Hack your sleep!
Hack your sleep if you want to make gains at the gym & improve every aspect of your life. As a Personal Trainer and fitness enthusiast, many of my clients are shocked when I tell them that sleep is more important than the actual workout when it comes to fat loss and building muscle. If you’re working hard at the gym, you owe it to yourself to hack your sleep. We are constantly putting stress on our bodies by staying up late, eating processed foods, and rushing to work.
Sleep is the only time our body can truly recover, increase strength, and repair tissue. Without it, we would experience hormone imbalances, lower immune function, and weight gain. While getting 8-10 hours of sleep is ideal, it’s not always realistic. In fact, researchers from the University of Alabama found that 60% of college students don’t get enough Z’s. Therefore, it’s especially important to make sure that the minimal sleep we do get is HIGH QUALITY. Whether you’re waking up too often throughout the night or taking too long to fall asleep, here are 5 ways to hack your sleep.
1. Track your sleep.
You can’t change what you don’t know. By using a wrist device (Fitbit or WakeMate), the free “Sleep Time” app, or “Sleep Cycle” for $1.99, you will be able to track how many hours you’re actually asleep, how long it takes you to fall asleep, and the overall quality of your sleep. Become aware of your habits and patterns. For example, you might notice you fall asleep faster on the days you do yoga or the days you avoid processed sugar. Begin modifying your behaviors based on what you learn and try the other 4 sleep tips listed below to see which one(s) benefit you the most.
2. Get rid of sleep thieves: lights, technology, caffeine, and late-night exercise.
- Lights – Bright lights from your laptop, phone, or fluorescents suppress melatonin production. Melatonin is the hormone that induces drowsiness and sleep. When it is suppressed, you feel restless. To promote a good night’s rest turn down the brightness on your phone, download a free software on your laptop called flux to control the brightness on your computer, and consider dimming the lights a few hours before bed. If you must use your electronics at night, these glasses are great for blocking blue light before bed. Do you have a roommate who likes the lights on? Get a sleep mask!
- Technology – When it’s bedtime, completely unplug from your technology by turning your phone to Airplane Mode so no one can reach you. Airplane Mode is better than the “do not disturb” setting because it stops the radiation of potentially harmful electromagnetic fields (EMFs).
- Caffeine – As a general rule of thumb, stop consuming caffeine by 2pm. Your morning coffee is a great stimulant if you want to be more alert during the day, but too much can block sleep-inducing chemicals in the brain and increase adrenaline production.
- Late-Night Exercise – Working out later than 3-4 hours before bedtime increases adrenaline, cortisol, and brain activity. This affects your body’s circadian rhythm and makes it difficult to fall asleep. If you must fit in a late night workout, try something calming like yoga or a walk.
3. Supplement for better sleep. Before taking any supplement, talk with your doctor.
- Magnesium Citrate – Unless you plan on eating a large dose of seaweed/kelp, cacao powder, nuts, and greens, consider taking a magnesium citrate supplement to feel calm and sleep better. Most people are deficient in this mineral and benefit from 600-800 milligrams per day.
- L-Glutamine – Studies show that L-glutamine boosts the release of growth hormone, an essential hormone for recovery and muscle growth. Five grams a night will do the trick.
- Low-Mercury Krill Oil – DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, has been shown to reduce anxiety and increase muscle growth. Studies have demonstrated that krill oil or fish oil promotes serotonin, a neurotransmitter that lowers stress and hormones that can interfere with sleep. Try 1 gram with dinner or at bedtime. Another option: Enjoy wild-caught seafood for dinner.
4. Eat healthy fats and protein for dinner.
Ever wonder why you can get a good night’s sleep, yet you wake up feeling groggy? The culprit is low blood sugar. Avoid eating a large meal 3 hours before bed, but enjoy pasture-raised eggs (with the yolks!) for dinner, organic almond butter on celery, or any other dinner that includes a substantial amount of fat (NOT hydrogenated fats, canola oil, vegetable oil) and 20-40 grams of protein.
5. If all else fails, sleep in Tim Ferriss’s “Military Crawl Position.”
Lie on your chest with your head turned to the right on your pillow. Both arms should be straight by your sides, palms up. Next, bring your right arm up until the top of your right elbow is bent at 90 degrees and your hand is close to your head.
Alternative hand placement: the right hand is under your pillow and under your head. Bring your right knee out to that side until it is bent at approximately 90 degrees. This position works for one simple reason: You can’t move. To toss and turn, it requires a lot of effort.
Always remember: It does not make you a hero if you can pull an all nighter.
It does not build character. It’s actually more admirable if you can find time in your busy schedule to get a good night’s sleep. Comment below: How do you hack your sleep?
- Asprey, D. (2014, December 31). 5 Ways to Hack Your Diet for Better Sleep. Retrieved September 9, 2015.
- Belenky, Greg, M.D. “Caffeine and Sleep.” Caffeine & Sleep Problems. National Sleep Foundation, 2001. Web. 08 Sept. 2015.
- Ferriss, Timothy. “Perfecting Sleep.” The 4-Hour Body. New York: RandomHouse, 2010. 275-92. Print.
- Knowlden, Adam, M.D. “Sleepy Students Emphasize Studies, Social Activity to
Detriment of Health, According to UA Study.” UA News. The University of Alabama, 20 Aug. 2014. Web. 8 Sept. 2015.
- Mercola, Joseph, M.D. “The Top Five Sources of EMF Exposure.” Mercola.com. Dr. Joseph Mercola, Aug. 2011. Web. 08 Sept. 2015.