I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: you don’t build muscle when you’re training. Training stimulates muscle growth, but it’s when you’re recovering – aka, sleeping – that the muscle begins to grow.
But the problem is, something like 40% of Americans or so (I’ve lost the exact figure) get 5 or less hours of sleep per night. That’s ridiculous! How are you expected to recover and feel energized for further training sessions if you’re not getting your beauty sleep?
- Disconnect 3 hours before. Computers cause over-stimulation of the mind, along with computers, mobile phones, and really any gadgetry. Turn these off at least 3 hours before you go to sleep, and, if you’re particularly disciplined, then shutting your tech off just before sunset is even better.
- Separate leisure, work, and sleep. Your bedroom should be used for sleeping (…and a few other activities that shall not be named). If you try to do work by your bedside, or have your computer within the same room you’re going to find it hard to mentally disconnect from these activities.
- Declutter. Clutter is a distraction that creates back-of-mind noise, even if you’re not a neat freak. Read blogs like Unclutterer and Zen Habits to learn how to simplify your bedroom (and the rest of your home if you want to alleviate stress in other areas of your life) for the purpose of a peaceful sleep.
- Get into bed when you’re tired. It’s useless waiting around in bed letting your mind bounce from thought to thought. You need to make yourself tired, and be mindful of the moment you start feeling sleepy. When that feeling comes on, don’t chug another coffee, head to bed and rest your pretty head.
- Deflate your thoughts. After being on your feet all day it’s likely you go to bed with hundreds of thoughts swirling through your head that you’re not sure what to do with. Get out a pen and paper and spend 5-10 minutes (just before you fall asleep) writing down anything on your mind. This saves your brain from processing all this information in an attempt to remember it in the morning.
- Do stuff. Sounds obvious, but, I imagine because of my ectomorphic genes, it’s easy to go for days at a time without doing much at all; sticking with introverted activities like reading, music etc. But, think about those days where you’ve really pushed yourself when training or been at the beach. On those days sleeping wasn’t difficult at all because your body has a reason to want rest. Get out in the world and do stuff for the sake of doing stuff.
- Live like a caveman. I’ve written about the hunter-gatherer lifestyle before, and while I don’t adhere to all the principles, there are plenty of great insights to be found. This article in particular shows you how to achieve a great sleep through living like a caveman. Don’t worry, there’s not need to actually live in a cave, or stop showering; it’s just a few simple philosophies that anyone can adopt.
- Identify day-time stresses, and eliminate them. One thing that keeps me up at night is a bunch of stresses that I struggle to knock out of my brain. But suppressing these stresses is only temporary. Make a list of everything causing your bother in your life, and systematically work towards overcoming them. If you spend your days in bliss your sleep will follow suit (perhaps why it’s so easy to get a great sleep on vacation).
- Read some fiction. Any novel will do. Get lost in a fictional world and, no matter how interesting the story may be your mind will begin to drift and then it’s just a matter of putting your head on the pillow and closing your eyes. It’s best to avoid non-fiction and any reading that requires too much thought, because that will stimulate your brain in the same way that television does.
- Take a long, hot shower. I prefer cold showers in general because I like getting the boost in energy (plus the additional health benefits), but when it’s time to have a deep sleep, standing under a barrage of near-boiling water for at least 10 minutes works wonders. Do this right before you get into bed for maximum effect.
- Tire yourself out with creativity. Analytical thinking will keep you awake, but I feel expounding your creativity works your brain in such a way that it begins to crave rest after not too long. Any creative outlet is fine – music, drawing, writing – anything that gets you using your mind to create art from scratch. The stretching of your mental capacity will knock you out in no time.
- Wake up naturally. No matter how well you truly sleep, all those wonderful feelings will be eliminated if you wake up to the sound of a screeching alarm or with any form of sudden shock. If you can, leave your curtains open in hopes of waking up under the rays of sunlight, or start going to bed earlier. For those with morning commitments that need an alarm, set it for as late as you can so you at least have a chance to wake up beforehand.
- Just do one of these things. Seriously, I know it’s easy to read articles on the internet, find them agreeable and then never take any action. Look back through this article and commit to just one tactic. Once you feel the positive effects you’ll be motivated to come back and adopt the other practices that work for you.