Most lifters are diligent about monitoring their macros and tracking their reps and sets, yet many of us (O2TL staff included) often fall short when it comes to getting the recommended number of ZZZ’s each night.
Seems harmless enough, right? What’s the big deal if we stay up a little later catching up on Walking Dead reruns or seeing who’s doing car karaoke on the Late Late Show with James Cordin this week? Turns out some “winks” might not be the only thing that you’re missing out on when you cut short your nightly sleep.
Here’s what’s at stake…
Weaker Workouts – Research recently reported in the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that chronic sleep restriction not only hindered athletic performance (decreased maximal power output and time to exhaustion by 2.9% and 10.7%, respectively), it also reduced the amount of energy that the athletes expended during the exercise bout by 3.9%. In other words, the subjects performed significantly worse than their well-rested counterparts and burned fewer calories in the process.
Tumbling Testosterone – Just one hour of extra sleep each night boosts testosterone levels by 12%! So says a study of over 530 healthy men conducted at the National University of Singapore. Other research has demonstrated that sufficient sleep is linked to better mood and body composition. Perhaps, the elevation in natural T levels is responsible? It may also be that a well-rested body produces fewer stress hormones like cortisol. Whatever the reason, given the potential upside, an extra hour of shuteye should be doable for just about anyone.
Focus Fades – After just a couple nights of less-than-adequate sleep, concentration fades and your ability to function at a high level declines. If the sleep deficit continues, you’ll find that your patience wanes, irritability rises, and reaction time falls off a cliff. In fact, the effect of moderate to severe sleep depravation on cognitive and motor performance are so dramatic; it’s comparable to being legally drunk.
Health Hindrance – A bad night’s sleep here and there won’t have a notable or lasting impact on health. But even partial sleep debt over an extended period of time could greatly affect your wellbeing. This is just a abbreviated list of illnesses associated with an ongoing slumber shortage: obesity, depression, diabetes, heart disease, stress, hypertension, CNS atrophy, and even premature death.
Now that we have, hopefully, made the case for why adequate sleep is important for fitness, health, and physique let’s take a look at few simple things that we can do to foster the process.
Prep For Success
Start by cutting off the caffeine a few hours earlier. Even if it does not seem to affect your ability to fall asleep, it may disrupt your ability to actually stay asleep. At least one study has demonstrated that caffeine has the potential to create disruptive effects on sleep for up to 6 hours after consumption. So, if you’re an early-to-bed, early-to-rise type of person, you should limit caffeine and other stimulants to morning and early afternoon occasions.
Train earlier if possible. While physical activity is positively correlated with better sleep, exercising late at night can hinder many athletes’ ability to fall asleep. This is because training (assuming you’re doing more than socializing at the water fountain and checking yourself out in mirror), increases core body temperature. The hotter you get, the longer it takes to cool down and fall asleep.
Lather-up before lying down. While this little trick doesn’t work for everyone, a warm shower before bed often helps encourage relaxation and may accentuate the drop in body temperature that signals it’s time to sleep.
Control Your Environment
Keep your bedroom, dorm room, hotel room… wherever you rest your weary head, cool, quiet, and very dark.
A cooler room (below 68 F, ideally) helps drop the body’s core temperature, making it easier to doze off.
Shut off televisions, cell phones, tablets, laptops, etc. Anything that generates more than low-level background noise is probably distracting and likely to have an adverse effect on restfulness.
Even small amounts of light can have a big impact on sleep quality. Light signals the production of the hormone serotonin, which wakes us up. So keep the curtains closed tightly to block out the streetlights and other urban distractions. Also, make sure to shut down those electronic devices before going to bed. They emit blue light that can disrupt melatonin (a sleep promoting hormone) and circadian rhythms.
Make It A Routine
Consistency is key to better sleep. Try going to bed around the same time every day. Likewise, make a serious attempt to get up at the same time each morning – even if you stayed up later than usual the night before. Routines are repetitive for a reason. If you sleep in later one morning, you may not be tired at the normal time the following night, causing you to stay up later and repeat the undesirable cycle.
Sweet Dreams. Sweet Gains.