No Zs No Sends

By Dr. Julian Saunders | January 10th, 2018

This article appeared in Rock and Ice issue 248 (January 2018).


How little sleep can you get away with? I am an app developer and often work at night due to time-zone differences and then climbing during the day.

—Jeff Delay, Canada

Illustration by Rocafort8.
Illustration by Rocafort8.


Screen Shot 2018-01-10 at 2.15.11 PMIn today’s western world there is an epidemic of sleep deprivation where many sleepy people die a death that will be labeled stupidity. Maybe it was forgetting to tie your knot. Or, when faced with having to make a quick decision to evade danger, your processing capacity was a quagmire of signals that your brain could not quantify, let alone coordinate into an action.

People require seven to nine hours of sleep, with at least four hours uninterrupted, and three more at some point during the day. As an athlete these numbers only go up.

To state the obvious, you are a climber and are already gallivanting in territory where a small misstep has hectic ramifications. Blunting your mental sharpness is hardly a good idea. Add to the mix a failing decision-making capacity and you might as well drink a bottle of Jack Daniels and stroll down the center line of the nearest interstate.

Sleep is when your body and mind reset. Many studies have shown that sleep deprivation results in lower physical capacity, be it reaction times or peak strength, endurance or basic processing skills, such as when we are trying to onsight a climb. That getting sufficient sleep correlates with happiness seems redundant, except that happiness is inextricably linked to every aspect of success. Next time you arrive at a move that you have failed on, think of something that made you happy and watch your success rate go galactic.

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