We just can’t avoid sleep. We spend a third of our lives sleeping and possibly many hours in a whole other universe while we are dreaming. In fact, not only can’t we avoid it- but we NEED it to have the body of our dreams.
Sleep restores our bodies. According to Harvard, “many of the major restorative functions in the body like muscle growth, tissue repair, protein synthesis, and growth hormone release occur mostly, or in some cases only, during sleep” (1). Sleep is where we are most anabolic. This is where all the muscle growth happens. Muscle helps with fat burning and it increases your metabolism. So, you can say that sleep helps you burn fat, thus helping you get to the body of your dreams.
If your desire is to have the body of your dreams then you definitely don’t want to be sleep deprived because it leads to weight gain in the long run. “People who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to have bigger appetites due to the fact that their leptin levels (leptin is an appetite-regulating hormone) fall, promoting appetite increase” (2).
The problem happens when we don’t get enough sleep OR when we don’t enter our deepest most restorative sleep which is our sleep stages 3 & 4. According to Sleep.org, “This is when the body repairs muscles and tissues, stimulates growth and development, boosts immune function, and builds up energy for the next day” (3). So, it’s not only important that we get the right quantity of sleep (somewhere between 7-9 hours on average) but it’s even more important to get the right QUALITY of sleep, which means that you spend enough time in those later stages of your sleep cycle.
Problems occur when we don't sleep deeply and we run into the problems of not repairing our bodies and minds. Things like drinking alcohol, taking sleeping pills, using our phones/devices, and other bedtime disruptors can prevent us from getting into those deeper stages of sleep that allow our bodies to replenish. So, today I want to provide you with 11 Tips To Get Deep Sleep for getting quality restorative sleep so that your body actually recoups, you wake up feeling rested, and you can build the most muscle.
Get even more tips from Shawn Stevenson’s book, Sleep Smarter).
TIP #1: Avoid Substances Before Bed
Most people know that caffeine keeps them up. However, I know people who drink espresso right before bed and wonder why they wake up feeling groggy, or why they toss and turn all night. Drinking caffeine keeps us up because it “blocks the receptors of adenosine” [preventing drowsiness]. Intake 30 to 60 minutes before sleeping shortens total sleep time and increases the duration of stage 2 and shortens stage 3 and 4” (4). Just because you can fall asleep after a cup of Joe doesn’t mean that you will get into your deep restorative sleep stages. So, avoid caffeine after 12pm in order to get deep sleep by 10pm (because caffeine has a half-life of ~6 hours).
Hangovers suck, but what also sucks is having a chronic lack of deep sleep because you drink every night. “Alcohol may act as a relaxing, sedative agent when consumed just before sleeping but can also lead to night-time awakening due to sympathetic activation...” (4). Just like caffeine, alcohol can block our ability to get into the deep stages of sleep that help us awaken rejuvenated.
Having a morning smoke helps people wake up because it is a stimulant. That’s why so many people smoke with their coffee (which is way too much stimulant if you ask me but to each their own). However, nicotine at night can keep you up. “Nicotine has a biphasic effect on sleep: at low concentrations, it leads to relaxation and sedation and at high concentrations inhibits sleep” (4). So, avoid tobacco at night or before bed if you actually want to sleep deeply.
TIP #2: Get Sunlight ASAP In The AM
Sunlight is the key to getting to sleep “on time”, which basically means when your melatonin production is the highest. This can only happen if you feel sleepy at that time, which occurs when your circadian rhythm is set according to the sun’s diurnal cycle. According to a study on the Effect of Light on Human Circadian Physiology, “This process of entrainment is achieved in most mammals through regular exposure to light and darkness” (5). If your eyes get morning sunlight it activates your cortisol, which in turn tells your melatonin to turn on at night, thus setting your circadian rhythm in place with the sun.
According to an article on the “Benefits of Sunlight, “As diurnal creatures, we humans are programmed to be outdoors while the sun is shining and home in bed at night. This is why melatonin is produced during the dark hours and stops upon optic exposure to daylight. This pineal hormone [melatonin] is a key pacesetter for many of the body’s circadian rhythms. When people are exposed to sunlight or very bright artificial light in the morning, their nocturnal melatonin production occurs sooner, and they enter into sleep more easily at night” (6).
So, when you wake up early and get morning sunlight you will naturally feel more tired when the sun goes down and you will have linked your circadian cycles up with the natural daylight and nighttime darkness.
TIP #3: Use Red Light to Avoid Blue Light at Night
Our phones and other devices create blue light that keeps us awake at night. Blue light tells your brain it is daytime and it decreases melatonin production. Blue light increases alertness and wakefulness which is what you want in the morning, not at night. According to the Environmental Health Perspectives article on “The Unique Human Health Effects of Blue Light”, they found that “Exposing healthy subjects to 30 minutes blue light an hour before bedtime delayed the onset of [REM] sleep by 30 minutes” (7).
So, if you want to reduce your sleepiness, expose yourself to blue light because it suppresses melatonin. However, if you are trying to get some sound sleep, then avoid the blue light two hours or more before bed.
Yet, I do understand that avoiding the screen might not be possible for everyone, so we can utilize blue-blocking technology to help us fall asleep (and get into deep REM sleep). Since blue light activates our wakefulness, the opposite happens from red light because we evolved around fires. There is a free software called F.Lux that you can install on your computer which turns your screen to a reddish hue when the sun goes down, allowing you to fall asleep sooner and get into deep restorative sleep more often. In this study from the University of Houston, their results showed that “Nighttime melatonin increased and sleep duration increased 24 min” when wearing blue-blocking glasses for about three hours per night (8). This is good news for all biohackers wearing blue blockers!
Also, use blue blockers before bed. In this study from the University of Houston their results showed that, “Nighttime melatonin increased and sleep duration increased 24 min” when wearing blue-blocking glasses for about three hours per night (8). This is good news for all biohackers wearing blue blockers!
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