When it comes to building muscle, many focus on lifting heavy weights, training hard, eating lots of protein, and consuming a specific macros ratio, but less popular (yet equally as important) is focusing on your post-workout recovery and SLEEP.
Yes, you stimulate your muscles by training hard in the gym, but muscle growth happens outside of the gym when you refuel your body, rest, and let your body repair, so it can grow back bigger and stronger.
One of the essential ingredients for building new muscle tissue is making sure that you get a good night’s sleep. Without regular high-quality sleep, you are more likely to experience the following:
- Achy joints
- Sore muscles
- Fatigue (mental and physical)
- Increased risk of injury
- Insulin resistance
Any serious bodybuilder wants to avoid the above for obvious reasons. If you want to avoid the above and instead increase your gains, please read on. Let’s look at seven ways to improve your sleep so that you can pack on more muscle.
- Create A 7 Day Sleep Routine
Professional bodybuilders understand the importance of sleep, and they have a routine that is often as meticulous as their training plan. Nick Screeton, a bodybuilder and the owner of Lep Fitness says, “Ideally, you want to create a set sleep routine, where you go to bed and wake up at the same time seven days per week.” Waking up early during the week but staying in bed at the weekend isn’t going to cut it. It’s much better to be consistent and train your body into good habits. There’s a reason babies have a sleep routine, and the same can be said for any serious bodybuilder.
- Make Your House Dark After 8pm
When it’s dark, your body releases a hormone called melatonin, which signals your body to get ready for sleep. It’s important to make your environment as dark as possible a couple of hours before bed. This means turning off (or turning down) all of the bright lights in your house. Instead, opt for low lit lamps or candles for light. If you do this, you will get tired more quickly and be more likely to fall asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow. Alongside the above, you could also invest in some blackout blinds or a sleeping mask.
- Invest in Blue Light Blocking Glasses
Blue light blocking glasses can help you sleep because they block out/reduce the light that stimulates you to stay awake. One of the main issues we all face is an addiction to screen time. We are often looking at a screen during the day, whether that’s a TV, computer, or phone screen. At night time, it’s worth it. Wearing a good pair of blue light blocking glasses, like the ones from Lensology, can take the strain off your eyes and help your drift off into a peaceful sleep.
- Try Sleep Supplements
There are lots of sleep supplements on the market, but some of the most popular ones taken by bodybuilders include:
WARNING – Make-sure to consult with your doctor before taking any sleep supplements.
- Avoid Bright Screens 1 Hour Before Bed
We already mentioned the importance of avoiding bright lights before bed, and screens are by far the worst of all. If you want to improve your sleep, speed up your recovery between workouts, then ditch your phone screen at least 1 hour before bed (if you can 1.5-2 hours before bed). Instead of watching the TV or scrolling on social media, you could read a book, listen to a podcast, or do some other relaxing hobby.
- Reduce Your Caffeine Intake
Caffeine can be a great pre-workout supplement, but it’s not something you want in your system late at night. Caffeine has a half-life of up to 5 hours. Therefore, it’s important to reduce your caffeine intake if it’s high and avoid consumption later in the day (after 1 pm) as it can negatively impact your sleep.
Another tip is to avoid eating late at night as this can impact digestion and prevent the body from going into a deep sleep state. Ideally, leave 1.5-2 hours between your last meal and going to bed. Finally, it’s important to be aware of the negative impact of drugs and alcohol on the body.
If you struggle to switch off late at night and your thoughts are always racing, you may want to meditate. It can be challenging at first, and like anything, it requires patience, practice, and skill, but it does work. There are lots of free apps you can download onto your phone. You could also go onto Youtube for some walkthrough meditation guides. If meditation isn’t for you, then you may want to journal your way to better sleep – writing down everything that’s buzzing around in your head can be a great way to switch off.