Along with training and nutrition your quality of sleep is the third pillar of living a leaner, more energetic and healthier life.
If you’re not getting enough sleep then you’ll be fighting an uphill battle all day.
This is something I’ve been working on hard for 2015 and I’ve made some big improvements. Unfortunately, I fell off the wagon this past week but it inspired me to write this for you so hopefully we can both discover more about the power of sleep.
By the time Friday comes most of us are walking zombies ready for the weekend so we can binge sleep-in to finally feel some refreshment by the time Sunday comes.
Yet, we all know we need to get enough sleep but we put it on the back burner to watch more TV or play on our iPhones a little bit longer.
This is causing a lot more damage than we think, and it’s something we need to put a high priority on if we want to live better lives.
Why Working Isn’t Worth Losing Sleep
A study by the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical University found that skipping sleep to finish up some work wasn’t worth the hangover effects it caused.
The detrimental effects of loss of sleep the subjects suffered from included their mood, ability to focus and access to higher brain level functions.
This is hardly a recipe to perform at your best.
The big reason why we need to get enough sleep was found by the University of Rochester for when you sleep your brain removes toxic proteins that have accumulated while you were awake, and these can only be removed while sleeping.
So when you feel the classic “brain fog” from sleep deprivation now you know what it is.
Is Sleep Really That Serious?
There are other serious health problems that come from lack of sleep such as stroke, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity.
Sleep deprivation also causes you to feel more stressed out as your body will overproduce the hormone cortisol causing you to not only get fatter, but also make you appear older by reducing collagen in your skin.
You can also expect to get fatter when you skip out on your sleep since you’ll compromise your body’s ability to metabolize carbohydrates. Additionally, you’ll be increasing the appetite stimulating hormone ghrelin while repressing the satiety-inducing hormone leptin.
Ok, now that we got the scary stuff out of the way let’s look at some of my favorite secrets to hacking your sleep…
Let There Not Be Light
The light in your bedroom has a much bigger effect on your quality of sleep than you might think.
Our body’s are very sensitive to blue light because when the sun goes down we naturally aren’t exposed to blue light anymore leading our body’s to release melatonin.
But when we stare at TV’s, computers, iPhones and iPads before sleeping we’ll keep exposing ourselves to this blue light causing our body to not release melatonin.
So I recommend shutting off your TV and other gadgets 1 hour before you go to bed at least. If you have to work on your computer I’d recommend installing the f.lux app on it to take away the blue light.
Be sure to black out your room as well.
If there’s a bright street lamp right outside your window I’d install some black-out curtains to keep the light from coming in.
Also if you have any electronic gadget chargers in the bedroom put some black tape over the little LED light. This may sound extreme but these little things make a big difference.
Try reading a real paper book like the good ol’ days before you go to sleep. Just like your Grandpa used to do.
Put Stress In The Dog House
Ever been lying in bed and your mind just seems to keep talking to the point you look over at the clock and hours have passed?
This is the “Monkey Mind” rearing its ugly head at you, and it’s something we all need to get under control.
Journaling before bed is a great way to let out a lot of the chatter going on your head so you don’t dwell on it when you’re supposed to be sleeping.
Meditation is something I’ve also been working on in 2015 and there’s no doubt it’s helped me to significantly feel more present in the moment, and not allow my brain to keep thinking about the past or the future.
I’m planning on writing soon all about meditation…
Getting enough sleep will also help you to have a better handle on your emotions. When things get a little hectic in your life you’ll handle it much better if you’re well rested.
We’ve all been that person who was irritable and cranky after not getting enough sleep.
Even if you’re feeling emotionally drained in the middle of the day try taking a quick 10-20 minute nap. Even if you don’t fall asleep you’ll at least get up with a better grip on your emotional health.
Do You Really Need 8 Hours of Sleep?
Of course, quality is a big factor here but overall you should generally be getting 8 hours of sleep per night.
The Wisconsin Sleep Cohort Study found those who slept 7.7 hours per night had the lowest BMI (Body Mass Index) than those in the other groups.
I try to wakeup and go to sleep at the same time every day.
For me, this is generally in bed at 10 with the lights out with the intent to wake up at 6am tomorrow morning.
I like using the Sleep Cycle app on my iPhone because it’ll nudge me awake at the top of my sleep cycles so it doesn’t feel like somebody walked in my bedroom and dumped a cold bucket of water on me while I was sleeping.
Just make sure you put your phone on Airplane Mode to keep all the electromagnetic waves from frying your brain.
Try to develop a bedtime routine too. For me, I start 1 hour before I go to bed. I shut off my electronics, then I’ll brush my teeth, take some supplements, stretch, meditate, journal and then read some fiction in bed before I pass out.
This is what works for me and encourage you to develop your own bedtime routine that works for you.
My Bedtime Supplements
Now I don’t use a lot of supplements in general but there are a few ones that I use all the time.
I’ll take krill oil a couple hours before bed time. The omega-3’s not only improve your mood while reducing anxiety and depression but they’ll also improve insulin sensitivity and muscle growth.
Make sure you’re not drinking coffee or other forms of caffeine past the early afternoon hours. This is another thing I’ve struggled with but lately I’ve really been able to fall asleep so much quicker when I don’t consume any coffee after lunch time.
Go here for more on the best foods to eat before bedtime.
Sleep Is The Missing Ingredient In Fat Loss
Nutrition and training gets most of the attention in the fat loss world, but your sleep is just as important.
Even if you have your training and nutrition under control you’ll constantly be fighting an uphill battle if you’re under slept all the time.
Do yourself and your body a favor by getting 8 hours of high quality sleep.
Use the hacking secrets I wrote about here to get better sleep so you can drop more fat, level up your energy and get a grip on your life.