How does sleep make or break your ability to build muscle in the gym and how do you develop a sleep schedule for maximum muscle growth?
According to a 2011 survey by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 25% of Americans report not getting enough sleep, and 10% reported suffering from chronic insomnia. Additionally, 35% of people sleep less than 7 hours each night.
In this article, I’ll go over why sleep is so important for gym performance and how to improve your sleep schedule if you’re someone who struggles with irregular sleeping patterns like I once did.
Let’s dive in.
If you don’t sleep well, you become tired easily and your performance suffers. According to research, sleep deprivation can be as bad as binge drinking. You wouldn’t go to the gym drunk, would you?
Think about it – how many times have you hit the gym after a horrible night of sleep only to find yourself sweating your way to smelly feet within minutes of entering the building?
In some cases, the workout is so unproductive that you may as well have stayed at home.
When you wake up refreshed after a good night of sleep, you have the energy necessary for productivity and to get through your workouts effectively.
More energy also means that during your workout, you’ll be able to perform more reps, lift heavier amounts of weight, or both!
If you’re able to perform more reps or lift heavier weights, your workout will contribute to greater strength gains.
The biggest factor in sleep quality is an ability to sleep regularly by going to bed and waking up at the same time. This is because your body becomes accustomed to your sleeping schedule and develops a circadian rhythm, which allows you to go through REM sleep.
REM sleep is the determining factor in waking up feeling well rested. There are different stages (or depths) of REM sleep. The deeper stage of REM sleep you reach, the more time your body has to renew and repair itself both mentally and physically.
The only way for your body to reach deep levels of REM sleep is through a regular sleep schedule.
The takeaway here is this:
Convinced? Great. Let’s get into the details about how to improve your sleep schedule.
Not too long ago, I was on the worst sleep schedule ever.
I went to be whenever I felt like it, usually after midnight, and slept in until noon.
Because of the inconsistencies in my sleep-wake cycle, this resulted in lots of light sleep (sometimes up to 10 hours) instead of a good amount (8 hours) of high-quality sleep.
If you’re like me, you’ll avoid making changes by instead making excuses like “I’m a night owl” or “I’m not a morning person.”
Anyone can adjust their sleeping habits for the better and even become a morning person. In just 7 days, I was able to go from sleeping in until noon to waking up at 6 am every day without an alarm.
Here’s how I did it.
When most people try and change their sleep routine, they mess up by making one simple mistake – they try to go to bed earlier.
This doesn’t work because your body isn’t used to being in this routine. If you try this, you’ll find yourself either going to sleep quickly and waking up at 2 or 3 in the morning or falling asleep when you normally do.
Instead, the fix here is to have one bad night of sleep by going to bed at the same time you normally do, but waking up at the time you want to shift to.
So if you normally go to bed at 1 am, but want to start waking up at 6 am every day to hit the gym before work, do just that – sleep from 1 am to 6 am. This will result in one bad night of sleep.
Because this will have a negative impact on your ability to perform at the gym, or even at work, the next day, it’s best to do this on a weekend where you have very little to do the next day.
As soon as you wake up, have a large breakfast. This is very important because your body associates your eating schedule with your sleep routine.
Additionally, don’t go back to sleep or nap throughout the day. This will mess up the newly developing routine.
Because you didn’t get much sleep during the previous night, your body will be running mostly on adrenalin to keep you alert throughout the day.
This will result in you becoming extremely tired at around 9pm.
At this point, when the time between your sleep and wake periods is around 7-8 hours, go to bed. So if you need 8 hours of sleep and want to wake up at 6am, make sure you go to bed at 10pm. No earlier.
Finally, set your alarm for your new waking time.
Unfortunately, while the first night is definitely the worst, doing this may require more than just one night of bad sleep depending on your normal hours.
In my case, it took 7 days of bad and not-so-good sleep.
After 7 days of this, your new sleep schedule should be set, you’ll be able to wake up well rested at the same time every day without an alarm, and you’ll notice immediate improvements during your workouts.
Your quality of sleep has a powerful influence over your gym performance. If you have an inconsistent sleep-wake cycle, you won’t reach REM sleep, which means you won’t wake up feeling well rested. This will lead to an inability to perform in the gym.
By having one bad night of sleep and continuing to wake up at your new time for 7 days, you’ll be off to a great start in the development of better sleep habits.
Nicholas Rubright is the digital marketing specialist for Grans Remedy – a company focused on eliminating foot odor.