Sleep is the most anabolic state for your body.
Want to build more lean muscle?
Improve your sleep!
As an added bonus, better sleep will also help you to:
- Lose fat
- Gain strength
- Manage hunger
- Fight off colds and flus
- Boost memory
- Improve mental function
- Slow aging
Basically, it will make you a fitter, happier, more productive person.
You probably know all this.
Most of us realise we should sleep more. We know sleep is important. Yet we do not prioritise it. We are glued to our smartphones, Youtube, or Netflix when we should be tucked up in bed getting some shut eye.
I have been guilty of this in the past. Staying up late to watch the next episode of a TV show or scrolling aimlessly through Instagram. Whenever, I do this I always regret it the next day.
The thing is that you might not even notice you are sleep deprived. The occasional late night has little impact, then these late nights become the norm, you feel a bit groggy but, nothing a double espresso won’t fix. Then, before you know it, your new normal is you walking round like a zombie, making bad decisions and performing poorly in the gym.
I discovered what disrupted sleep could do to you when I had kids. After our son was born it was 18 months before I felt normal in the gym gain. I vividly remember the session after my first full 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. I felt like Superman. The sad thing is, I wasn’t Superman. I wasn’t even close. I was just regular Tom after a good night’s sleep. My perception of what normal was had been warped so much by 18 months of sleep deprivation that feeling normal now felt amazing!
You might be in the same boat (albeit not quite so extreme) without realising.
The research on sleep deprivation is alarming. Check this out…
Research shows that 11 days in a row with less than 6 hours of sleep and your cognitive ability will be about the same as if you had stayed awake for 24 hours straight. At 22 days of less than 6 hours of sleep per night, your brain function is at the same level as someone who has stayed up for 48 hours straight. To put things in perspective, that means your reactions are probably worse than someone who is over the legal limit for alcohol!
So, you should do a little sleep survey on yourself and assess whether you are actually more zombie than human.
As a guide you should aim for this when it comes to sleep:
- Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep every night
- Go to bed at the same time
- Wake up at the same time
- Wake without an alarm clock
- Sleep the whole night through – multiple bathroom trips are a sure sign of poor sleep quality (or drinking waaaaaay to much just before bed!)
- Waking up in almost the same position you fell asleep in (not tossing and turning all night) is a good sign!
- You should wake up refreshed
I’m guessing you don’t get all that! Work towards being able to tick off each one of those bullet points.
Here are some practical tips to help you sleep better and for longer.
SET YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS. Get a comfortable bed, mattress, and pillow. Bed quality can affect sleep. It can also reduce back and shoulder pain. Given you will be spending nearly half your life in bed, it makes sense to invest in a good one!
ESTABLISH A ROUTINE. Go to bed at roughly the same time and get up at the same time everyday. Yes – everyday! Weekends count too. Being consistent with sleep and waking times has been found to improve long-term sleep quality.
AS PART OF YOUR ROUTINE INCLUDE SOME RELAXATION. Relaxation techniques before bed have been found to improve sleep quality. Read a book, listen to a chill out playlist, take a hot bath, do some deep breathing, or meditation. Whatever it takes to help you relax and unwind.
CUT THE COFFEE AT 4PM. Having coffee is cool. I love the stuff, but having it later in the day can disrupt or even prevent your sleep. On average the half-life of caffeine is about 5 hours. This can vary massively between individuals though. If you are a slow metaboliser of caffeine then you might have levels in your system keeping you alert and awake into the early hours if you drink it after 4pm. In extreme cases, having it within 10 hours of bed can be disruptive for some people. So, cut yourself off at 4pm and see if you can fall asleep easier. If you are still struggling slide things forward to 3pm and reassess.
DISCONNECT FROM THE MATRIX! The blue light emitted by the screens on your devices can disrupt your sleep. The body’s internal clock or circadian rhythm is largely influenced by daylight hours. Artificial light (e.g. streetlights, and lightbulbs) already disrupts it but staring at screens magnifies the issue. Your internal body clock is served by the ocular nerve which is directly affected by blue light. The exact same lightwaves your phone, TV, laptop, and tablet give off. To improve sleep, I suggest you disconnect from screens like this for at least 60 minutes before bed time.
IN OPPOSITION TO THE ABOVE POINT – TRY TO GET SOME NATURAL SUNLIGHT EXPOSURE DURING THE DAY. At these times, the body needs the light. Studies have found that two hours of bright light exposure during the day increased the amount of sleep by two hours and improved sleep quality by 80%.
SLEEP IN THE BATCAVE. Make your bedroom pitch black, quiet, and cool to maximise the quality of your sleep. Remove all electrical devices.
SET THE ROOM TEMPERATURE at about 20oC (70oF). Room temperature has been found to affect sleep quality more than external noise!
STAY OFF THE BOOZE. Just a couple of drinks have been shown to reduce your sleep hormones. Alcohol alters meltonin production and decreases human growth hormone (HGH) levels. Melatonin is a key sleep hormone that tells your brain when it’s time to unwind, relax and fall asleep. HGH helps regulate your body clock, is anti-aging, and vital to recovery.
There you have it. Sleep is crucial. You probably don’t get enough. You now have 9 tips to help improve your sleep. If you do then everything else will improve too.