Tell me if this sounds familiar: You’re a hard charger. You get up early, you stay up late, and you push yourself physically, mentally, and professionally. You rarely miss a workout and if you had to say it, you’re in better shape and more educated about fitness than most people. When it comes to nutrition you’re pretty good, too. Yeah, you enjoy a good cocktail or three, you occasionally treat yourself to fall-off-the-bone baby back ribs, a succulent steak, or a gourmet pizza. But most of the time? You’re dialed in. Still, despite nailing your nutrition, training hard, and staying consistent, you haven’t been able to lose the last bit of fat hangin’ onto your hips or lower belly with a death grip that would make Sly Stallone jealous in Cliffhanger.
So you scour the web in search of the answer: “What the hell am I doing wrong?”
The Answer May Surprise You. It’s Sleep.
Whether you’re trying to drop fat and look your best for the warm months, peak for a show, or hell, just lose a few pounds, sleep is often the missing piece.
Sleep is the ultimate force multiplier for health and performance. It optimizes every mental and physiological system you need to look, feel, and perform your best. Sure, you’re busy and short nights are often par for the course, the fact remains you won’t optimize your physique (or anything else) without proper sleep.
What Happens When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep Every day without sleep is like lacking a savings account and buying everything on credit. Scrimping on sleep to #grind or watch the #fitfam puts you further in debt every day. A lack of sleep significantly increases your chance of Type Two diabetes and obesity.
Even moderate sleep deprivation significantly impairs insulin sensitivity in men in just one week. This makes it much harder to lose stubborn fat and build muscle. So much for looking great naked. Don’t look for fat loss supplements or miracle diets to lose fat, go to bed.
Five hours of sleep per night for one week can reduce testosterone levels by as much as 10-15%. This is insane when you consider the average rate of testosterone decrease is 1-2% per year on average. Reduced testosterone impairs your ability to lose fat, decreases energy, decreases your ability to build muscle, decreased focus (costing you $), and decreases libido. Sleep deprivation has been shown to decrease reaction time, attention span, recall skills, long term memory, visual-motor performance, logical reasoning, and damn near every other cognitive skill imaginable.
Skipping sleep decreases your ability to do everything at optimal capacity.
Don’t waste your money on worthless testosterone boosters. Please go to bed. It’s obvious.
Yet too many people, myself included, devote too little attention to getting adequate sleep.
Read on to find out how to get the sleep you need.
1. Keep Consistent Hours The best way to sleep well consistently is to keep consistent hours. Your body thrives with a consistent circadian rhythm, our internal, 24-hour cycle of biochemical, physiological, and behavioral processes.
As crazy as it sounds, your body tends to release certain chemicals during certain times per day to trigger alertness, optimize function, and in the evening, help you relax. If you go to bed at 11 during the week and wake-up at 6:30 AM, do the same during the weekend. Yes, it will take an adjustment. Yes, it will suck at first. Deal with it. It’ll be well worth your time when you end up sleeping, performing, and looking better as a result.
2.Get Sunlight Early in the Morning I use an alarm with an ascending volume setting, meaning it gets louder the longer I lay in bed. The problem? As soon as it mutters a peep, my two-year-old pup wakes up and snuggles his way into my bed. If ever there was a reason to hit snooze, this is it. But have you noticed what happens when you hit snooze and roll over in bed? It’s nearly impossible to get up and get going full throttle. You generally fall in and out of sleep and finally wake up and groggily race the clock all morning. Instead of drifting back to sleep in a dark room and a warm bed, get up right away. Get outside and get a few minutes of natural sunlight if you can. Getting sunlight early in the morning signals your body systems to wake up, producing the hormones you need to optimize your circadian rhythms and energize you naturally. Get up and get natural sunlight for a few minutes each morning, even if it’s simply taking your pooch out to the bathroom.
3. Avoid Caffeine After Noon Bach Performance, my fellow coach Jorden Pagel and I love caffeine as much as you do. The only problem? Caffeine can hang around in your blood system much longer than you think. According to the book, Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson, the half-life of caffeine is from 5-8 hours. This means as many as eight hours after your last coffee, half of the caffeine can still be circulating your system.
Therefore, 100mg of the 200mg shot of adrenaline you guzzled at noon could be floating around your body at 8:00 PM.
Sure, this is helpful during a busy day. But at night?
Not so much.
Avoid caffeinated drinks after 12 pm. Besides, it’s normal not to be wired in all the time. You’re not a robot. Avoid the late-afternoon Americano and you’ll find yourself resting much easier at night. You’ll also you’ll begin having more energy throughout the day and no longer need the afternoon jolt.
4. Avoid Screens 30 Minutes Before Bed Today, much of our of lives are lived on a screen. Cell phones, tablets, computers, and your television all keep you connected 24-7.
There are benefits, including an endless variety of entertainment and answers to every question under the sun in a fraction of a second.
One of the biggest drawbacks of high-tech screens is the exposure to blue light. From an eye health perspective, blue light puts excess strain on your eyes and may damage retinal cells, potentially increasing the risk and of age-related macular degeneration.
When it comes to sleep, blue light suppresses the release of melatonin, disrupting your natural sleep patterns.
I love catchin’ an episode of Ballers, a movie, or scanning puppy videos on “the gram” as much as the next person, but there is a price.
Here’s what I recommend instead of late night surfing:
Trade late-night screen time for a book or journaling for the last 30 minutes before bedtime.
Turn down all your screens. Turn the light as low as possible when working after sundown. This reduces the impact of harmful blue light.
Use F.LUX on computer screens. This app blocks the bluelight on your computer.
Wear blue light blocking glasses. You’ve probably seen the dorky glasses with yellow lenses, right? These aren’t just for dressing up like Elton John. These glasses block the harmful blue light that impairs quality sleep. Some brands like MVMT offer stylish variations, if that’s your thing.
Altogether, we need to calm down and signal to our body that it’s time to rest. Unfortunately, many of the mindless habits like watching late night TV, scanning social media, or working in bed send the opposite signal.
You must protect the asset. The best way to do so is to reduce blue-light exposure in the evenings to sleep better.
5. Work Out Consistently The best time to work out is at whatever time you will do it consistently.
But we if I had to pick one time of day, it would be morning. Why?
First, when you work out in the morning you’ll naturally increase endorphins or the feel-good hormones. This is the best way to start off on a positive note.
Second, the longer you wait to work out, the easier it is for another meeting, “task” or frankly, laziness, to set in causing you to miss a workout.
Third, working out too late in the evening can keep your body temperature elevated for 4-6 hours post workout. The problem is that your body wants to cool down to release rest-promoting chemicals to help you sleep. If you wait until the evening, your body can still run “hot,” preventing it from powering down and leaving you staring at the ceiling fan wondering why you can’t sleep, rather than catching your Zzz’s.
6. Avoid Late Night Alcohol We’re all adults here. We’re not going to tell you not to drink. But, if you do partake, try to abstain from alcohol 2-3 hours before bed.
It’s been shown a nightcap can help you fall asleep faster. Heck, most of us can probably attest to it.
Unfortunately, alcohol impairs many essential components of sleep, namely REM (rapid eye movement) or deep sleep. Even though an old-fashioned may help you fall asleep quicker, you won’t sleep well. You’ll be more likely to wake up during the night and then wake up the next morning unrested and groggy, not sharp and energized.
7. Write Down Tomorrows To-Do List Tell me if this sounds familiar. You know you need sleep, but you can’t stop thinking of how busy your day is tomorrow.
You’re tired but wired.
You want to sleep, but the never-ending to-do task is calling your name.
Now, you’re stressed because you have a ton to do and can’t sleep. And you can’t sleep because you’re thinking about the never-ending to-do list. The vicious cycle repeats itself until three in the morning when you realize you need to roll out of bed in three hours.
Sound familiar? It does to me, too.
The best thing I’ve ever done to escape the frantic mindset is to write down everything I need to do “tomorrow” before ending my workday. It sounds crazy, but planning an extra 15 minutes to get everything down on paper and outline a rough schedule is a game changer.
Write it down, hour by hour and leave it for tomorrow. Trust me, you’ll thank me when you wake up.
8. Stick To An Evening Routine As mentioned, our bodies like consistency due to the role of circadian rhythms.
Each evening, I stick to a simple routine. I step away from screens 60 minutes before bed. I try to have a good conversation with friends, family, or if all else fails, my dog. (We all do this, right?)
You can also meditate or journal or read a book. Whatever the case, work to avoid screen time and diving into another work project. Your body needs its rest if you’re going to look, feel, and perform your best. A nighttime routine is a simple way to maximize the rest you can get.
9. Turn Your Bedroom Into A Cave Fun Fact: your skin actually has photoreceptors, much like your retina. Though you can’t technically “see” through your skin, your body can sense light, impairing melatonin secretion and decreasing sleep quality. Trippy, right? Well, as it pertains to sleep, this means you need to make your room as dark as possible.
Sleep masks can help, while concurrently significantly dropping your chances of getting laid, but they don’t block the photoreceptors on your skin from absorbing sleep-quality reducing light.
Use blackout shades and remove all lights from your room. Put your phone in another room. You don’t need it attached to your hip, anyway. If you need an alarm, pick up an old school alarm instead. Even small lights have been shown to impair sleep quality.
Go. The F*ck. To Sleep. At Bach Performance, our motto is “success comes from the ruthless execution of the basics.” Yet why do we put sleep on the back burner? Only you can answer this question. And while I realize blocking off eight hours isn’t always possible given your schedule or family, you need to make the best of what you’ve got. If all else fails? Well, watch this video and let Samuel L Jackson convince you 😉