Did you know that most of your recovery takes place while you sleep? That’s right, while you sleep your body is actually repairing its own cells and that’s when all of your “gainz” happens. There are many things that will suffer if you’re not getting quality sleep such as your mood, muscle gain, weight loss, cognitive function and immunity.
During Quarantine you may be getting more sleep than usual but is it good quality? Let’s explore what are some signs you’re getting bad/not enough sleep, things you may be doing that sabotage your sleep and what you can do about it.
Signs you may be getting poor sleep or not enough:
- Feeling tired after waking up
- Muscle soreness lingers for several days (over 3 days)
- Mid-day energy crash
- Mental fatigue
- Slowed progress in fitness journey
- Unexplained mood swings
- Gets sick often
When we sleep, our body switches into a parasympathetic state which is the automated system you run on that allows you to breathe, digest food and makes your heart beat. The opposite is a sympathetic state which is your response mechanism to a stimulus, also known as the fight or flight system.
As we sleep our brain goes through 5 cycles, the first 4 are NREM (Non Rapid Eye Movement) and the last is the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) totalling 90 minutes in duration. REM is associated with dreaming but there has been no confirmation of visual imagery during this stage, however, it is important to get REM because it stimulates the area in your brain that is essential to learning and making/retaining memories.
REM is for the brain as Slow Wave Sleep (SWS) is for the body. SWS happens in your deepest parts of your sleep cycle where your body is completely paralyzed, other than essential functions like a beating heart and pulsing lungs. During this stage you’re actually producing Human Growth Hormones (HGH) that will help rebuild your muscle tissue and give you better overall recovery on a physical level.
So what can we do to improve your sleep to get better brain and body function? Here’s a few things to consider that may be hi-jacking your sleep.
- Sleep debt - how much sleep you need vs how much sleep you actually get. Whatever you lack you must make up for it another day, if you accumulate too much sleep debt, your bank (body) will come knocking and make you rest. It may come in the form of an illness or literally making you fall asleep anywhere you are which can be very dangerous.
- Circadian Rhythm - This is your body's cycle that rotates with the sun and moon, strongly associated with the light of the day and dark of night which is why we typically get tired when the sun goes down. The introduction of artificial light with tv’s and smartphones have had an impact in the disruption of our circadian rhythm as humans.
- Eating before bed - Having a full belly right before bed can decrease the amount of energy spent repairing the body due to the need to break down food in addition to raising the body’s temperature. Try not to eat 2-3 hours before bed.
- Too warm of a room - Studies show that a colder environment will cause humans to fall into a deeper sleep faster, as we were hibernating like a bear does in the winter. If you’re sleeping with your heater on, try not to crank it, ideally the room should be between 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Travel - It’s been shown that sleeping in a familiar place allows you to fall into deeper sleep because your subconscious associates it with a safe environment, in unfamiliar places your mind may not let you fall into a deep sleep as it is trying to stay ready to wake up and act quickly to a threat.
Sleep is vital to your overall performance as a human being and just like we optimize our training, we must take steps to optimize our sleep so we may show up stronger every day. If you feel like you’re lacking in any of the aforementioned areas, here are some ways to hack your sleep to have better sleep performance.\
- Turn off all screens before going to bed, if you must use a screen, utilize blue light blocking glasses.
- Read in bed to candle light. The slight flicker of the warm light will help revitalize your circadian rhythm, stick to light/enjoyable reading.
- Have an evening routine. If you do the same routine before bed your system will begin to down regulate from the day so when you do get to bed you fall asleep quickly.
- Know your wake up time and plan accordingly. If you know you have to wake up at 5am, staying up till midnight will accumulate sleep debt. Give yourself enough time to get 7-9 hours of sleep.
- Get up when your alarm goes off. Hitting the snooze button and getting that extra 15 minutes doesn’t do you any good, it takes 90 minutes to go through a sleep cycle so you only get light sleep in that time that doesn’t yield any performance.
- Magnesium supplementation. There is currently no way to tell if you have a deficiency in magnesium, so if you take it and your sleep gets better, then you were deficient. If it doesn’t make a difference then you didn’t need it.
- Melatonin Supplementation. Aids in sleep cycles, your body produces this as the sun goes down and it gets dark. If you utilize screens regularly in bed, this may be affected.
If you’re training hard, be sure you’re recovering just as hard!