“If you are waking up at 5 am after 5 hours of sleep to do cardio, you are stepping over hundred dollar bills to pick up nickels.” – Stan Efferding
Sleep is the most important aspect of recovering from a workout, period. Sleep will also greatly influence the way you function in your daily life. You should take sleep just as seriously as your diet and your workouts.
Put bluntly – you need at least 6 hours of sleep per day to recover adequately and to perform your best in life and in the gym. Seven or eight hours would be better. You might think you “only need four” but the reality is you are just adapted to terrible performance on a daily basis. There is no piece of science that will support the notion that you, special snowflake, don’t need to sleep as much as the rest of our species. You need sleep to build muscle, to burn body fat, to keep your stress hormones at bay, to prevent injuries, to maximize your performance and mental health, and to become a knuckle-dragging freak beast. If you don’t have time to sleep for 6 hours a night, you don’t have time to lift weights. So go to bed.
Here are some tips for Sleep Hygiene which will help you to get more sleep and to improve the quality of your sleep:
1. Crank up the AC
Instead of spending $100 a month on some overpriced supplement powder, spend it on lowering your thermostat. Most people sleep better in cold temperatures- I like to set my window AC to 70 degrees in the summer, and in the cold seasons I crack a window. I’d set the AC to 65 if I thought my wife would put up with it.
2. Consume no caffeine within 8 hours of going to bed
If you go to bed at 10 P.M., don’t drink any caffeine after 2 o’clock in the afternoon. Ideally, you don’t need caffeine at all, or you keep the window even shorter. Personally I’m a massive coffee drinker and I put away 2-3 pots per day before cutting it off after lunch.
3. No screen time 30 minutes before going to sleep
An hour is better. Use the last 30 minutes to wind down, read a book, or kiss your spouse. Don’t watch TV to fall asleep- if you are used to doing this every night, just stop. Seriously, it is not good for your sleep and it is better to get over this stupid habit.
4. No blinking lights in your room
If you have bright lights shining or blinking such as a phone charger or laptop, cover them up or move them out of your room.
5. No alcohol
This is a no-brainer, guys. Alcohol might put you to sleep initially but it will give you terrible sleep quality. If you’re gonna drink, keep it limited to special occasions, no more than once a week. Your body will thank you.
6. Wash your sheets
For crying out loud, do this at least twice a month. Try to make your bed up every day too, if you can. A clean, comfortable, inviting bed will set the mood for getting to sleep more than a smelly, messed up warzone.
7. Buy blackout curtains
You want to sleep in as dark of a room as possible. Keep the sun and the street lights out of your eyes with some good, thick curtains.
8. Replace your pillows regularly
You don’t have to buy expensive pillows, but I recommend buying new ones every 3 to 4 months. You may not notice it day to day, but pillows quickly compress down and offer much less support after months of use.
9. Listen to white noise
You can play white noise from your phone with free apps, or you can avoid using your phone and get a white noise machine. I won’t recommend a particular machine, anyone can do. A cheap substitute is to use a box fan- point it at a wall and run it on low all night. The white noise will improve your sleep quality, help you to relax and fall asleep, and it will drown out little nightly noises that may wake you up.
10. Buy a new bed
This is a hard one because beds are expensive. However, if your current bed has a huge butt-shaped hole in it from years of use, it might be time to get a new bed. Deformed mattresses can put your back and shoulders in compromising angles and lead to discomfort if not outright injuries. A cheap substitute might be to get a memory foam mattress topper.
Bonus Tip: go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. If your schedule allows for this, a regular sleep schedule will allow you to have more consistent sleep quality. Stop wasting hours in the late-night scrolling through social media, and don’t allow yourself to sleep endlessly and lose useful time in the morning. Go to bed at a reasonable hour, and wake up after 8 hours refreshed and ready to start your day.
If you put all of these things into practice, you will get much better sleep and you will almost certainly make better progress in the gym and on the scale. The longer and better you sleep, the more body fat you can burn because when you are sleeping, you aren’t eating, and when you are sleeping well, you won’t be pumped full of stress hormones driving you to binge eat.
Joe Enabnit, NASM Certified Personal Trainer, NASM Women’s Fitness Specialist