If you are training hard 3-5 times a week, eating nutritious and healthy food but still not getting the Strength or fat loss results you want. The quality and duration of your sleep may be holding you back.
When we train, we break down muscle fibres, we then eat protein to re-build muscle fibres to be stronger/bigger than they were previously. This protein synthesis happens mainly during our sleep when our Human Growth Hormone levels are at their highest. Therefore, if we are not having enough good quality sleep our muscles wont recovery optimally and you will find yourself de-training.
The purpose of this article is to share with you strategies that have worked for me. Sleep is something I have always prioritised, however since working with strength coach Tom Hibbert, we identified that my recovery could
further improve. The strategies we implemented have made a massive difference, so much so that I needed to share them with you!
(Ranked in order of importance)
1. Consistent Sleep And Wake Times.
Our bodies have a natural sleep timer called our circadian rhythm which if functioning properly will tell you when to sleep and when to wake up. Inconsistent bed and wake times will throw this rhythm off balance and can lead to sleep disorders. On average we should be sleeping between 6-8 hours in the summer and 7-9 hours in the winter. Take action today and commit to a set time within 1 hour that you will go to bed and wake up every day. Write it down and make it real! Everyone has different commitments but the golden rule is;
"Every hour you go to sleep before midnight, is two hours gained the next day."
2. Your Room Must Be Pitch Black.
Light exposure at night stimulates alertness, this can pose a serious problem for healthy, abundant, refreshing sleep. When the sun rises we wake up, this is the natural circadian rhythm Insufficient darkness throughout the night can lead to frequent and prolonged awakenings. Blackout Blinds are a must!
3. No Technology
A notification from a text (noise or vibration), a light coming on on your phone, laptop, TV or smart watch can be enough to tell your body to start to awaken. If our bedrooms are cluttered with technology and items, this room then becomes like other rooms in our house where work and socialising occurs. If our bedroom is empty of clutter our mind knows that when we are in this room we are there for one of two reasons, sleep or sex. Have a look around your bedroom and see if you can get rid of possible distractions today.
We have all heard before that we shouldn't look at any light (phones, TV etc) 60 minutes before bed, is that realistic? I find reading 30 minutes prior to sleeping is enough of a technology detox to switch of my mind.
4. Light Alarm
What about your alarm clock? One option is to put your phone in the room/ hallway next to your bedroom.
However recently I invested 24 very well spent pounds on a light alarm clock- https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07CQVM7WY/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o05_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
With a light alarm clock, you set your wake up time like you would any normal alarm, however instead of waking you up with sound you will get woken up with light, like nature intended. This mimics the summer feeling of waking up early with a morning sunrise. 30 minutes prior to your wake time the light will slowly illuminate, starting very dull to full brightness by your wake time. (An alarm will also go off at the set time) However I am consistently up 10-15 minutes before this). The same thing happens at night, you set your sleep time and the light will go from full brightness to off over the space of 30 minutes, which is great for falling asleep whilst reading in bed!
Magnesium 100-500mg a day
Magnesium is present in many of the foods that we eat, however if we don't get enough, this could be effecting our sleep. Magnesium helps activate neurotransmitters that are responsible for calming the body and the mind, thus aiding deeper sleep.
Liposomal Melatonin 1mg a day
A low dose of melatonin helps to induce sleep. Studies have also shown that melatonin is a potent antioxidant with anti-inflammatory effects.
There is no better feeling than lying down in bed at night knowing that you have given the day your all, physically and mentally. Think back to the days where you have exercised intensely, you had no problems falling asleep, right! However other days where you maybe haven't done as much, it may take you longer to fall asleep.
Intense exercise isn't recommended 7 days a week, however even on your rest days make sure you take advantage of recovery strategies like Yoga. Don't overcomplicate it, a good rule of thumb is sweat everyday and if you haven't already, hire a coach to help you with your programme.
If Olympic athletes are napping everyday, then why aren't you?
Daily naps are a great way to add some time to our daily sleeping total. Remember that when we sleep our bodies and minds begin to repair, so why not start this process earlier in the day.
Naps are also a great tool to pay off any sleep debt that you owe. Life has unavoidable days where you are forced to stay up late or wake up extra early. Pay off this sleep debt with naps the following day. I have best results with 20-50 minutes
Meditation and daily mindfulness allows you to be aware of your thoughts, both positive and negative. A lot of people spend hours in bed 'overthinking' problems. It is often misconceived that meditations purpose is to not think at all. This couldn't be further from the reality, meditation allows you to have clear though
t of what is important in your life and help to remove negative thoughts. Less negative thoughts= better sleep.
Heart Rate Variability is a new way of measuring your readiness for the day. There are many variables that effect our recovery and sleep is a major part of this, recording your sleep time and quality daily allows you to see where you are doing well and if you are not recovering optimally, then why not. Simply buy a heart rate monitor and download HRVElite app. It takes 150s every morning.