“Muscles are torn in the gym, fed in the kitchen and built in bed” – Unknown
“I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” I’m sure we have all heard this. CEO’s, elite athletes, insomniacs have all uttered these words at some point. Some see their lack of sleep as a trophy to show off to the world. But if you’re anything like me, you’ll know just how shit you feel after a poor nights sleep. Heavy eyes, a slow functioning brain and a distinct lack of energy are all very real challenges that a poor night’s seep bring with it. Perhaps more worryingly, just one night of sleep deprivation can make a person as insulin resitant as a type-2 diabetic (study).
When it come to building muscle, rest and recovery sould not be ignored. Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep provides a huge surge of growth hormone, bringing the body into a anabolic state. After the wear and tear of a heavy weights session, this is where the muscles make their gains. Those who suffer a lack of sleep are at risk of a raise in cortisol levels – the anti-testosterone if you will – promoting fat gains. As skinny fella’s we want bulk, but in the right way!
I’ll be the first to admit, until recently I have been happy to shut my eyes and get what sleep I can. It’s not healthy. The research I have done has had me concerned. It makes sense as to why I walk around like a zombie most days for 2 or 3 hours after waking up, guzzling down cups of tea to get the required amount of caffiene in my system. Preparing for my next workout program to follow, I have to improve this. Here are 4 of the best tips to optimize your sleep for improved day to day performance.
Set the Scene
Hands up if you have a TV in your bedroom? I’ve been guilty of this in the past. Partially due to youthful exuberance, partially due to living conditions. In fact, I recall staying awake way past my bedtime as an 8 year old watching the telly. In my defence, it was the 1990 World Cup, England v Belgium, and the game had gone into extra time. My old lady still denies sending me upstairs with the game at 0-0. A last minute goal by David Platt made that sleep disruption well worth it!!!
The bedroom is for sleeping and the conditions in there should match that thought process. Set your temperature to one that is comfortable (article). Personally, this is at 72 degrees fahrenheit, though I once dated someone who preferred it in the 60’s. Leave the TV in the lounge. Perhaps most importantly of all, don’t ponce about on your phone. The blue light eminated from cellular devices has been proven to increase alertness (study). The last thing we want prior to bedtime is to be alert to all that is going on. By all means, browse away on Facebook first thing in the morning.
Admittedly, everyone has different living conditions. Back when I lived in Bangkok, my original residence was a studio apartment, making it difficult to seperate sleeping and living space. I know people who currently live in studios. A friend of mine came up with the genius idea of buying a divider, splitting his living space into 2 so that the bed was seperate from the lounge area of his apartment. If only I had known…
Be at one with Nature
Our cavemen ancestors fell asleep when the sun went down and woke when it came up. Without alarms clocks, iPhones and the sound of car horns, this was the only way they could tell it was time to start the day. The working day has historically been from 9-5. You can even consider how dis-oriented you feel when the alarm goes off in the winter and it is still dark outside. Or how tired you feel at 4-5pm.
It has been reported that the skin has receptors that react to sunlight (study). This makes complete sense. Our bodies naturally feel more alert during the daytime, as I am sure those who work shift patterns can attest to. Although socially, humans as a race have evolved, physically, we still have a number of traits that are stuck in cavemen times, with reactions of when to seep being one of them.
The 24 hour culture that we currenty live in makes a traditional sleeping pattern for some a challenge. Darkening your sleeping room will aid with this. Black out curtains or blinds and darker walls allow for the body to achieve a state of sleep that it needs (article). I have made a point of keeping my blinds closed as tight as possible every night during the summer, so that I am increasing the quality of my sleep.
Get your “Beauty” Sleep
The term ‘beauty sleep’ is one that is thrown around a lot. I’ve heard it for as long as I can remember and have even uttered those words in the past myself. Often as an excuse when bowing out of a night of drinking, there is a lot of science which suggests that ‘beauty sleep’ is not a myth.
Growth hormone is produced when we are asleep. This is what allows for our muscles to repair after an intense workout and rebuild bigger and stronger thna before. It also helps fight the aging process. For those who watch the UFC, you will be aware of the Testosterone Replacement Therapy ban that came in. It appeared that fighters like Vitor Belfort were able to go back in time, carrying physiques that their 20 year old selves would have been proud of. Aftr the ban, there was a noticeable change in physique and the win-loss column.
Testosterone is one of the hormones that allows us to become stronger and makes us men. It is widely suggested that the most regenerative sleep occurs between 10pm and 2am. During this time our growth hormone release is having a party in our bodies, encouraging us to feel energetic, maintain our weight, build muscle and keep us looking younger – hence the term ‘beauty sleep’. Muscle growth can be further enhanced by having a slow digesting protein before bed, such as turkey, cottage cheese or a casein shake.
Of course, maintaining this is not easy. I struggle due to the nature of my work and the time I get home. I’ve taken to monitoring my sleep with the app Sleep Cycle. This allows me to see how much deep sleep I am getting and get a consistent read of the times I fall asleep.
The Big O
Sex is good. I think we can all agree on that. Not only can it be a moment of real intimacy between you and your partner (or a chance to get your end away if you are that way inclined) but it has some fascinating health benefits. A release in stress, a decent cardio workout and an increased quality of sleep.
I’m sure a lot of us have been there…falling asleep shortly afterwards, with our girlfriends or wives not happy with the fact. Or the other way around. An ex of mine loved a post-sex snore. Kept me awake for hours! However, biologically this is something that we fella’s strugle to fight.
At the point of orgasm, the body releases a ridiculous concoction of hormones that create the ecstatsic feeling. Oxytocin helps reduce cortisol levels, reducing our stress. Serotonin is released, the same feel good hormone that you wil feel post workout or drug user on ecstacy releases. Norepinephrine has been sown to reduce high blood pressure and fight off depression. Then there is Prolactin.
Prolactin levels are known to increase during the REM phase of sleeping (study). At the point of ejaculation, prolactin is released, helping to create that sleepy state. Even more interesting is that 4 times as much prolactin is released when having sex with a partner than with Palmela Handerson! Next time your partner says, it may be worth reminding them that both of your sleep health depends on it…
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