Sleep Your Way to Gains – Part 2

In Part 1 of this article, we talked in-depth about how important sleep is when it comes to achieving your fitness goals. Now that we know why sleep is important, we’re going to talk about how to create your best nights sleep ever.

 

How To Sleep Your Way To Gainz

 

  1. Create a regular schedule

 

You can condition your body to do almost anything. Intermittent fasting can keep you from feeling hungry, mobility work can help correct posture, and creating a nighttime ritual can help you fall asleep easier.

Here’s how to create a regular schedule conducive to the best nights sleep possible:

  • Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. Your body will get use to this, and will release the appropriate hormones at these times to help you fall asleep and wake up. It may not be feasible to do every day, but you should stick to it more often than not.
  • Time your meals appropriately. Going to bed too full or too hungry can interrupt your natural sleep patterns. Try and eat your last meal about 3-4 hours before sleepy time as this will provide ample digestion time without leaving your hungry. Don’t be afraid to eat carbs before bed either. Carbohydrates have been shown to aid the body in production of serotonin, which is a precursor to falling asleep.
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine. 1-2 drinks can have some health benefits, but if you want to get the best nights sleep you can, you should limit your alcohol consumption. You may think a few drinks helps you sleep, when in actuality alcohol lessens the quality of your rest. Similarly too much caffeine later in the day can make it harder to fall asleep. By limiting your consumption of both, you can greatly increase your quality of sleep.
  • Turn off all electronics 30 minutes before sleep. The light emitted from electronic devices can interfere with the brain’s ability to produce melatonin, the hormone needed for deep sleep.
  • Read or meditate. Do something less stimulating and relaxing before bed. This could include things like reading, meditating, deep breathing, or anything that helps calm you down.
  • Lights out before midnight. Many sleep experts suggest that the quality of your sleep is twice as good before midnight as it is after. While there aren’t any studies to back this up, it does make sense. Because of our circadian rhythms, our bodies are primed to sleep when it gets dark and wake when it gets light. And since it gets dark well before midnight, that’s when we are primed for our best sleep.
  • Supplementation. If you do have trouble falling asleep, there are a few different supplements that can help. Melatonin is the obvious one, and this one from Onnit has the added benefit of lemon balm which can help calm your mind as well. The other one I use is Magnesium. Magnesium works to help calm the nerves and relax the muscles which is necessary for restful sleep. A magnesium deficiency has also been linked to nervousness which can hinder sleep as well. Personally, I get my best nights sleep when I take a combination of the two.

 

  1. Control Your Environment

 

Just as important as your schedule is your sleep environment. Keeping your room as dark as possible will help maximize melatonin production. Light has the opposite effect on melatonin, so doing things like dimming your alarm clock, shutting your blinds or getting blackout curtains, and turning off your phone ensure you’re exposed to as little light as possible while trying to fall asleep.

You also need to make sure you’re comfortable. Most people sleep the best in a cooler or neutral temperature room. Some prefer it dead quiet, while others like a little noise, such as a white noise machine or fan.

Controlling your environment also means having a mattress, blanket and pillows that are comfortable for you. This is one area where you should spend the money if you have it. We spend a third of our lives in bed after all.

 

  1. Wake Up As Naturally As Possible

 

Lastly, how you wake up also affects your sleep. Waking up as naturally as possible is key. The best way to do this is to use the body’s circadian rhythms to tell you when to wake.

As you sleep, you go through cycles of deeper sleep and lighter sleep. But as the night goes on, your sleep gradually gets lighter and lighter, culminating with your lightest sleep in the mornings as the sun comes up.

Techniques such as using an alarm that gradually gets louder and louder will help making waking up much easier that one that starts blaring as soon as it goes off. Another tip is to use an alarm clock that gradually emits more and more light, helping the body stop melatonin production.

One trick I like to use is setting my alarm, and then putting it on the other side of the room so I need to physically get out of bed to turn it off. Movement helps make waking up much easier, and once you’re up, you are less likely to go back to bed.

 

Don’t Undervalue Sleep

 

Sadly we live in a society that places less and less emphasis on sleep, as we try to squeeze more hours out of the day in the name of productivity or whatever else we think is more important.

But the reality however, is that sleep is more important. As I’ve laid out in the last two articles, sleep governs our ability to function on pretty much all levels. So instead of sacrificing sleep to squeeze more hours out of the day, try squeezing more out of your hours. If you’re getting a quality night’s sleep each night, you’d be surprised just how much more productive you can be.

 

 

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