The Golden Rule of sleep has always been to get at least 8 hours every night.
Turns out, they’ve been right all along; 8 Hours is still The Golden Rule when discussing how much sleep you should get.
Believe it or not, 8 hours is actually The Golden Rule when it comes to fat loss too! Getting less than that could hinder any progress you’re looking to make in losing fat or gaining muscle.
However, the average American right now is getting about 6 hours of sleep and 1 in 3 people are actually trying to survive on less than that.
This might not seem like a huge deal, but Dr. Matthew Walker has dedicated his whole life to studying sleep – he’s a sleep doctor, kind of cool to think about – and he has said:
“The number of people who can survive on 6 hours of sleep or less, rounded to the nearest whole number, and viewed as a percentage of the population is ZERO.”
Which is absolutely mind-blowing. That means that the average American is more likely than not sleep deprived, and they don’t even realize it!
We try to fit more hours into our day by sleeping less, which makes sense from a math perspective. When you take out hours of sleep, you have more hours of awake time to do things in.
I would argue though that getting more sleep, will add more to your life from a quality perspective. So more sleep = improved physical and mental function = better quality of life.
Here’s why you NEED to start sleeping more so that you can experience a better life and start seeing better results from your training!
Why You Need Sleep
The 3 prime changers of body composition are:
Sleep is the most important factor in the “Recovery” aspect of changing body composition. It is where your body adapts to the stresses you’re putting on from training or being in a calorie deficit.
Sleeping more will allow your mind to shut off and your central nervous system to recovery, both which will allow you to have more energy and less fatigue in all that you do.
Without adaptation, getting results will be damn near impossible. In fact, if you’re dieting but not getting enough sleep, 70% of the weight you lose will come from lean muscle tissue, not fat.
Your body is resistant to giving up fat when under-slept because your body fat is what is protecting and insulating your organs. Your body doesn’t care about how you want to look – I know, the body’s a jerk – it cares about preserving its organs and surviving as long as possible.
Sleeping more will also lead to a boost in hormone production which will not only lead to more energy and generally enjoying life more, but also helps with building muscle and burning fat! (Which we’ll talk about more in a little)
When on-boarding new clients, one of the first things I asses is their sleep. In fact, sometimes I make no nutrition or training adjustments until we get their sleep managed and consistent. The importance of it cannot be understated.
In fact, if you’re dieting but not getting enough sleep, 70% of the weight you lose will come from lean muscle tissue, not fat.
What Happens When You Don’t Sleep Enough?
I mentioned earlier that 8 hours is The Golden Rule but I would suggest that everyone should strive for AT LEAST 7 hours of sleep every night.
Getting less than 7 hours has been found to result in:
- Measurable physical and mental impairment
- Your time to physical exhaustion drops by 30%. Meaning you will get worn out by your workouts faster, and less training volume leads to minimal results.
- Lactic acid builds up quicker the less you sleep. This will make it physically more challenging to complete your training session and more mentally draining as well.
- A 60% increase in injury probability. Research has shown that your stability muscles will fail earlier on less sleep.
- Lower peak muscular strength, lower vertical jump, and lower peak run speed have all been measured in subjects with less than 7 hours of sleep.
- Leptin levels drop. Leptin is a hormone that regulates your appetite and weight, leptin sends signals to your brain to let you know you’re full. Having less of it means it becomes easier to overeat
- Ghrelin levels rise. Gherlin also regulates your appetite and weight but this hormone signals to your brain that you’re hungry. People that sleep 4-5 hrs/night eat about an extra 200-300 cal/day which, over the span of a year, leads to 10-15 pounds of weight gained.
- You produce less insulin. Insulin gets a bad rep but less sleep will negatively impact your insulin sensitivity and your glucose tolerance. This will hinder your fat loss goals by not allowing you to handle the carbs you’re in-taking
- You produce less testosterone. A 10% drop in testosterone has been measured in men when sleeping less than 7 hours for only 5 days! Having low testosterone is directly linked to increased body fat accumulation, elevated estrogen levels, and less muscle production.
Believe it or not this is only scratching the surface on what happens to you when you don’t get enough sleep!
Now I’m sure you’re probably telling yourself “I need to fix my sleep! Where do I start?!”
I got you!
This isn’t an exhaustive list, and everyone reacts to things differently but here are some helpful tips and tricks to get you sleeping more!
How To Get More Sleep
1. Consistent Sleep and Wake Schedule
Your body loves routine, getting to bed and waking up at roughly the same time everyday (+/- 1 Hour) will help regulate your circadian rhythm and get your body optimized for sleep.
2. Sleep In A Cool Place
Studies have found that the optimal room temperature for sleep is about 64-66 degrees. If that sounds too cold for you, I suggest bundling up. Your brain needs to be at a cooler temperature to start relaxing and sleeping.
3. Hot Shower/Bath Before Bed
A hot shower or bath before bed will cause vasodilation (your skin turning red) which causes blood to rush out. When you exit your shower/bath your body starts dumping out heat and your core temperature drops. Which makes it easier to sleep.
4. Brain Dump
If you’re anything like me, you probably lay in bed with your mind racing faster than a formula-1 race car. It’s hard to relax and sleep when you have so much on your mind. So to conquer this we do what’s called a brain dump. This is where we get ALL the thoughts out of your head and on paper in the form of a journal or in a voice note if you want to talk it out. The point is just to get it out of your head so you can relax and get some shut eye.
5. Start Your Day With Sunshine
There’s more to getting some sunshine early in the day than just Vitamin D. This also helps us establish a healthy and regular circadian rhythm. So make an effort to get that sun in your face while it’s out!
6. End Your Day With Darkness
We live in a darkness deprived world. Everything in your house lights up one way or another. Odds are you even have a TV on in your room or a phone in your face when you’re getting ready to go to bed.
For every hour you have your eyes on your phone you actually delays melatonin production by about 3 hours! Technology is really cool though, lots of phones have a “night mode” that limits your blue light exposure, you can also get a pair of blue light blockers so that you can view your devices without issue, but my best suggestion would be to turn off the screens an hour before bed.
At the end of the day, sleep is a necessity for success regardless of what you’re striving to achieve.
But the number one thing to improve hormones, stress, sleep and life – is always going to be improving your body. This means becoming healthier, more fit, and regularly being physically active.
If you struggle with this part specifically, or the nutrition component, Click Here Now.
And if you don’t necessarily struggle with how to do it, you just struggle with consistently doing it. You need Real Accountability, not More Information. If that’s you, Click Here Now.
Now, GO TO SLEEP!
Walker, Matthew P. Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams. Scribner, an Imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2018.