Poor sleep hygiene can be far worse than any nightmare. Well, except for those unfortunate teens living on Elm Street in 1984. Luckily for us, we aren’t in a fictitious slasher film. Although the consequences may be just as dire if we don’t take this seriously.
I have written regarding the topic of sleep on numerous occasions, but it warrants yet another post due to how essential it is to many aspects of an optimized life. Suffice it to say that there is no substitute for a good night’s sleep. Sleep is the body’s natural reset button and if you want to perform, feel, and recover better it must be prioritized.
Impacts of inadequate sleep
- Poor sleep when dieting will lead to muscle losses and can hinder fat loss.
- Similarly, when bulking, insufficient sleep makes it harder to accrue muscle. This means more of the caloric surplus you eat will be stored as fat.
Contributing factors (science for nerds)
Between 10pm and 2am we produce the greatest amount of melatonin. Melatonin influences HGH secretion. HGH is used to help the body burn fat, repair collagen, regenerate body tissue, improve bone density, enhance immunity, and repair cells.
Studies show that a bad night of sleep causes you to eat 385 more calories the next day. A week of insufficient sleep decreases testosterone by 15% in men. This explains the “fat guys in skinny jeans” phenomenon.
How detrimental is it? Well, it’s hard to say as we don’t have research data to give us answers in all situations, but it would be reasonable to assume that it’s on a sliding scale.
Base guidelines / Sleep Rx
- Most people need 8 hours of sleep. A very small percentage of people seem to be able to function genuinely well on 5–6 hours. (But this is the exception and not the rule)
- As a rough heuristic, if you’re waking up tired, you need to get more sleep. Ideally, you’d be able to wake without an alarm.
- Consecutive sleep rather than napping seems to better. A 20-minute nap during the day can be helpful but must not be too late in the day to avoid disrupting circadian rhythms and making it more difficult to get sleep at night.
- Attempting to “catch up” on the weekend is vastly inferior to regular, quality sleep.
Things to consider for optimized sleep
- Is the room cool enough? Use thinner sheets, use a fan, turn on/up the AC. I use a Chili Pad to “liquid cool” my bed: https://www.chilisleep.com/
- Is the room dark enough? Consider blackout curtains or an eye mask. Cover any LEDs that may be in your room if they annoy you: TV, power strip, phone chargers, alarm clock.
- Are there any sounds disturbing you? If they’re loud and often, consider earplugs. Consider that if a room is too quiet, you’ll likely hear every little outside thing. A small but consistent noise (like the sound of the AC, a fan, a white noise app on your phone, or even very soft music) can be useful here.
- Do you drink caffeine-containing drinks? Try quitting these earlier in the day, especially from the afternoon onwards as it can disturb sleep quality without you necessarily knowing it. You could be a slow metabolizer of caffeine, meaning it sticks around in your system (up to 3.3 times) longer than others.
- Limit alcohol consumption and frequency. This can interfere with the kind of restorative deep sleep we’re after.
- Blue light from the screens of computers and mobile devices can disturb sleep. Most smart phones can enable a “night mode” to reduce blue light emissions. Set that to automatically adjust the screen 3 hours before bed. As an alternative, purchase glasses that block blue light and use those for any screen time that is close to when you plan on going to sleep.
- Meal Timing. If hunger disturbs your sleep, consider shifting your evening meal later. For others, they will find that later meals can increase body temperature and make it difficult to sleep due to sweating. This is one to experiment with and find what works for you.