with the program going forward….

  43. armywife says

    Mox –

    I've been doing my 8+ hours a night since I started training at CFCF. It was stressed to me my first day there – and yes, IT MAKES A DIFFERENCE!! I've gone down two sizes in three months ;)

  44. Renee says

    my 30 days was over yesterday. Though i didn't really even want it, i thought i should congratulate myself with the coconut milk ice cream i so desperately wanted half way through my challenge.

    end result? it's way too sweet. almost sickeningly so. thanks melissa! looks like it's homemade/unsweetened for me from now on.

  45. Melicious says

    Vargas Girl! Hooray!

    Listen, pretty lady. If you can play Roller Derby, you can do THIS. No doubt.

    Hugs! (and, ya know, a full-on body block)

    [NEATO! My word verification: berpi]

  46. christine says

    I want to get healthy. I don't just want to lose weight, I want to get healthy with a permanent change. How can I do the paleo challenge? Are there eating plans, recipes? I'm gonna need some emotional support too!

  47. Chelsea says

    Christine – we are here :) There are a ton of recipes floating around on google and links to lots in the last two months of comments on Mel's blog. A starter grocery list sounds like something that would be really helpful for people new to the diet…since I am always typing them up for myself, maybe I'll take that on as a project this week.

  48. Soulrich says

    Christine, on this blog under the picture there are a whole bunch of paleo resources and one of them is a basic shopping list. When I read the blog from July 1 I went through all of the resources and learned ALOT!!!!

  49. Jamie says

    @ Christine – Just do it. I started making it complicated Saturday night. Then I realized I just needed to start by grilling some meat, roasting some vegetables and grabbing a bag of raw nuts. From what I have read in Comments by those who have gone before us – it just takes some prep work. Keep the food and its prep simple to start. I am putting together a document of the recipes and Hints everyone shared and will send it off to Melissa at the end of Labor Day Weekend.

    Ok Mer – It is our Day One. (I am doing Sleep + Paleo!)
    Here are my goals:
    Control my food intake while I settle into being suddenly single
    Gain a better understanding of what foods do to me (although I figure I get another dose of perspective when I add back in some stuff at the end of the initial 30 days)
    Walk away from this month ready to put together a food plan that serves me well.
    Recognize that I need my rest just as much as I need to pick up heavy stuff.
    If I happen to get leaner in the 30 days, all the better!
    Here are my Before Stats:
    Stuck at 157 lbs (I am 5' 7 1/2")
    Lost > 35 lbs since Jan 13 2009
    Lost ~ 15 inches since then too
    Down from 30.1% Body Fat to 16.7% Body Fat on Aug 1.
    Been hitting the gym since Jan 2009. Been CrossFitting since May 2009.

    Mer: 3 – 2 – 1 GO!!

  50. Chelsea says

    Arrrgh…I tossed and turned last night for hours before falling asleep. I've decided that to really get better sleep, I need to invest in a better bed/mattress. This 80's style bachelor's waterbed my husband contributed to the relationship is just not cutting it anymore ;)

  51. Mer says

    Jamie –

    Paleo partyyyyy! :D You've set some awesome goals for yourself! Sleep + Paleo is a really good idea. Are you aiming for 8 or 9 hours of sleep a night? How did grocery shopping go this weekend? I found some awesome natural/grass-fed no preservative-crap ground beef and bison at HEB. I tried to avoid the middle aisles altogether and just stuck to getting produce and lean meats.

    I woke up this morning feeling refreshed and focused. I'm finally in the Paleo mindset (I've been totally intimidated up until this point). I'm with you on the goals front – I'm really interested to see what foods will do to me after this experience. I especially want to work on getting into a routine – bed at 10p, up at 6a, eating well at regular intervals and exercising.

    My stats:

    Been Zoning since March but fell off the bandwagon and gained back 8 of the 18 pounds I lost. :-P

    178 lbs at 5' 8" as of today (all the extra is around my midsection! Gah!)
    Exercise: Roller derby practice 2x a week, speed skate 1-2x a week, running/weights at the gym 1x a week and now yoga on Fridays – yay!

    Some questions: Can anyone confirm the training theory that doing strength training and cardio on the same day is bad for you? I've been mainly focusing on upper body strength training and running on gym days. Am I doing more harm than good?

    @Melicious Thanks for the encouraging words! I'm hoping that this Paleo experience+sleep+amping up derby training will prepare me for TXRG tryouts on October 12 (eep!). I'm going to go the initial 30-days and if it goes well, am planning on extending my Paleo party through then. :)

    Jamie: Ready…steady….GO!!!!!


  52. Renee says

    Mer, you have almost the exact same stats to where i was when i started the challenge. I'm at 168 now. My tummy's literally melting away. :)

    Also, most people on this blog (myself included) will tell you to ditch your strength/cardio split routines that you're used to and start crossfitting. (check out for melissa/dallas' programming)

    if you're happy with your routine, it's fine to do strength and cardio in the same day as long as you aren't having problems recovering. as soon as you start to feel overtrained, you need more rest and perhaps rethink your training schedule.

    as a derby chick, why are you focusing on upper body strength? you should be squatting and deadlifting too!

  53. Jen says

    Jamie and Mer!

    You go, girls! I'm on Day 39 myself. Though I had to go look. I guess at this point, we don't need to count anymore, huh? (Though you more experienced people…are you still logging and counting?)

    Anyway…yes…best thing to do is just jump in with both feet. It's really not as hard as it seems. I'm actually having a hell of a time with the sleep challenge myself. Have only managed to get more than 8 hours once this week…but I have so much on my plate right now, I'm trying not to get all jacked up about it. Just that I'm more conscienteous about it is a good starting point!

    Jamie…my husband just left me also…as in just told the kids Sun and last night was the first official night 'alone'. So hopefully you can use this challenge as a way of cleansing ALL the old and getting on with the new 100% in all aspects of your life. I wish you the best!!!!

    Mer – that's too frickin' cool that you're one of those hot roller derby chica's! Definitely need to get into Crossfit – Dude…that would be a seriously DANGEROUS combo for all your opponents!

    : -)

  54. Steve says

    Hey guys day 16 on paleo and doing fine. I am on vacation and slept 10 hours today. I love vacations.

    @Renee good job and I am happy for you. I just can't wait to reach day 30 myself. Not for the cheats but for the satisfaction of reaching the 30 day goal.

  55. Mer says

    @Renee: sa-weet! You gave me a number to look forward to! I haven't been in the 160s for a few years now! :D Can't wait for the melting to start.

    I think part of my reason for focusing on upper body is because we focus so much on lower body during derby/speed skate that I'm worried about overtraining. I'll add in some squats/lunges/other legwork this week to experiment. Thanks for the suggestion!

    @Jen: You go! 39 days is awesome! Well done for staying committed to your health even through a really tough period. Warm thoughts for you and your kiddos. :)

    Thanks everyone for all your support!


  56. Jamie says

    Day 2 here. I did not pack enough food to get me through work + class last night. The grad school program I am in is great, but if I do have to go to campus for class I don't get home before 9:30 pm and I had gotten out of bed at 5 am. I HAD to stop at the grocery so by the time I got home I was famished and was already 'late' for bed. But, I did not cheat. When I got home I nibbled on grilled left overs and then went to bed. I slept better last night than I have in weeks. Ahh!

    I packed better for today which happens to also be a shorter day.

    @ Renee – Yay you and your melting tummy!

    @ Mer – How did Day 1 treat you?

    @ Steve – Half way… congrats!

    @ Jen – Thanks! I cannot imagine dealing this situation with kids in my home. You have some crazy strength inside you!

    Grilled nectarines make for a great sweet treat – Yummo!

  57. Mer says


    Day 1 was awesome. I ran a tiny bit further than I normally do and felt great. I did some upper and lower body work and don't feel exhausted like I normally do today. (I'm going to have to try that grilled nectarine suggestion – it'll give me some variety).

    Slept like a champ – almost 9 hours counting the snoozing I did this morning. ;) The great thing was that I didn't wake up hungry like I normally do!

    So, my first challenge is coming up this weekend – a friend's wedding shower named "Margarita Madness" is being hosted back in my hometown. That means visiting my parents and warding off my mom's force-feeding tendencies (she must think I don't eat or something – lol).

    I've got my Paleokits ready and will pack some quick snacks for the trip as well. The name of the game is will power!

    Good luck with Day 2! :D

  58. Steve says


    Thanks and my 30th day is 9/15/2009, but I don't think I will have a cheat until the 19th. I have an social affair to attend that day and I am planning to enjoy some wine.

    I mean good wine is the only I really miss.


    Good planning and good luck.

  59. Tracy says

    Haven’t posted in a while as I kind of fell off the Paleo wagon after my 30 day challenge due to a move but am planning on getting back on shortly.

    Mer – I read your question on Cardio with strength training and I was wondering if you’ve looked into CrossFit Endurance. Check out I’m starting to get into it and it seems to be working for me. It is preferred to have 3 hours between your CrossFit and CFE workouts. It’s recommended to get in 2 interval training sessions and 1 stamina training session per week.

  60. Jamie says

    Day 3 and doing ok. I have heard that when trying to make a significant change, Day 3, Week 3, Month 3 and Year 3 are frequent stumbling points. I packed lots of options in my lunch box today, no excuses here.
    I do not know what got into me but I kicked some serious A$$ during CrossFit last night. We did a variant of Cindy that we called Cindy, On Crack. It was Awesome!

    I read before I went to sleep, and I went to sleep with the house completely dark and no TV. I have not slept without a TV on a regular basis since USA Boot Camp, Oct – Dec 1992. Took about a half hour to fall asleep, but I did sleep well once I got there. But, I am so sleepy today…

    @ Tracy – Welcome back to the cave!

    @ Jen – I have just started reading Getting the Love You Want. Some points have been interesting so far and I am only up to page 10.

    @ Mer – I used some olive oil to keep the fruit from sticking to the grill. Good luck with the wedding shower weekend, and you will have to let us know how it went. I have a wedding and reception to go to on Sept 12. Sounds like a good chance to try out Club Soda with lime.

    @ Soulrich – I was wondering if you had found any adjustments that seemed to help with the paleo prep work. I saw your post and the recommendations that followed. Any of them pan out well for you?

    ?? Is chewing gum permitted during Paleo? I would think not, but it is a habit to chomp on it during my workout, and I did it without even thinking last night.

  61. Mer says

    Thanks, Steve!

    Tracy – I'll check those out. I don't have the time to devote to CrossFit at the moment – roller derby is taking up 80% of my workout sessions during the week, but I'll look into the endurance regimens.

    Jamie –

    Woohoo, Day 3! I'm feeling good. Was really sleepy yesterday in the afternoon. I need to play around with meal times – I was still really hungry after lunch, so I ate more. Bad idea. The food sat in my stomach like a rock for most of the evening.

    I def had second thoughts about this whole Paleo thing yesterday with the tiredness and still not performing better at speed skate (I'm in a freaking plateau and have been for a month or so – GAH!!!). But, I ate a bison burger for the first time last night and recommitted mentally. Mmm…bison….

    Preparing for the wedding shower in the next few days. I already called my mom and told her I'd be doing my own cooking at home, but that I appreciated her offering to make me dinner. :) Club soda with lime = my new favorite thing. It gets tastier everytime I drink it. It's like a healthy version of Sprite.

    I don't think gum is permitted based on some of the comments during the first week in July.

    I havea question about the no sugar rule: I went searching for Sunbutter/almond butter last night and the labels on both said "dehydrated cane juice." After doing some digging, I came across a website that referred to it as just another name for artificial sugar. Did the people here using Sunbutter order the organic kind off of the website? Or is dehydrated cane juice alright?

    I'm staying away from it to be safe until I can find a solid answer. :)

    My body is happy today – bloating is gone and I swear my cheekbones are showing a little bit more than usual. ;) I'm sleepy, but chugging along!

    Thanks for all the support everyon!



  62. Melissa Byers says

    I love how much you newbies are rockin'! A few thoughts…

    1. It will take you about 2 weeks to adjust to this new way of eating. Until then, EXPECT energy fluctuations, performance dips, sleeplessness, stomach issues, and a whole host of other strange body and mind issues that come up when you do ask your body to handle something totally new and different. Just ride it out, kids. It will pass.

    2. Gum = NO for a whole host of reasons.

    3. The Organic Sunbutter has no added cane juice. However, I'm okay with the small amount of "sugar" in the regular Sunbutter, given the benefits. If you can't find the Organic, proceed with the normal stuff.

    And finally… try grilling other fruits, like mango or pineapple. Serve with fresh fish – amazing.

    Keep up the strong work!

    PS @ JohnJ: I'm not saying there are "side effects" of protein powder… although I do think it'll make you fat. (Seriously.) My point is, it's clearly not "real" food, and your body will always do better with REAL food. Egg whites are the ideal post workout protein source – easy to digest and not that "heavy".

  63. Mer says

    Thanks for the clarification, MoxyBoss! I was having a hard time finding jerky without cane juice in it, too, but I might have some every now and then for on-the-go eating if I need it. :)