You don’t build muscle in the gym, you build it between sessions when you body recovers, and sleep is a vital component of that process.
Accordingly, getting the required amount of sleep each night is an essential element of every plan aimed at developing your physique, improving your strength or enhancing your performance.
If you find yourself lying awake at night staring up at the ceiling it is highly unlikely that you’ll reach your goals as a lack of shut-eye can lead to poor workouts and sub-par race performances, elevated cortisol levels, fat gain and, in most cases, it will turn you into a sleep-deprived, groggy version of your former self.
With so much to gain from a good night’s sleep and such severe consequences for insufficient or poor quality sleep it pays to do whatever you can to get some good ‘kip’. Try the following tips to ‘hit the sack’ quickly and safely:
1. Limit caffeine and energy drinks
Enjoying a cup of coffee too close to bed-time will overstimulate your central nervous system which means you might end up counting sheep long after you switched off the lights. Certain energy drinks can also make you feel jittery due to all the stimulants they contain, so cut out the caffeine and energy drinks long before before you turn in for the night.
2. Avoid alcohol
Booze disrupts your natural sleep cycle and also causes dehydration which can result in poor sleep quality. It can also stunt testosterone release and impair muscle growth – two of the most important and pronounced actions that occur while you sleep.
3. Regimented ‘lights-off; approach
When you’re ready for bed turn off all lights and any light-emitting devices such as cellphones, tablets, laptops and the television. Any form of artificial light has the potential to affect the release of melatonin, an important sleep-regulating hormone. This alters your circadian rhythm, which controls your biological clock and may result in night-time wakefulness or altered sleep patterns.
4. Time your workout right
When you’re training hard you are naturally raising your body temperature and this might disrupt sleep in the middle of the night. You won’t be able to sleep or you may struggle to fall asleep if your body temperature is too high. Schedule your workouts wisely and train at least three to four hours before you go to bed.
5. Optimise your environment
Make the bedroom your exclusive sleep zone. Don’t work, watch TV or surf the web in bed because it will prevent you from turning off your mind and it will over-stimulate your senses. When you retire for the night don’t think about things you need to remember. Rather keep a piece of paper next to your bed and write them down so you can release them from your conscious.
If you’re still having a hard time falling asleep and/or staying asleep the following sleep enhancers might be of help:
A powerful mineral combo of zinc and magnesium is known to be a solid sleep enhancer. Magnesium plays an important role in the functioning of GABA (Gamma Aminobutryic Acid) receptors, which is the primary neurotransmitter responsible for calming your central nervous system, relaxing you and preparing you for sleep. Low levels of this mineral can also negatively impact overall sleep quality and decrease testosterone levels.
This essential oil, obtained by distillation from the flower spikes of certain species of lavender, has been used with great success for medicinal and religious purposes. It aids in putting your body in a relaxed parasympathetic state. It will improve your overall sleep quality by calming your mind, reducing overall stress and decreasing your blood pressure. It also helps people to feel refreshed upon waking in the morning.
This hormone regulates your sleep and wake cycles through changes in concentrations in response to light.
The roots of this non-toxic plant can help you sleep better as they are used as a sedative and sleeping aid. It is believed to work by increasing the amount of GABA which helps regulate the action of nerve cells and has a calming effect.
Well known for its health benefits and as an effective remedy for helping people to doze off, this ingredient is most commonly found in herbal tea. It will relax your muscles and bring on feelings of sleepiness. It has been successfully used as a traditional remedy for anxiety, heartburn, nausea and insomnia for decades.
Consumed for its relaxant effects, this water-soluble amino acid is found in mushrooms and green tea. Research shows that L-theanine can help you to sleep better, while also aiding recovery.