I suffered from difficulties in getting to sleep and insomnia when I was younger (way younger now …) and would have times when I would sleep maybe an hour a night for nights in a row, even during school time. As I got older I found it easier to get to sleep, but the quality of sleep was still poor and I found myself tired, irritable (what's new huh?) And plagued with niggling little injuries and illnesses that I could not shake. Since I started training and eating properly I've found that my sleep has improved no end, and in fact I find it very easy to get to sleep at night (and, to be honest, not that hard to sleep during the day .. .).
It always amazes me how many people tell me that they have a hard time sleeping, and seem to accept it now as part of their lives. Last night I had a lousy nights sleep and served to remind me all the little factors that add up to a good nights sleep, and I thought I'd share them with you. Sleep is essential to well being and re cooperation, and so is a major part of any fitness goal you may be trying to achieve.
This is the most important part of getting off at night. Those of you with children know it, and many of us do not extend that to our own lives. It is ESSENTIAL that you establish a consistent and easy to repeat nighttime routine. Here's mine:
20:00 Last big meal of the day (125-150 g chicken, 200g sweet potato, 10 g butter, spinach, salad etc).
21: 15-21: 30 100g chicken, 100g oats, 250ml almond milk. 30ml fish oils, creatine (non training days) zinc (either 15mg or 30mg)
21:45 Cold shower, then in bed.
And this is EVERY NIGHT (maybe not Friday night) for as long as I can remember now. Once you establish a routine it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy: I start getting sleepy now about half eight every night, and by ten Im pretty much out. By the way, the TV does not count as bed time routine.
2. Your Bed
You spend a third of your life sleep (and presumably, a third of your life in your bed) and yet people baulk at the idea of spending more that a couple of hundred pounds on their bed (when the same people will happily spend £ thousands on their telly and sofa). It is so important that your bed is comfortable but supportive (and most of this coming from the mattress) and that you keep it clean and fresh. I'm also amazed at the size of peoples beds: Mrs. TailoredPT and I have a super king size (and it is a little like the Silent Night adverts). This is not for showing off, there simply is not enough room for the two of us to be comfy in anything smaller. The moment you start having to tolerate outside effects when you're trying to sleep is when its all going to go awry. You may even have to admit the fact that you're better off in separate beds. I've met lots of clients that now sleep separately and are much happier thanks to a good nights sleep (after all, your only SLEEPING separately …) Spend some cash on the most used piece of furniture you have.
3. Your Bedroom
You sleep at night time. At nighttime it's dark. Therefore your bedroom needs to be as dark as possible. Get some curtain liners if you have street lamp (or one of those stupid house security lights that pumps out 500w all night on a driveway (no-one's trying to steal your roses, arsehole!)) Outside your window and eliminate all sources of light inside too (like your LCD clock). Make sure its as quiet as possible. For some that may mean turning off the TV
It frightens me how many people sleep with their mobile phone either under the pillow or next to the bed. If you have to do this, please turn off the network connection.
Make sure its nice and cool. If possible, have the window opened a little bit. Make sure the heating has gone off an hour or so before. If you find that your bedroom is damp, get a dehumidifier (trust me on this one).
You may want to make sure that the colors in your bedroom are conducive to sleep (no black and white 'feature walls'). Having said that we've got bright rainbow stars (!) On our bedsheets at the moment.
4. No Alcohol
Many clients tell me that they could never give up their daily G + T or they have to have a glass or two of wine before bed. Then you have a drug habit. Simple as that. Give it up. Not only will it cut hundreds of calories off your daily intake, you'll be much better prepared for a good nights sleep (and indeed better for the morning as the quality of sleep will be better). Same goes for caffeine and other stimulants, none after about six in the evening (infact, none at all is better still).
5. Food (and water)
Many people that report bad nights sleep are going to bed (and trying to sleep) hungry. I always eat before I sleep and I always recommend to clients and friends that they do the same.
Your body is going to expend a lot of energy repairing and maintaining itself while you sleep. You need to fuel that. However, do not take this as an opportunity to fill up on junk; stuff that will get you fat when you're awake will do the same when you're asleep. I'm quite happy going to bed on a belly full of chicken and porridge but then my calorie intake is higher than many people. Something high in protein and low in sugar is fine (much like any other time of day). If your timetable is such that your main meal of the day is right before bed make sure you do your best to flatten out the blood sugar load by eating all the expensive bits first and leave the carbs until last.
Also make sure you are hydrated. Try to avoid drinking all your water in one go before bed (you'll need a pee just when you get comfy).
This is kinda included in food but I'd like to mention it separately. It is an essential amino acid that needs to be absorbed through the diet. There had been much research into whether an intake of tryptophan actually helps with sleep and most of it is inconclusive at best. Tryptophan is metabolized into seratonin and melatonin, both important for controlling mood. Although research does not really support the idea that consuming tryptophan leads to an increase in these metabolites it does not dismiss it either and I recommend at least trying foods high in tryptophan to see if it works (Wikipedia has a good list of foods high in tryptophan). For me I found tuna to be very useful, but my intake of tuna (and fish in general) is much lower now thanks to heavy metal poisoning. In any case you'll be establishing a routine and going to bed with a full stomach, which will help.
Almost ironically, a large intake of carbohydrates will also lead to an increase in seratonin and melatonin. I find it very difficult to sleep without a full belly and Mrs TailoredPT always goes to sleep after her night time porridge.
Zinc is found in pretty much every cell and process in humans (much like magnesium). For guys its also essential for making the little swimmers. Ive found that 15mg-30mg zinc (for girls I'd stick with even less, 5mg) before bed really helps with falling sleep, and also sleep quality. A pleasant side effect of Zinc before bed is really vivid dreams.
Eh? Get a good breakfast, high in protein (if its come out of a box, do not eat it). Unless you're not hungry. Dont confuse not eating breakfast with skipping breakfast, they are not the same thing. Breakfast is not essential to your daily routine, but skipping it through lack of time or effort is not the same as following an intermittent fast protocol.
Getting breakfast right will set you up for the day, which will have a direct impact on how you feel when its bed time.
Every time I raise the question of exercise before bed I get exactly 50/50 response either way. Personally I cant run around punch stuff and lift weights then fall sleep all night. Mrs TailoredPT does exactly that most nights. I think its more down to routine again then anything else. Try it for yourself and see.
So last night I did not obey any of these and did not get to sleep until past 1am. If this is a regular occurrence with you, try out some of the tips above and let me know how you get on.