One of the most neglected but vitally important aspects of any fitness regimen is healthy restful sleep. Without proper sleep patterns you run the risk of:
The bottom line is this, without adequate sleep each night you increase your risk of death dealing disease and decrease your ability to perform at your best.
What is adequate sleep? Between 7.5 and 9 hours for every 24 hour cycle to keep your heart in tune, your recovery on point, and your performance top notch. I’m definitely guilty of not getting my sleep quota in, and I realize that not everyone has the luxury of getting their 8 hours every night.
One thing I’ve realized is that the quality of your sleep is just as important as the amount of sleep you get each night.
sleep 8 hours but still wake up tired
wake up multiple times throughout the night for no external reason (external reasons like going to the bathroom or being woken up by noise or your kids)
feel tired and drained by 2pm
…then there could definitely be a problem with your sleep quality.
Only your own discipline and will can increase the amount of sleep that you get. I can’t reduce your workload or take things off of your schedule, and I doubt my warnings about the health issues you could have if you do not sleep will immediately spring you to action.
But I can show you some important practices that can help you to increase the quality of your sleep. So with my warnings about how much you should sleep ringing in your ears, let’s get into some easy to do hacks to improve your sleep quality:
There is a not so silent sleep killer in your household. Actually, this is 2017 so there’s probably several - electronic screens. Televisions, computers, and smart phones all emit blue light. In simple terms this light stimulates your brain into thinking that it’s daytime.
Light is the strongest queue to your brain in causing phase changes in your circadian rhythm, and if your brain thinks that it’s daytime, your pineal gland will not secrete adequate melatonin to stimulate restful sleep.
To ensure that this does not happen:
stop watching television, using the computer, or using your smartphone at least two hours prior to bedtime.
If you have to use one of these devices wear blue light blocking glasses to reduce your eyes’ exposure to the light.
remove televisions and screens from your bedroom
get blackout curtains that can keep any light from getting in and interrupting your sleep
use a sleep mask (I like the mindfold. It’s comfortable and really makes your feel like you’re in a dark room).
Your gut health could have a profound effect on your sleep. Studies demonstrate that your gut micro biome - the billions of tiny bacteria that live in your intestinal tract, can negatively affect your mood and your levels of anxiety if there is an overgrowth of unfriendly bacteria. On the other hand, friendly bacteria stimulate the release of GABA which will help you to sleep and stimulate growth hormone release.
To reduce sleep disrupting anxiety caused by poor gut health:
- ingest fermented foods and drinks like kimchi, raw sauerkraut, kefir, yogurt, and kombucha (check out this awesome course by my friend Ryan Neveu that teaches you how to make your own).
- eat 8 cups of green leafy vegetables like spinach, chard, baby kale, and arugula every day to create a friendly environment for good bacteria.
- take live probiotic supplements at 200 billion per day.
-take antibiotics only as a last resort upon recommendation from a doctor, and if you do, increase dosage of probiotic supplements to 300 billion per day for up to six weeks after your anti biotic cycle is over.
I’ve spoken about gut health extensively before, and it’s importance to all aspects of your health cannot be underestimated. This most definitely includes your sleep.
Poor nutritional intake can deprive you of important nutrients that stimulate healthy sleep. As I wrote before healthy gut bacteria helps to stimulate the release of the neurotransmitter GABA, but folic acid, but there are definitely other nutrients that you need in order to gain healthy sleep.
selenium - from brazil nuts and mushrooms
folic acid - from avocados and dark green vegetables
Vitamin B6 - from bell peppers
Vitamin B12 - from liver, poultry, and fish
There are also some nutrients you might want to consider supplementing:
Magnesium: 400-500 mgs a day prior to bedtime. Magnesium helps to decrease cortisol, which is the stress hormone that helps us to stay awake, it helps muscles to relax, and it reduces inflammation. It’s presence in foods has also decreased due to poor quality soil, so it’s definitely worth supplementing.
Omega 3 fatty acid: High levels of Omega-3 DHA are also linked with better sleep and better brain health. Omega 3’s also help to reduce inflammation and stimulate neurogenesis. Make sure that you’re getting your Omega 3’s from either fish oil or algae as these are the only sources that have absorbable DHA.
Dynatropin: This is a human growth hormone (HGH) secretagogue that was created by our friend Dr. Mark Gordon as an inexpensive and natural substitute to injectable HGH.. It’s got a host of sleep stimulating ingredients in a single spray bottle:
GABA: As stated before GABA is an extremely important neurotransmitter that helps you sleep and induces growth hormone release.
L-Glutamine - helps to stimulate the release of GABA
L-Ornathine Alpha Ketoglutarate - stimulates growth hormone and scavenges ammonia, which is a toxin that can disrupt your sleep patterns.
Alpha GPC - helps to boost cognitive abilities while supporting a healthy sleep cycle
L-Tyrosine - aids in mood enhancement and reduces anxiety, the sleep killer.
You can find Dynatropin at: https://warriorsoulagoge.com/products/dynatropin
Water makes up about 85% of the total weight of your brain. In order for it to function properly, and induce healthy sleep, you’ve got to hydrate. Make sure that you are drinking at least half your body weight in fluid ounces of water each day, plus another 10 oz if you’re active!
For those with average circadian rhythms, exercising between the hours of 2:30 PM and 8:30 PM will help you to maximize the benefit of training and will help to set you up for a fantastic night’s sleep. There’s a lot of deep science behind this that’s summarized in this fantastic article by Bayesian Bodybuilding: http://bayesianbodybuilding.com/best-time-to-work-out/.
A quiet room can definitely contribute to a good night’s sleep, but some of us live in cities where noise penetrates through every wall and there’s never a quiet moment in the night. In these cases, I highly suggest listening to binaural beats while you’re sleeping. These beats help to take your brain waves down to delta and theta which are the brain waves that occur during sleep. They only work if you’re using earbuds though, and I highly recommend downloading the tracks to your phone so that you can play them while your phone is in airplane mode. Check out the Binaural app, which will allow you to do this: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/binaural-pure-binaural-beats/id838752522?mt=8.
When you’re sleeping, make sure your phone is in airplane mode or as far away from you as possible. This is because the EMF frequencies they emit can illicit a cortisol response that could definitely keep you from sleeping. In fact, do not keep anything that transmits wifi or other heavy duty electronics in your bedroom - stop thinking dirty thoughts.
As I said before, the amount of sleep you get depends on your own will and your discipline, but there are definitely some things you can do to maximize the quality of your sleep. If you’ve got some sleep tricks of your own, let me know about them in the comments below, I will be back at you soon with another article!