Whether you’re pumping iron in the gym or training for a triathlon, you know that there are no fitness gains without proper recovery. Your resting state is where your muscles make their repairs, and if you’re male, your quality of sleep will affect how much testosterone you generate in your body.
How much sleep do you need? It’s debatable whether a full eight hours are required. Arnold Schwarzenegger swears you only need six and that if you think you need more, then “sleep faster.”
Either way, with our job schedules and workouts, we have only so much time available for rest, so it’s essential that we make the most of our sleep time.
Here are some ways you can power-sleep your way into better muscle gains, higher performance, and greater health.
1) Stay Away from Screens Before Bedtime
Ever wonder why it’s harder to go to sleep directly after being on your computer?
It’s not just that you have your mind active by tweeting or looking at ESPN scores.
The truth is that your laptop and many electronic devices carry “Blue Light,” which confuses your body into thinking it’s daytime.
Basically nothing with a screen will help you fall asleep faster.
This problem is compounded when you’re using one of these devices in bed, like watching a movie in your bedroom or playing on your phone.
How much time do you need before shutting these devices off and hitting the sack?
Unfortunately, the earlier your bedtime, the earlier you’ll probably need to stop checking email or watching TV. If you have a 9pm bedtime, you’ll most likely need two hours away from TV and computer screens, especially since the sun has been out so recently. To somewhat reduce the damage, you can also use software like F.lux (http://stereopsis.com/flux/) to lower the blue light on your monitor.
So the next time you see a Facebook friend post at 4AM, “Ugh… why can’t I sleep?!?!” tell them, “Maybe because you’re Facebooking from your iPhone while in bed.
2) Turn the “Other” Lights Out
I’m going to assume most people reading this article are smart enough to turn their bedroom lights out when trying to sleep. (not sure about your buddy Facebooking at 4AM, but let’s give ‘em the benefit of the doubt anyway…)
Beyond the obvious lights in your home, however, there’s a number of “other lights” that can get in the way of your sleep. Some are quick fixes and some are almost completely out of your control.
Your clock light, for example, may emit a blue light that can get in the way of your sleep, even if you have your eyes closed and covers over your head.
This is a quick fix, at least. Just put a shirt over your clock and you’re fine. You’ll find there are very few occasions where you need to check what time it is before your alarm clock rings anyway.
That’s just the beginning, however. In a lot of apartment complexes, the property owners insist on having outdoor lights on at all times in order to prevent accidents and increase security.
Unfortunately, these outdoor lights can severely mess with your sleep cycle.
In this case, your only option is to block light coming in from the windows. The absolute best way to do this is to buy blackout curtains from Amazon or any home décor store.
You might even be able to get a good fix just from cutting up a cardboard box and boarding up the windows before bed. Both of these strategies will let you allow the sunshine in during the day.
However, you may find that keeping your bedroom in perpetual darkness will help your subconscious completely associate your bed with rest, which will help you fall asleep even faster.
3) Fall Asleep with Positivity
“Ok buddy, I’m lying in pitch darkness and can’t sleep. Now what?”
Most intelligent people have very active minds and it’s not so easy to shut these off at night.
It’s also harder to sleep if you have stress to deal with during the day. If you fall asleep while worrying, you just might find yourself stressing out in your dreams too.
If it takes you more than 5 minutes to fall asleep on most nights, you’ll find this next tactic very helpful.
Instead of trying to quiet your thoughts entirely, try changing your thoughts to something simple, positive, and soothing.
First, look at any problem bubbling up in your head at the moment. Ask yourself, “Just for now, can I let go of trying to figure this out?” Make the commitment to deal with the problem the next day instead.
Then move to giving yourself some unconditional love and approval. You can do this in a number of ways.
One way is to silently ask yourself, “Can I give myself some approval?” and then answer “Yes” to yourself. Then “Can I give myself some more approval… and more… and more…” You can imagine waves of approval washing over you as you lie in bed.
Another way is to simply let the words “I love myself” cycle in your head again and again until you fall asleep.
This may seem a little woo-woo, but it gets you conked out in record time and you’ll find yourself waking up the next morning fully rested and feeling very positive.
Remember that the quality of your rest determines how far you can push yourself in your workouts, so guard your sleep time and use it to its maximum power. You’ll feel better, perform better, and be much less likely to skip a workout.