Your 10-Step Plan for a Perfect Night’s Sleep

Training and diet are two things you must get right when you want to get in shape. But there’s a third. Without it, the best training sessions and most perfect diet in the world won’t work for long.

What is it? SLEEP

Sleep is crucial for everyone, but it gets even more critical when you train hard and if you want to change your body composition. You can’t expect your body to build muscle tissue or drop fat if you regularly have a terrible night’s sleep. Tons of studies show clear links between sleep quality, body composition, diet adherence, and training performance. If you’re interested in how sleep affects the hormones which govern fat loss, take a look at the 2004 study by Spiegel et al. (2004) that found that restricting sleep reduces leptin (the hormone that helps us feel full after eating) and increases ghrelin (the hormone that stimulates hunger and cravings).

What happens to your body and brain when you don’t get enough sleep?

Lethargy - you’ll feel tired, sluggish, and just general rubbish during the day. If you do train, it probably won’t be the best session and you might not hit the reps or sets in your programme.

Motivation - motivation to go and train is likely to be low when you’re sleep deprived, especially if it’s a tough session, HIIT, or a body part you don’t enjoy training.

Hunger - a bad night’s sleep is usually followed by hunger, partly due to the effect on hormones and partly because you’ll be procrastinating, out of sorts, and looking for energy.

Cravings - studies show that even the most disciplined dieter will crave high-calorie, carbohydrate foods when they are sleep deprived (plus your willpower will be low).

Hormones - lack of sleep knocks your hunger, satiety, and fat loss hormones out of whack. The good news is that just one night’s good sleep can get them back in balance.

RPE - when you train tired, your RPE (rate of perceived exertion) will be affected, so the weights might feel heavier, cardio might feel harder, and this is pretty discouraging.

Training technique - add to that the fact that your technique might get sloppy quickly when you’re tired…

The answer is pretty clear. When you train hard and want to build muscle or lose fat, you MUST make sleep a priority. Think of it as part of your training schedule. Sleep is not a nice bonus. It’s a must.

So below are my 10 ways to get awesome sleep every night

  1. Make your bedroom as dark as possible. Try to make it like a cave! Minimise light from outside (blackout blinds are great), and from electronics like clocks.
  2. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. This helps your body anticipate a routine, and taps into your circadian rhythm.
  3. If you live in a noisy area or have light coming in from street lamps (etc), use an eye mask and/or earplugs! (yes I know its not sexy but trust me it works!).
  4. Set up a bedtime routine that works for you - wind down for 30-60 minutes with reading, meditation and just generally chilling out.
  5.  …but make sure it does not involve being online! Turn off electronic devices and get away from blue screens.
  6. Reading before sleep really helps, whether you choose fiction, a motivational text, or a subject you’re interested in.
  7. Don’t go to bed too hungry or too full. Leave about an hour between your final meal and bed.
  8. Carbs in that final meal can help you sleep (and won’t make you fat) - carbohydrates increase serotonin to make you sleepy.
  9. Stay on top of your magnesium supplementation (mag citrate, or a ZMA supplement).
  10. And add a big scoop of Epsom salts (magnesium salts) to your bath if you have a warm bath in your bedtime routine.

Hope you have found these little tips useful and you can implement a few to help improve your sleep!