We have all been told to get at least 8 hours of sleep. As kids, we didn’t care all we cared about was staying up late playing video games (at least some kids), watching tv/movies, etc. However, as we got older, sleep became more valuable, especially when it comes to people who want to go to the gym on a regular basis. Sleep is honestly the cheapest recovery method there is. It's FREE!! And I must admit, the other post-workout methods are great, but some can be expensive, and only mildly effective, if that. So let’s dive into some of the effects sleep has on training.
Sleep and its effect on training
When it comes training, multiple factors need to be executed to perform at optimal levels. Nutrition plays a role in exercise, but some people do not realize that our sleep, or lack of sleep, can play a role as well. Sleep is the ultimate recovery tool. Being chronically sleep deprived can nullify all of those other post-workout recovery methods you practice. Sleep deprivation can even cause technique execution to go down during a workout session, as well as motivation, testosterone levels, and a rise in cortisol levels. With those cortisol levels increasing, it can cause weight gain, which if you are trying to improve your body composition, is not what you want to see. Also, it can lead to sickness. If you are sick, you do not want to be in the gym to begin with. So more missed sessions.
Now, how much sleep is enough? The answer is that it is actually quite individual! Just like training and nutrition, sleep is individualized as well. Your gym partner gets seven hours of sleep and feels great, but your trainer may get up 10 hours of sleep. There are even those people that feel refreshed by only getting four to five hours of sleep. So above all, get the amount of sleep that YOUR body feels the most refreshed with. If there is a day that you’re feeling sleepy, or sluggish, maybe you did not get enough quality sleep. Listen to your body.
Do not feel the need you have to be perfect all the time. If you are that person who likes to watch Netflix/Hulu late at night, or stay out late with your friends every now and again. THAT’S OKAY! But if you are doing this every night, or even just a few nights of the week, you might benefit from getting more quality sleep on a regular basis. If sleep deprivation turns into a chronic issue, it will most definitely have huge impact on your training. You may not feel it initially, but it will catch up to you.
Tips for Quality Sleep:
- Keep bedroom at a cool temperature: For our bodies to know it is time to rest, our body temperature needs drop. The more the temperature of our sleeping environment increases, the greater chance our internal body temperature will increase. Thus, causing us to wake up. Research has shown that the "ideal" sleeping temperature is about 65 degrees. But again, like all things, this is individual. If it is too cold for you to get comfortable and fall asleep, bump it up a couple degrees. If you are still struggling to calm down, try a couple degrees less. Just be sure that you change the temperature of your home during the day so that you aren't paying outrageous electrical bills :) But the little bump you'll pay in getting the air cooler when you sleep will be priceless.
- Sleep in a Cave: By creating a darker environment, it will help eliminate any external light from entering the room. When external light enters the room before bed our bodies will still think it is still daytime. The best investment would be to get blackout curtains. But you must also be sure that you...
- Reduce TV/Phone time before bed: Just as external light must be decreased, light from inside the room must be decreased as well. Both TV’s and phones give off a certain type of light called blue light. Exposure to blue before bedtime can negatively impact sleep by slowing down production of our naturally produced melatonin (a sleep-inducing hormone), and our circadian rhythm (aka, our body clock) will be thrown out of whack. In other words, making us feel more awake than we should be. In essence, consider it a game of trying to trick your body into bed time. Much like you would a baby. It's time to go to bed, so what do you do? You create a dark environment, with a cool temperature, and little to no internal/external light to create a disturbance. If you can do this, your body WILL calm and try to go to sleep.
- Create a Routine: As humans, we are creatures of habit. Everyone is different when it comes to a bedtime routine. Some people read a book, write in a journal, take a warm bath/shower before bed. Find one that is relaxing, and stick with it. Even on the weekends, it is best to try and stick with your routine. Don't let 2-3 days of the week become out of routine. Occasionally, this may be acceptable, but if you're out of whack Friday, Saturday, or even Sunday, it's difficult to find a good rhythm the rest of the week.
- BE CONSISTENT: As mentioned in Tip #4, STICK WITH YOUR ROUTINE. There’s a phrase that has been thrown around a ton known as, “Consistency is key”. Whether it is nutrition, training, sleep, etc. Being consistent with anything in life will pay off in the long run.
Improving your sleep hygiene is one of the most bang for your buck activities that you can partake in for improving your health and fitness. So the next time you start to worry about the perfect diet. or the next fad supplement that you plan to waste money on, make sure your sleep is in check.