Recovery: Improving Sleep Habits and Sleep Quality

Two recent science review papers released take a look at sleep. Poor sleep hinders performance, impairs recovery, and, thus, undermines efforts to lose fat or gain muscle. So, a good night’s sleep is a must for people trying to lose fat or add muscle. Links to the studies below; the second one offered practical suggestions for improving sleep habits and enhancing sleep quality:

  • Don’t go to bed until you are sleepy. If you aren’t sleepy, get out of bed and do something else until you become sleepy.
  • Regular bedtime routines/rituals help you relax and prepare your body for bed (reading, warm bath, etc.).
  • Try to get up at the same time every morning (including weekends).
  • Try to get a full night’s sleep every night, avoid naps during day if possible (if you must nap, limit to 1 hour and avoid napping after 3 p.m.).
  • Use the bed for sleep and intimacy only; not for any other activities such as TV, computer or phone use, etc.
  • Avoid caffeine if possible (if must use caffeine, avoid after lunch).
  • Avoid alcohol if possible (if must use alcohol, avoid right before bed).
  • Do not smoke cigarettes or use nicotine, ever.
  • Consider avoiding high-intensity exercise right before bed (extremely intense exercise may raise cortisol, which impairs sleep).
  • Make sure bedroom is quiet, as dark as possible, and a little on the cool side rather than warm.
  • Avoid blue light emitted from screens at least 2 hour before bed (smartphones, laptop, monitors). Blue light suppresses melatonin production that is needed to induce sleep. Avoid text messaging, social media, games, app use.
  • Get bright, natural light upon awakening.
  • Don’t hit the snooze button. It does not improve sleep quality.
  • If you have difficulty waking up, some suggest a dawn-simulator alarm clock.
  • If you must use your computer at night, consider installing color-adjusting and blue-light reducing software or wear blue-light blocking glasses.
  • Meditation may be helpful. Brainwave entrainment (e. g., binaural beats) is considered experimental.
  • Higher carbohydrate (namely high glycemic index foods) at night may improve sleep, as well as high protein including tryptophan. High fat intake at night may disrupt sleep. Inadequate total caloric intake during the day may impair sleep at night.
  • Topical magnesium (e. g., salt bath, topical mineral oil) or oral magnesium may help if you are deficient.
  • Melatonin naturally occurring in foods (e. g., tart cherry juice, raspberries, goji berries, walnuts, almonds, tomatoes) may potentially improve sleep, but avoid artificial melatonin supplements.
  • Don’t fall asleep to the TV. Sleep studies show you frequently wake up during the night and have poor quality sleep.
  • Consider reducing your fluid intake before bed so you don’t get up to go to the bathroom (only if you maintain enough hydration during the day).
  • Check your mattress – it may be too old (mattresses typically last a maximum of 9–10 years) and may have allergens.
  • Recovery from exercise should not only focus on muscle recovery. Reducing mental fatigue is just as important for healthy sleep. Reduce external stressors in your life.

Links to studies: https://www.sciencedirect.com/…/…/abs/pii/S0765159719300723…, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31288293…

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