Such a important topic. You’ve probably heard phrases like “sleep is for the weak” and “you can sleep when you’re dead” thrown around on New York City tv shows by big-shot lawyers and bankers.
As a medical student, I have busy exam periods each year when time becomes sacred and for years I used to stay up late, get up early and chose revision over sleep. Once I started exercising and weight training, I realised I wasn’t getting enough sleep to support my training.
Why do you need sleep?
To put it simply: weight training causes small micro-tears in the muscle fibres, which then repair and grow back stronger and/or bigger. This is called recovery. Recovery is so important to get the most out of your training and comes in 2 forms: rest days and sleep.
It is recommended you get at least 8 hours sleep a night (I personally need 9 to feel refreshed the next day) and these need to be good quality winks.
Tips to help you sleep:
1. Set yourself a bedtime. Instead of going to bed when you feel tired, go earlier and try and get the same number of hours each night. I’ve started to aim for 9 hours each night, even on the weekend rather than having an excessive lie-in on a weekend and I feel better for it.
2. Turn off your phones/Ipads/laptops 2 hours before you aim to sleep (or if you’re addicted then at least put them on ‘night mode’). Blue light prevents a hormone in your body called Melatonin. Melatonin is responsible for making you feel drowsy right before you nod off, so if you’re struggling to drift off, you want to get your melatonin to rise as much as possible before it’s time to sleep.
3. Try and unwind before bed. If I work right up to sleep time, my mind is racing and I can’t switch off. I like to light a candle in my room whilst getting ready for bed or sometimes i’ll put the TV on for a bit (but don’t get sucked in to watching the whole 60mins of Made in Chelsea at once, they’ll still be bickering when you switch it back on the next night. Sometimes I take a ‘Good Sleep‘ supplement from my friends over at the Good Guru (it’s not a sleeping tablet but it helps with relaxation*).
4. Be organised. Pack your gym bag and make your lunch the night before so you can have an extra 20 mins in bed on a morning!
5. It might be necessary to consult your GP. If you are excessively tired all the time then you might be deficient in certain hormones such as Vitamin D or Thyroid Hormone. A quick visit to the GP could help you with this if you really think you’re sleeping enough but are constantly tired.
Please remember you don’t have to immediately do all of these things at once, start making small changes and i’m sure you’ll be feeling more energised soon!