Getting knockout sleep is imperative for proper recovery.
If you’re serious you need to make sleep a priority. There’s just no way around it.
Here’s what really works for getting knockout sleep.
The Circadian Rhythm
First we need to talk about the Circadian Rhythm.
What’s the Circadian Rhythm?
It’s like your body’s 24 hour internal clock.
It’s why you’re most alert and energized in the morning and less so at night.
With rising temperature and increased light, alertness and energy also increases. Absence of this light and decreasing temperature will signal for less activity and less energy (and bed time).
Your body thrives on routine and regularity, so keeping the times you wake up and get to bed the same every day and night will keep your body in a natural rhythm.
When my daughter was born my girlfriend and I watched her in shifts.
I would sleep 8 pm to around 3 am, and then she would sleep 3 am to 10 am.
During this time I got the best sleep of my life.
I would pass right out at 8 pm and wake up with tons of energy at 3 am.
I feel asleep and woke up in a natural rhythm. My body knew what was up. There wasn’t a guessing game going on.
Also, my workouts were INSANE.
I’d never felt so energized, and I made some great gains during this period.
Now, do you have to go this drastic?
Of course not. But some semblance of a sleep schedule will do wonders.
So the first thing you need to do: find your natural Circadian Rhythm and get on a sleep schedule based off of it.
This is going to be the most important step, and everything else won’t help much if you don’t nail it down.
Get some bright light during the day.
Bright light before bed… bad (more on this below).
Bright during the day… good.
Get outside during the day and get some bright light.
Ditch screens one hour before bed.
Electronic devices DESTROY your Circadian Rhythm.
They trick your body into thinking it’s still daylight!
Your body doesn’t know the difference between the blue light on these screens and the blue light from the sun.
You see, Melatonin is secreted in response to darkness.
Hence, when it gets dark, you start to “shut down” and get sleepy.
If you’re watching bright-a*s screens right before bed, your body thinks it’s still daylight, delaying sleep.
Also, the stuff on these screens can be quite stimulating. This creates kind of a “double whammy”… not only is your Melatonin ravaged, but you try to go to bed stimulated.
This is why I say no screens one hour before bed, and definitely no screens in the bedroom.
If you really, absolutely can’t go without your devices before bed, get blue light blocking glasses, put your devices on “night-mode”, and go with less stimulating content.
Don’t overtrain and don’t train too close to bedtime.
Your hard training comes in handy: physical exhaustion actually helps you sleep better.
And wouldn’t you have it… sleep helps you recover, so you can train harder next time.
Beautiful, isn’t it?
Overtraining will KILL your sleep. Overtraining skyrockets Cortisol levels, keeping you in fight or flight mode. You CANNOT sleep when you’re in fight or flight mode.
You also don’t want to train too close to bedtime, as training excites your nervous system and takes a while to “come down” from.
Stimulants such as Caffeine will keep you up if you take them too close to bedtime.
I make it a rule to cut all stims by 11 am.
It may seem a little extreme, but it’s necessary.
Trust me, there’s nothing worse than going to bed “wired but tired” because you overdid the stims.
Don’t overdo your calorie deficit (if you’re cutting) and get your pre-bed nutrition right.
Yes, cutting will mess with your sleep.
Even more so if you overdo the deficit. Like overtraining, calorie deficits bump up Cortisol levels, and remember: you can’t sleep if Cortisol is off the charts.
Pre-bed, you shouldn’t be too full or too hungry. A light meal of protein and good fats will do you right.
Keep your room cool and use white noise.
A hot room is a recipe for disaster. Your body must be able to get down to a lower temperature for proper sleep. Keeping the room cool helps accomplish this.
White noise will help drown out noises that would otherwise wake you up.
Do “chill” activities before bed.
If you’re like me, every little problem you have starts to creep into your mind the minute you hit the pillow.
The problem is that bed time is not the time to think about what you have to do tomorrow, or what happened today.
This is why I like to read physical books (as in the actual hard copy) before bed. It’s quite relaxing and gets your mind off of other things.
Meditation can also help strengthen the mind so that it wanders less, so you can get to bed with a clear head ready to sleep. It doesn’t have to be some huge thing, either. Just 2 minutes of meditation before bed can help tremendously.
Supplement if needed (Melatonin, L-Theanine, Magnesium etc.).
As a last resort, you can try supplements like Melatonin or L-Theanine.
These aren’t a panacea (just like any supp for any purpose), but they can help you if you’re struggling a bit.
I’ve had good results with Melatonin and L-Theanine (although high doses have left me groggy in the morning).
The bottom line: sleep is IMPORTANT.
Getting good sleep is one of the best things you can do for yourself.
Don’t shortchange yourself. Get your ZZZ’s.