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The Little Black Book of Sleep: Get More Quality and Quantity

The Little Black Book of Sleep: Get More Quality and Quantity

Michael Heydt, B.S.

Our personal trainers spend countless hours talking to our guests about nutrition and exercise.  In fact, many of our content items that we post are about fitness and nutrition.  One often left out topic is sleep.  Well, my friends…today is the day!  Sleep plays a very important part in hormonal regulation of our metabolism.  This means, too much (almost no-one gets too much sleep) or too little sleep will result in a decreased metabolism, and set you up to gain weight.  In our case, it prevents our guests from losing the amount of weight or body fat they want to.  I like to think of myself as a bit of a guinea pig.  Sleep is one thing I have been tinkering with for the last 5 years or so.  I’ll take you back and explain why it has become so important…

Flashback to 5 years ago: I was still working at Fitness Together Morris Township with a schedule reading…

Monday 1pm-9:15pm (Bedtime @ 11pm)

Tuesday 5:30am-9:15pm (Bedtime @ 2am)

Wednesday 1pm-9:15pm (Bedtime @ 2am)

Thursday 1pm-9:15pm (Bedtime @ 2am)

Friday 1pm-9:15pm (Generally out around 7:45pm and bedtime @ 12am)

And most Saturdays 7am-1:45/2:30pm (Bedtime @ 2-4am)

 

Some may say I was a bit of a “night-owl”.  The turnaround from Monday night into a double shift on Tuesday looks like the worst part about that schedule.  That’s actually the most continuous sleep I’d get all week.  11pm to 4:45am; Five hours and forty-five minutes was the best sleep I’d get all week long.  Those 2am, video game fueled nights of my early 20’s would just ruin my productivity for the entire week.  Sure, I’d sleep until 9 or 10am most of the days, but my wife would be up by 6am, which means I’d wake up briefly at 6am(probably from one of her 17 iPhone alarms she’d set from 5:30am until 6am)…then again at 6:45am to say goodbye for the day.  Lots of broken sleep in there.  It’s no wonder much of my productivity would suffer greatly from this continuous cycle of broken sleep patterns.

 

The following entries are my little black book, if you will, of sleep tricks to help you get to sleep, stay asleep, and wake up feeling refreshed.

About two years ago, I started working more mornings which meant many more 4:45am (or earlier) wake-ups.  I quickly realized I could not sustain these sleep patterns without being an un-dead character from The Walking Dead.

One of the most important lessons I have learned from this transition was to pick a set time to either wake up, or to go to sleep and stick with it.  Now, working a fluid morning schedule that could change at 7pm the night before, I chose to have a set bedtime-10:30pm instead.  Whether I wake at 4:30am or 5:45am, it doesn’t matter.  I get to bed every night by 10:30pm and I get to sleep within five minutes of lying down.  More on why I chose 10:30pm later on in this post.

Here’s another tip I found that played a tremendous role in sleep quality and quantity: Don’t watch five episodes of 24 immediately before bed.  That show single handedly ruined my sleep for about a month, no joking.  This rule applies to any visual and audible stimulating outlet.  TV in the bedroom is generally a very bad thing.  This rule also applies to video games.  Picture trying to get to sleep after staring at a screen for the last 2 hours while shooting things or, in my case, staring at a very bright white screen(from the ice) playing NHL16. 

Many experts say that staring at a phone or tablet in bed is also a bad habit, however, I personally don’t find this as big an issue due to the ease of adjusting the brightness on your mobile device currently.  Part of my bedtime routine is lying down at 10:30pm and boring myself to death (currently) reading about Donald Trump on my iPhone News.  There must be more important news articles that we can find.  I guess it’s a blessing in disguise.

While attempting to buy our first house, I made a huge mistake of not using a realtor.  I woke up almost every night at or about 2:30am thinking about stupid stuff that I knew nothing about.  Towards the end of that failed venture, I started typing ideas down into the notes section of my phone and labeled it as “Stuff to do tomorrow”.  It helped me brush off pressing issues I shouldn’t have been thinking about during my valuable sleep time.  This can easily apply to your busy work schedule that can leave you up all night worrying.

This last nugget is the reasoning behind the 10:30pm bedtime every night.  I have found sleepyti.me to be one of the best online sleep aids I have ever encountered.  The science behind it revolves around our REM sleep cycles.  REM sleep is our “regenerative” sleep that helps us heal physically, emotionally, neurologically, and mentally.  When we get enough of it, it’s what makes us feel ALIVE.  Our sleep cycles recur in ninety minute increments.  What this site does is help you dictate how long you should sleep (for me it’s generally six or seven and a half hours) and makes sure you wake just after you have completed a REM cycle.  You are given the option of “I have to wake up at X time” or “Find out when to wake up if you go to bed now”.  It’s not a visually pretty site, but it works, plain and simple.  10:30pm puts me at either 4:30am(weekdays) and 6am or 7:30am(weekends). 

 

If you are struggling with quality or quantity of sleep like I did for years, please try implementing just one of these tricks for about a week.  I promise you will not be disappointed!

 

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