Once you start depriving yourself of optimal sleep there is no telling how messed up you can get.
Deep sleep is crucial for optimal health. People that are sleep deprived often look much older and have more aches and pains from excess inflammation. Deep sleep is when your mind and body restore and when you produce the most testosterone and growth hormone. In addition, when you’re in a deep sleep state you improve insulin and leptin sensitivity. Both crucial master control hormones that are essential for optimal physique composition and overall health. If you engage in intense training and want to enhance progress greatly, make sure getting deep sleep every night is a priority. Below are eleven tips to enhance sleep quality.
Wear an eye mask and use earplugs
Even a little bit of light in your bedroom will increase cortisol levels and impede sleep quality. Wearing a high-quality eye mask will mitigate the negative impact of any light, natural or unnatural on getting into a deep sleep state. Blackout curtains are also a good idea. Earplugs help drown out the noise in your environment. They won’t block out sound completely so you will still hear your alarm clock in the morning. They just help turn the volume down in your world. Using an eye mask and earplugs is a form of sensory deprivation that will not only help you fall asleep but stay asleep.
Use a humidifier in your bedroom
A humidifier is especially important if you live in a dry climate such as I do in Las Vegas or keep the heat on at night during the winter. A humidifier can help reduce the spread of airborne viruses, prevents dry skin, may help reduce allergy symptoms, and even helps with reducing or eliminating snoring. A humidifier helps ensure your nasal pathways don’t become too dry which results in improved breathing and in turn improved sleep quality. My dog Grover sleeps near my bed and sometimes has breathing issues when the room is too dry. Since adding a humidifier to the bedroom he rarely wakes up with breathing issues and sleeps soundly through the night. You can even add essential oils to a humidifier for a fresh smelling aroma.
Meditate an hour before sleep
The benefits of meditation are numerous and anyone that has a hard time falling asleep due to anxiety will notice the positive impact of engaging in meditation before bedtime. There are many free meditation apps you can add to your smartphone. I have been using the Holosync program for many years. Meditation helps lower cortisol, improves the output of DHEA and melatonin, and helps clear the mind so you’re not tossing and turning all night. Thirty minutes before bedtime goes a long way. Don’t over complicate meditation. If you simply lay down comfortably on the couch and do nothing it is a form of meditation. No music, listening to a podcast, looking at Instagram, reading or watching TV. Just sit and do nothing for thirty minutes.
No TV three hours before bedtime
While relaxing watching television seems like it would be a great way to unwind before bedtime, it can be very stimulating and in turn, impede deep sleep due to the high levels of blue light exposure. I avoid all screens a few hours before bedtime including television, smartphones, computers, etc. You can also wear blue light blocking glasses in the evening but I still think getting away from all screens is a good idea. Instead, read for an hour or a few hours to fatigue the mind in a good way.
Cut out eating a few hours before bedtime
Late-night eating often has a negative impact on deep sleep. The last thing you want is excessive energy being utilized for digestion when you’re trying to get to bed. Eating a large meal too close to bedtime also has a negative impact on leptin and insulin sensitivity. A light snack before bedtime is not a big deal, but if you enjoy a large dinner as I do, make sure it is at least a few hours before bedtime.
Optimal digestion is also important as gut issues definitely won’t help with improving sleep quality. Take your time when eating a meal instead of trying to get through the meal as fast as possible so you can get back to scrolling and liking pictures on Instagram all night. It takes me about an hour to eat dinner as I take my time and enjoy the meal. Not only will you have improved digestion but in turn improved nutrient absorption.
Ginger tea at the end of a meal also helps with digestion and reduced inflammation Just stir or blend a teaspoon of ginger powder in a hot cup of water. Add a little stevia and almond milk for a delicious beverage to help you unwind.
Avoid drinking too much water before bedtime
While it is important to hydrate optimally, the last thing you want is to have to get up several times throughout the night to urinate. Drink most of your water during the day and early evening and as you get close to bedtime reduce the amount. Men over fifty may start experiencing frequent urination issues due to prostate enlargement. Herbs such as Stinging nettle root, pygeum, and saw palmetto can help improve prostate health.
No caffeine in the evening
Avoiding caffeine consumption may seem like an obvious point, but what you may not know is caffeine has a twelve-hour half-life. No big thing if you only consume caffeine in the morning or early afternoon, but possibly problematic if you don’t give yourself twelve hours to clear out the caffeine before bedtime. Similar to many, I enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning around 9-10 am. Usually, I only have one cup, but if I have a second cup it is before noon. I sleep around 1 am most nights so I allow plenty of time to clear out the caffeine and avoid any sleep disruption issues.
If you engage in intense training in the evening, avoid using any pre-workouts powders that are loaded with stimulants. I have a pre-workout powder coming out soon called Overpower which is free of stimulants and instead has ample amounts of amino acids and other nutrients that support focus and performance.
No Alcohol in the evening
Avoiding caffeine in the evening is probably not an issue for most. However, avoiding alcohol at night is going to disappoint many. Alcohol like caffeine also has a twelve-hour half-life. The negatives of alcohol are numerous and include increased insulin resistance, converting testosterone into estrogen, and making very unattractive people look more appealing. I don’t consume alcohol often, but when I do it always has a negative impact on sleep quality. Even only 1-2 drinks. Several drinks may cause you to pass out but you’re definitely not going to have high-quality sleep and wake up refreshed. Thus, if you have any issues with sleep, cut out the alcohol altogether, Just try it for a week. If you can’t cut out alcohol for just a week then you have other problems beyond the scope of this article.
Utilize white noise or pink noise
An example of white noise is having a fan on while you sleep or the sound of static from your smartphone. Examples of pink noise include steady rain, wind, and waves on a beach. Both white noise and pink noise can be very relaxing and can help drown out the noise in your environment such as honking cars and landscaping from your neighbors. There are many free apps that provide a variety of options.
Engage in intense exercise
My dog Reyna a border collie/Queensland healer mix is very energetic. She needs a lot of activity during the day in order to fall asleep at night. If she doesn’t get enough activity, she will pace around all night. However, if she goes for a long walk at the park and more importantly gets some sprints in or runs around with some of her friends she will sleep soundly through the night.
You’re probably not as energetic as Reyna, but just like her, you require daily physical exertion to quiet the mind and body. Intense physical training such as sprinting, kettlebell ballistic work, or interval training on an elliptical machine all help with improving deep sleep.
Exhaust the body and the mind will follow and you will barely be able to keep your eyes open at night. Sprinting is the ultimate anxiety crusher. Whenever I feel amped up and have a hard time relaxing, I run it out with 6-10 fifty yards sprints. I always feel fantastic afterward as intense exercise is an incredible mood elevator, but also very relaxed.
I always sleep better on days I train intensely and on days I don’t train intensely, I am still active and go for three-mile walks which are my favorite form of meditation. If you have a problem to solve, go for a long walk and you will likely have some action steps after a few miles.
Use supplements that enhance deep sleep
There are many supplements that are effective in helping you get into a relaxed state and improving sleep quality. My favorites include magnesium, theanine, 5 HTTP, inositol and melatonin.
Magnesium is one of the most important minerals for hormone optimization. It helps improve insulin sensitivity, DHEA production, free and total testosterone levels, and is also a muscle relaxant. 300-500mg an hour before bedtime on an empty stomach is very effective. I prefer magnesium oil for improved absorption. However, if you prefer a tablet for oral delivery, try the following brand from Source Naturals
The amino acid theanine found in small amounts in both black tea and green tea helps quell anxiety and supports relaxation. It won’t make you sleepy so it can be taken during the day as well. Nutrition supplement expert Jerry Brainum recommends taking theanine with coffee for those that are sensitive to the stimulatory effects of caffeine. 400mg an hour before bedtime is a good starting dosage and elite strength coach Charles Poliquin mentioned on an episode of the LLA Show that he recommends a dosage as high as two grams. Start with 400mg and build up gradually until you fund the activation dosage.
5 HTTP is made from the seeds of Griffonia simplicifolia and increases levels of serotonin and melatonin. 100-200mg supports a positive mood, increases relaxation, and reduces anxiety. Many find it helps with sugar craving as well. Likely, from the increase in serotonin. 100-200mg an hour before bedtime is a viable option.
Inositol which is often referred to as a B vitamin when it actually it is a type of carbohydrate that influences mood, insulin, and cognition. It also has antioxidant properties. It may help balance neurotransmitters, good serotonin, mitigate anxiety, depression, PCOS, and high cholesterol levels. For more information, go to Inositol information
Inositol can be taken in dosages as high as 12 grams. Personally I find 1-2 grams an hour before bedtime works very well to induce relaxation.
Finally, Melatonin is a hormone created by the pineal gland. its main job is to set your biological clock and help you fail asleep, keep you asleep, and improve sleep quality.
It is best to start off with a low dosage of melatonin as too much can cause a hangover type effect in which you feel groggy the next day. 1mg is a good starting dosage and most will find 1-3mg works best taken an hour before bedtime. I prefer sustained delivery melatonin as it is released slowly throughout the night to help you stay asleep. Otherwise, you may fall asleep from the initial hit of melatonin, but wake up a few hours later and have a difficult time falling back asleep.