Whenever we think about improving our physique and health, we always look for certain hacks: the latest supplement, the one magical workout program, or superfood that can help us.
If you’re looking for that one thing which can truly help you, look no further than getting enough sleep. It’s underrated, rarely discussed, and it’s free.
No matter what your goals are, whether it’s muscle gain, fat loss, improved mental focus, you need to get more sleep.
In today’s #hustle and #grind 24/7 culture, everyone brags about how busy they are and how much work they’re getting done. They also brag about what they’ve accomplished with the little sleep that they get like it’s a badge of honor.
Although it sounds badass AF to brag, those people are actually doing their body a disservice. They most likely can get more done if they only got a good night’s sleep. You can only power through so much with coffee and nootropics before your body gives you the middle finger and you burn yourself out.
So before I drop some knowledge bombs on how to improve your sleep, let’s discuss why you need to get more sleep.
Americans are gaining more overweight and sleeping less as we speak. The average American adult is sleeping about 6.8 hours at night, down more than an hour from 1942. Experts recommend that we get at least 7 hours per night.
There’s a lot more research emerging about sleep deprivation and it’s effect on obesity. When you’re sleep deprived, our body’s appetite regulation is disrupted, causing more ghrelin to be secreted and less leptin. Ghrelin is a hunger hormone and leptin signals to the brain that we’ve eaten enough. Because of this hormonal shift, a lack of sleep makes us feel hungrier and crave more junk.
Besides messing with our appetite, a lack of sleep can increase your risk of diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and some forms of cancer. The shorter your sleep, the shorter your life span.
According to Matthew Walker, the director of Center for Human Sleep Science, there are so many other detrimental health effects besides weight gain from not getting enough sleep.
Men who sleep 5-6 hours a day will have a level of testosterone 6-10 years their senior. For us men, having an optimal level of testosterone allows us to age well, build muscle, keep fat off, maintain our libido, and prevent disease. As we age, our testosterone levels continue to drop, aging us even further.
If you’re getting 6 or less hours of sleep, your physical performance drops by up to 30%. By being deprived of sleep, your muscular strength output, running speed, and other athletic movements are lowered. Because of the decreased performance, it’s a lot harder to train consistently and even show up to the gym.
Now that I’ve got your attention on why you need to catch some extra Z’s, we also need to improve the quality of the sleep as well. If you’ve been wanting to improve your sleep, here are ten things you can do:
1. Work Out
This one is a non-negotiable. You must be working out on a regular basis, especially if you’re working at a desk all day.
One of the biggest reasons why people have sleep issues is because we simply don’t move enough. Most of us live sedentary lives where we are sitting most of the time. We sit at work, while driving, watching TV, eating, etc.
Because of the lack of movement, we’re not expending any energy and have so much built up. No wonder we’re not tired by the end of the day.
Get in a workout each day, and during those workouts train hard and work up a real sweat. And throughout the day, take breaks in between periods of sitting with long walks. Any sort of physical activity will help you.
2. Take Magnesium
I’m a big fan of magnesium supplementation. Ensuring you’re getting enough magnesium is important because it’s responsible for over 300 chemical reactions in the body.
It’s also important for insulin sensitivity and testosterone production. Because we lose nutrients in our soil every year, we’re getting less magnesium in our food as time passes and many of us are deficient in this mineral. A deficiency in magnesium leads to increased LDL levels, inflammation and oxidative stress.
There’s also new research stating that Vitamin D can’t be metabolized without enough magnesium levels. So if you’re taking Vitamin D, make sure you’re getting enough magnesium to go along with it.
One of the biggest benefits of magnesium is that it helps you achieve restful and deep sleep. Magnesium increases the production of GABA, which is a neurotransmitter that encourages relaxation and promotes sleep.
There are many forms of magnesium, my favorite one being glycinate. So if you have trouble falling and staying asleep, then I highly recommend taking it before bed.
3. Avoid Blue-Lights and Electronics an Hour Before Bed
Blue lights are affecting our natural circadian rhythm by mimicking sunlight and suppressing our melatonin production. Our bodies think perceive the lights as sunlight and delays the production of melatonin, so it affects our sleep cycle if we’re exposed to it before bedtime.
How many times this week have you been up later than you should because you’re up late at night reading, checking social media, handling work emails, or just binge watching Netflix? Turn off all electronics and blue-lights an hour before bed.
If you need to stay up late to get work done or for any other reasons, then I highly recommend the f.lux app for your computer or getting blue light blocking glasses.
4. Take a Hot Shower Before Bed
Taking a hot shower before you go to bed can relax you and help you de-stress. You can also take a warm bath and put some Epsom salt in there for relaxation and to also get some extra magnesium into your body.
5. Keep Your Room Cold
Most people tend to sleep when they are in a cooler environment compared to a warmer temperature. If you can control the temperature in your bedroom, set it at 67 F and see how it feels.
6. Clean Up Your Diet
This one should be a no-brainer. What we eat affects us day to day, from our mood, performance, and overall health. Depending on what we eat, it affects our gut microbiome, and a disturbance from eating processed and inflammatory foods influences our sleep quality.
Look at your current diet and eat more lean protein, fruits, and vegetables. Reduce or avoid processed foods and sugar.
7. No Caffeine at Least 6 Hours Before Bed
If you’re having trouble falling and staying asleep, pay attention to the amount of caffeine you’re taking in. Caffeine has a half-life of 5-6 hours, and consuming caffeine 6 hours before bed can reduce your total sleep time by one hour.
Avoid drinking caffeine in any form (yes, even decaf coffee) at least 6 hours before you go to bed. For me personally, I stop drinking any coffee or caffeinated tea after 2pm.
8. Limit Alcohol
Although it might sound like a good idea after a long stressful day to have a drink or two, alcohol can negatively affect your sleep quality. Drinking more than that can interfere with our deep REM sleep.
Even if you may have gotten your seven hours, you might not get the most out of them because your deep sleep is affected. If you’re going to drink, have no more than 1-2.
9. Go to Bed the Same Time Every Night
We humans crave routine and need consistency. By having a consistent routine where we go to bed the same time each night, we optimize our internal clock and have a better time getting good restful sleep.
10. Block Out Noise
If you’re a light sleeper and any sort of noise disturbs you, block them out. Whether it’s closing all your windows, playing some white noise (sound tracks of nature sounds), or wearing earplugs, it will help ensure you stay asleep.
It’s Sleepy Time
So there you have it. When it comes to improving your health, sleep is absolutely critical for your well-being and performance. There’s no way around it. There aren’t any fancy biohacks or supplements which can give you short cuts compared to a restful night of sleep.
Implement the ten tips I’ve outlined above, and you’re well on your way to a quality night’s sleep.