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Sleeping for greater gains

We all know sleep is important…but how well do we prioritize it?

As college students, lots of things fight for our attention; homework, exercise, new friends, jobs, and the ever so tempting late night out in Aggieville all cry “pick me! pick me!” All of these to-do’s can pile up, and for most of us the first thing to suffer is sleep. Both the quality and quantity of our sleep can be affected by these new stressors, the excitement of the school year, and the anxiety over performing well in the new school year. Unfortunately, even small amounts of sleep deprivation can take a massive toll on our physical and mental health and our gains in the gym.

An article by the National Sleep Foundation states “Sleep deprivation has also been seen to decrease production of glycogen and carbohydrates that are stored for energy use during physical activity. In short, less sleep increases the possibility of fatigue, low energy, and poor focus at game time. It may also slow recovery post-game.” When we train, we deplete glycogen stores and while proper post exercise nutrition can help replenish this, we need sleep to restore it too. An article in the in the European Journal of Applied Physiology by Rae, et al, discovered that “One night of partial sleep deprivation impairs recovery.” Without adequate sleep we cannot produce sufficient cellular energy to train. Without sufficient cellular energy, we cannot elicit the training stimulus we need for our goals, we wind up tired, under slept and under recovered, and potentially weaker than when we started.

So, how do we get a better night sleep? Maybe the answer is simple, one less episode of late night netflix, cutting out one late night party a week, or finding more time during our day for homework or studying so we can avoid staying up late and pulling all nighters. Do you already do these things and still struggle to get adequate sleep? Try some of the tips in the list below and zzz’s you way to greater gains in the gym.

  1. Go screen free
    • Too much light in the evening, in particular the blue light emitted by electronic devices can keep our brains running late into the evening. Typically, low light or the darkness we experience at bedtime helps elicit melatonin release which makes us sleepy at night, Interrupting this with the light from your phone, computer, and tablet can keep you artificially wired later than you want to be. Can’t fall asleep with out reading? Try printing that online article or hitting up the library for a hard copy of that book you can’t put down. Phone won’t stop buzzing? Try using the do not disturb feature on your phone to keep tech related sleep interruptions to a minimum.
  2. Cut caffeine after lunch
    • Caffeine takes about 45 minutes to kick in after you consume it, and it has a half life of 4 ±1.5 hrs meaning that if you drink 40mg at 12:00, you probably still have 20mg around 5:00 pm, and potentially 10mg left around 9:00 or 10:00 depending on how fast you metabolize the drug. If you’re sensitive to caffeine and you wake up at 6:00 AM, you might be hampering you effect to fall asleep by 10:00 (the time you’d need to fall asleep to get 8:00 hours of sleep).
  3. Exercise!
    • If you don’t already, hitting the rec for a class, some weights, or even some cardio can help you sleep better. Exercise helps the body maintain healthy circadian rhythms, have a lower body temperature prior to bed, and helps reduce anxiety symptoms which can inhibit sleep.

Any other tips? Drop a comment below!

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