I like to joke that Vitamin S is the most potent supplement any trainee can take.
Poor sleep when dieting will lead to muscle losses.
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.
Most people need 8 hours of sleep. A tiny percentage of freaks seem to be able to function genuinely well on 5–6 hours. (But if this is you, you already know it.)
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.
And while better than nothing, attempting to “catch up” at the weekends is vastly inferior.
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.
So, do your best to get sufficient sleep! Here’s a checklist that I share with clients should they mention they’re having issues.
SLEEP: A CHECKLIST FOR WHEN YOU’RE STRUGGLING
- Is the room cool enough? Use thinner sheets, use a fan, turn on/up the AC.
- Is the room dark enough? Consider blackout curtains or an eye mask. Put black electrical tape over any LEDs that may be in your room if they annoy you: TV, power strip, phone chargers, alarm clock. Just don’t cover the one on the smoke detector telling you the battery is working as that may save your life.
- 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. I do this because I live next to a highway running through the heart of Tokyo.
- Is your mattress/pillow a good fit for you? If the mattress is uncomfortable (too hard or soft), or the pillow uncomfortable (too high or low, hard or soft) then that’ll harm you getting a good night’s sleep.
- 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.
OTHER CONSIDERATIONS FOR GETTING A GOOD NIGHT REST
- Blue light from the screens of computers and mobile devices can disturb sleep. Install the Flux application on your computer. If you have an iPhone, turn on “Night Shift” and set that to automatically adjust the screen 3 hours before bed.
- Reduce screen time before bed.
- Don’t do any work in the hours before bed. Stress from work can disturb sleep. Consider reading a novel, not a nonfiction book.
- If hunger pangs disturb your sleep, consider shifting your evening meal later. (If you’re struggling with hunger, reply letting me know and I’ll send over a checklist I give to clients.)
- If you find that you sweat, despite the room being cold, try positioning your evening meal earlier. (Most people find that a big meal sends them to sleep, but some people sweat after a big meal.)
We spend 1/3 of our time on this planet sleeping. It’s worth spending money on a quality mattress, pillows, sheets, etc. that suit your preferences.