17 Oct Sleep: The Most Boring and Effective Fitness Tip Ever
There’s a new supplement on the market.
It allows you to:
- Gain muscle faster
- Lose more fat
- Drastically improve your mood, energy, focus, sex drive, and shoot frickin’ laser beams from your head
AND, best of all – it’s completely free.
In case you couldn’t guess after reading the title and the first sentence, the supplement is sleep.
Now, was that corny? Yes.
But was it true? Also yes (besides the lasers part).
I get questions daily about the best rep ranges, exercises, or food to eat pre-workout, but these mean shit compared to just going to sleep an hour earlier.
We all know we need to get better sleep, so why don’t we actually do it?
It’s easier for us to rationalize poor sleep because of the “hustle” mentality of today’s age. We feel superior to others for sleeping less and wear it as a badge of honor.
I also think it’s because we don’t understand the severity of consequences that result from sleep deprivation. We know we should do it, but if we don’t specifically know the downsides — we perceive it as less important.
Plus, we feel like we can just “try harder” in life and that will solve all our problems.
Well, dipshit, it’s time to make some changes (including myself).
If you’re reading this, you probably want to maximize your results in the gym and in your life, so let’s discuss how we can do both.
Before we get into the best sleep tips on the Internet, let me drop some knowledge on your face as to WHY sleep should be such a high priority. This will make you think twice about skipping out on a quality night’s sleep.
Poor Sleep = Less Muscle & More Fat
There was a recent 8-week study done in May, 2018 that focused on the effects of sleep restriction on weight loss when in a calorie deficit.
There were 36 people in the study and they got their body composition (muscle and fat mass) tested in week 1 to get a baseline.
15 of those people (Group 1) simply used a calorie deficit for the 8-week period.
The remaining 21 (Group 2) used a calorie deficit combined with sleep restriction for the 8-week period. They were instructed to reduce their time in bed Mon-Friday and could sleep as much as they wanted on the weekend (they could “catch up” on sleep). This was an average of only 169 minutes less sleep for the entire week.
The results: Group 2 lost an average of 39% of their total weight lost as muscle mass (also called “lean body mass”)and 58% as fat mass. When sleep was not restricted, Group 1, subjects lost only 17% of their weight as muscle mass but 87% as fat mass. This means both groups lost almost exactly the same amount of total weight, but the group with more sleep lost more fat and less muscle.
Okay, cool bro. That was just one study.
In 2010, there was a randomized crossover study of 10 untrained people who moderately restricted calories for 14 days. They did this 14-day study twice to compare effects of different sleep times.
For the first 2 weeks, they slept on average 5 hours and 14 minutes while getting their hormones and body composition measured in the lab.
This was followed by a 3-month “wash-out” period where they still monitored their hormones and body composition but didn’t analyze sleep.
Then they had their second period of 14 days, but this time they slept on average for 7 hours and 25 minutes (still getting tested for hormones and body composition).
The results: During both periods, they lost about 6.5 lbs (3 kg). But when they slept for ~5 hours per night, they lost 80% of their weight from muscle mass and 20% from fat! To add, they also had increases in hunger throughout the day. And when they slept ~7.5 hours per night, they lost 52% of their weight from muscle and 48% from fat.
WHAT THESE STUDIES MEAN
They mean your sleep may be even more important than diet when it comes to gaining muscle and losing fat. When your sleep is poor, you still lose weight with a calorie deficit, but you lose more muscle mass and less fat mass compared to those who get better sleep.
You could even argue that if the subjects of both studies were on a high protein diet and lifted weights regularly, they would see a much higher retention in their muscle mass while losing predominantly fat.
So, how much sleep should you get?
Instead of trying to pull up more studies and give you my opinion on them – let’s refer to the National Sleep Foundation and their pretty lil’ graphic. These are the averages for most people, but it will come down to the individual.
Real quick, before we move on, look at the newborn figure on the far left. It looks like a jacked little baby about to whoop some ass. And if you didn’t think that before… well, now you do.
Now that you know the WHY behind the importance of sleep, I’m gonna conclude this post with giving you the HOW. Quite simply, these are the best sleep tips on the Internet (I know because I looked).
20 WAYS TO GET THE BEST SLEEP EVER
(no certain order; no affiliate links)
1. Completely dark room. Like, no lights. No TV on. Blackout curtains/shades over the window. Even cover up the lights from the routers, cable boxes, etc. I use this eye mask to block out light when traveling.
2. It needs to be cool in your room. The Sleep Council says 60-65 degrees F is ideal. For me, it’s typically 65-69 degrees F.
3. Eliminate blue light ~60 minutes before bed. You can use an app called f.lux for your phone or laptop. Most iPhones have that “Night Shift” button that does this as well. I think this is underrated, especially if you’re one to surf your phone/laptop pre-bed.
4. Hot shower 60-90 minutes before bed to relax you. Give it some time before bed so you can cool down. See #2. Taking a cold to lukewarm shower closer to bedtime can also help accomplish this.
5. Play around with meal timing and meal composition before bed. I can eat a huge meal and fall asleep within 10 minutes. Others may need more of an empty stomach and need 2 hours+ between their last meal and sleep. Eating a lot of protein can also give you the sweats, so be mindful of that. And if you wanna get really experimental, play around with low fat (high carb) or high fat (low carb) and low glycemic or high glycemic carbs as your last meal of the day.
6. Meditating before bed can be a game changer. The same people who say “I’ve tried everything” are the same people who think meditation is stupid. Be open-minded and try downloading free apps like Calm, Headspace, or Waking Up. Start with just 5 minutes.
7. Sleeping with earplugs changed my sleep forever. I used to live in a house with 5 other guys during college — things got noisy. Now I use them every single night. You will wake up to your alarm, just keep your phone by you. Having it on vibrate will help too (or use a Fitbit or Apple Watch). I have never slept through an alarm while using them. Not once. Try it on the weekend or for a nap if you are scared of oversleeping.
8. If you’re trying to wake up earlier, set your alarm 15 minutes earlier per day. After the first week, try another 15 minutes. Or just go to bed 15 minutes later than normal. Basically, don’t make drastic changes and mess with your sleep cycle too much.
9. Perform a “brain dump” about 2 hours before bed. Everything that is stressing you out or that you need to do, put it all on paper and circle the most important one. That’s your one thing to get done tomorrow. The rest is bonus.
10. If you can’t fall asleep or you wake up in the middle of the night, don’t TRY to fall asleep. If falling asleep was as easy as forcing ourselves to do it, this list would be much shorter. Instead, focus on relaxing yourself as much as possible. Get up and stand (or lay/sit), close your eyes, and perform 5-10 deep breaths through your stomach (diaphragm). In through your nose for 3 seconds, out through your mouth for 5 seconds.
11. Eliminate caffeine at least 6 hours before bed. That’s about how long it takes to get through your system. This includes diet sodas and decaf coffee (yes, it still has some caffeine).
12. Invest in a comfortable bed and pillows. I don’t have recommendations since everyone is different, but this is well worth spending money on.
13. Use melatonin and OTC sleep-aids ***sparingly***. Use them only when traveling, different time zones, or when you need to fall asleep earlier than usual. Our bodies adapt and will use them as a crutch if you use them too frequently.
– Melatonin is supposed to be used starting with the minimal dose ~ 0.3-1 mg. More is not better.
– 600 mg KSM-66 ashwaganda has been shown to alleviate stress.
– 200 to 400 mg of l-theanine will promote relaxation.
14. Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every single day, or most days. Routine, routine, routine. It helps our bodies do what it needs to do and regulate what needs regulated. Consider developing a “power down” ritual about an hour before bed where you shut off all electronics and prepare for sleep. Setting a “go to bed alarm” can work well too.
15. This awesome Chili-Pad may help if you sleep with someone who likes the bed to be hotter/colder than you. A little pricey, but worth it if this is a continual issue in your household.
16. Buy a fancy alarm clock that gradually wakes you up instead of waking up in a constant state of anxiety from your phone alarm.
18. Napping may help you mimic a nighttime sleep cycle. Limit naps to 20-40 minutes and try to have them at the same time each day.
19. Get outside for at least 30 minutes each day. Using the sunlight as your indicator for when you should be awake and when you should be getting ready for bed can be a simple tip for most.
20. Use the bed for sleep and sex only. No homework, no work, no eating, etc. That way as soon as you lay down, you have a mental trigger it is time for sleep (or sex — both great options).