Sleep is important, it enhances cognitive ability, it improves recovery, it enhances the effectiveness of our hormones. It is arguably the best performance-enhancing modality athletes can use for training outside of anabolics. But what does “good sleep” entail? How can an athlete improve their sleep quality? How can they enhance their recovery? Let’s dig deep!
It is well known that sleep deprivation can have a seriously negative impact on the humans decision-making process. We know that accidents tend to be higher the day after daylight savings and that is just from missing an hour of sleep! The research has shown that third shift workers tend to sleep significantly less than their first or second shift counterparts and it is known that third shift workers don’t live as long and have nearly 30% higher accident rates!
There are many keys behind sleep being prioritized in life, much of that is based simply around planning for a good night's rest. In that light, let’s dive into the actual PRACTICAL sides behind sleep preparation and how it can impact our night of shut eye!
Establish a Structured Approach
Part of prioritizing sleep is establishing a simple daily checklist through various questions.
- When will you be working out?
- When is the last bit of caffeine you will consume?
- Will you take a nap?
- For you to get 8-10 hours of sleep, what time do you need to go to bed?
- For the final 2 hours before sleep, how do you unwind?
- When is the last point of electronic contact (cell phone/TV/computer)?
- What supplements or methods can you use to enhance your sleep?
These are simple questions to address and recognize for creating a routine that is based and prioritized around recovery. When we designed our Mass Builder program, we created it with the idea that most people will follow our Nutrition Guidelines and use smart recovery to spark big gains!
If we are working out, we are likely going to be using caffeine to some extent prior to training. This is perfectly fine but we need to know the half life of caffeine. That means HOW LONG will caffeine remain in our system...the answer is 8 hours. This is important to acknowledge based on planning for a good night of sleep! If you are training at 4PM and take 300mg of caffeine, that caffeine will stimulate your nervous system until MIDNIGHT!
The next step is to try to plan your caffeine consumption based around your point of sleep. If you want to get shut-eye by 11pm, then DO NOT take caffeine after 3pm. Ideally, there should not be any consumption of caffeine after 2pm as a rule of thumb.
Analyzing our next question...will you be taking a nap? This is an important aspect of sleep as well. Naps are extremely healthy, they boost growth hormone, enhance muscle protein synthesis and help rejuvenate your body throughout the day. BUT, they typically should not last longer than 30 minutes and much like caffeine, a nap should be done about 6 hours prior to planned bedtime. If a nap is too close to our sleep period, the nap can delay sleep and have a negative impact on the next day of rest and recovery.
A “Normal” Day
Establishing the layout of a normal day is very effective for prioritizing sleep. When do you typically wake up or NEED to wake up? For an adult with responsibilities, that time frame is usually around 6AM (sometimes a little later). This helps us work backward.
What if you want 8-10 hours of sleep? We know that you need to wake up at 6am, if we work backwards, now it’s easy to see that we need to be in bed and prepared to sleep by 10pm. Ok, cool...how can we prepare for sleeping?
What are exercises and objects that disrupt someone’s sleep patterns? We know that caffeine can potentially disrupt sleep, we know that a nap can potentially harm sleep as well if it is not planned properly. There are two KEY external factors to recognize with sleep.
For the last two hours prior to bed, AVOID blue lights and instead use darker, warmer lights like red lights or even a candle! Use candles for 1 hour before bed for a week and the effects will be incredible. You will feel healthier, sleep better and possibly even lose some weight due to a decrease in inflammation.
Avoid TV and cell phone usage for 2 hours prior to bedtime. This will enhance any social relationship you have with people living in your home AND it will prevent your mind from racing before bedtime.
A quick tip, use your cell phone to play gentle and relaxing music to lower your heart rate and promote the oncoming sleep. This trick helps you stay off your phone while helping you relax.
Finally, plan a period of quiet sitting or meditation or prayer before bedtime. When you are 45 minutes out from sleep time, spend 15-30 minutes devoted entirely to yourself. Meditate or pray and focus on internal development. This will help with general happiness and cognitive behavior while also improving your quality of sleep!
It’s also important to use this as the routine to trigger the night of rest. By engaging with some form of quiet sitting, set a routine to follow up quiet sitting before bedtime. This is when you can utilize any specific supplements.
There is one supplement that is a MUST that I use when at home and traveling. That supplement is Forty Winks. With zinc, magnesium, choline, B6, Vitamin C and Pantethine, you will not find a better supplement to calm your nervous system, enhance your immune system and assist in your preparation for bedtime.
Follow this simple guideline to promote incredible recovery from your hard day of work!
- Establish a time to sleep.
- Don’t use caffeine after 2pm
- Don’t nap later than 2pm
- Turn off your cell phone or TV 2 hours before sleep
- Dim lights or use candles for an hour before bed.
- Participate in quiet sitting or meditation or prayer for 30 minutes.
- Take 2-3 pills of Forty Winks 20 minutes before bedtime.
- Recognize how well you sleep each night to understand what can impact your recovery!