The Busy Professional’s Ultimate Guide to Better Sleep
Around here we talk a lot about body transformation.
But we’re not just talking about cardio and weights and a number on a scale.
We’re talking about getting lean, fit, and energized for a life of passion and purpose.
As it turns out, sleep is a crucial element of every body-transformation goal.
1) In this post, we’re going to cover WHY sleep is so crucial to getting and staying lean, fit and energized.
2) Then we are going to talk about HOW MUCH sleep we really need.
3) And then we’ll jump straight into 5 WAYS to hack your sleep to reach your goals.
So, first up, the WHY:
Don’t think you need to work on your sleep?
Listen to these two studies, then decide for yourself:
In a weight loss study at the University of Chicago participants were divided into two groups. Both groups were on the exact same regimen of reduced calories and moderate exercise. The only difference?
The first group slept for 5.5 hours a night. The second group slept for 8.5 hours a night.
The results were shocking. The second group, the group that slept 8.5 hours a night, lost 55% more weight than the group that slept 5.5 hours.
Increasing sleep from 5.5 to 8.5 hours/night nets 55% more weight loss.
55%! That’s free weight loss; no extra workouts, longer runs or skipped meals. Just 55% more weight loss by getting 8.5 hours of sleep vs. 5.5 hours.
That’s working smarter, not harder.
Another study, this time at Stanford University , tracked the sleep habits of the Stanford Women’s Tennis team. The study found that when the athletes aimed for 10 hours of sleep per night, their hitting accuracy in practice drills increased a staggering 42%!
When athletes aimed for 10 hours of sleep per night, hitting accuracy in drills increased 42%!
Similar studies have found increased speed in football players, and faster starts for swimmers. 
And on the flip side, with sleep deprivation, a host of performance metrics plummet.
The Amen Clinics report a study “conducted on soldiers to test the effect of sleep on accuracy with firearms showed that soldiers who slept seven hours were 98% accurate during target practice.
“Soldiers who slept six hours were only 50% accurate.
“With five hours of sleep accuracy dropped to 28%, and with four hours of sleep they were a dangerous 15% accurate!” 
So WHY does getting enough sleep produce these effects?
Two main reasons: neural network repair and hormonal regulation.
Neural network repair is the brain’s way of hitting the reset button, a process that needs to occur to maintain our central and autonomic nervous system. And one that can only take place during sleep.
A few unique hormonal regulation processes also occur during sleep including–the reduction of the stress hormone cortisol and a corresponding increase in Melatonin which helps regulate our circadian rhythm.
Sleep produces a decrease in the hormone ghrelin the body’s hunger hormone, and an increase in the production of leptin, the body’s satiety hormone.
Translation: you’ll feel less hungry and reach fullness earlier if you get enough sleep.
And finally, quality sleep is essential for the production of Testosterone and HGH, both crucial to muscle maintenance, repair, and hypertrophy.
Did I mention the study that found that just three days of sleep deprivation led to a 20% reduction in 1-rep bench press max?
So now that we know a bit more about WHY sleep is so crucial for sustainable fitness, you might be wondering just HOW MUCH you need to reap the most benefit.
While the answer is as unique as YOU are, the National Sleep Foundation has some great data on that:
The myth of the ‘sleepless elite’ is strong. And largely apocryphal.
The reality is that for most of us, less than 7 hours per night is associated with decreased alertness and increased risk for chronic disease. But MORE than 9 hours a night is also not typically good, as it’s associated with a higher risk of chronic disease. And shorter lifespans.
The quick answer, start by shooting for 8, and experiment.
HOW TO DO IT
Clearly, we need to dial in our sleep habits and hygiene, so here are 5 of the most powerful ways to do it:
1) Turn off your screen an hour before bed. (blue blockers in a pinch): You know that laptop and smartphone and television that’s in your face all day long?
It’s shooting blue light through your optic nerve directly into your brain causing it to produce a flood of daytime hormones like cortisol and suppressing sleep prep hormones like melatonin.
The net effect is that it throws our circadian rhythm out of whack, disrupting our sleep. So really try to be strict about this. It’s the #1 thing your can to the get quick results according to Shawn Stevenson, Author of Sleep Smarter. 
2) Caffeine/booze curfew: If you’re a caffeine addict like I am, this one is though, but important. The half-life of caffeine is about 6 hours in most adults, and most find that a self-imposed curfew 6 hours prior to sleep is sufficient to alleviate the effects.
Booze will also interrupt your sleep– in particular your ability to hit REM sleep, the phase when memory consolidation and task learning takes place. It’s a common experience to fall asleep easily after a drink, only to spend the rest of the night tossing and turning.
So if you want to get lean and fit, find a way to cut or curfew you caffeine and booze.
3) Sleep cold: our biology has yet to catch up with our technology. Our modern mind might tell us that a warm soft bed is what we want. But our bodies beg to differ.
It’s called thermoregulation and while everyone is unique, most of us sleep best in a room that’s on the chilly side.
We have evolved sleeping on the cold hard ground and that is the primary reason we still sleep best at a temperature of around 68*F.
4) Black out time: Speaking of evolution, now that we have virtually unlimited light, heat and shelter, we could live a life completely disconnected from the natural rhythms of the sunrise and sunset. And many of us do.
But like the blue light from our devices, ANY artificial light that reaches our body can interrupt our sleep. Even a sleep mask is not enough because our skin actually has light receptors on it and any light reaching us can potentially interrupt our sleep.
Do get the blackout curtains. Get rid of the night lights.
And if you must have a light in your room, like an alarm clock or alarm system, cover it with Un-lit blue blocking film. These are little, reusable strips of red film you can use to limit the annoying and harmful effects of those little LEDs that we can’t seem to escape.
5) Tame the Monkey-mind: Maybe you’re like me and when life gets crazy-busy you can go to bed and then lie awake for hours (literally, hours!) thinking about anything and everything. If so, then this ONE hack will change everything for you.
I never used to be able to fall asleep, even as a boy, until I learned to calm my mind through a simple form of meditation called progressive muscle relaxation.
Simply lie on your back with your eyes closed and beginning at your feet, concentrate only on contracting and then relaxing different muscle groups. Work your way slowly from the soles of your feet to the top of your head. You will feel your body sink like a stone into your mattress and before you know it, you’ll be asleep.
There are many other simple forms of meditation to help you get to sleep from focusing only on your breath, guided imagery, mindfulness imagery, and even good old-fashioned counting backward.
The science of sleep is still in its infancy and the here are dozens of more ways to hack your sleep habits, from white noise machines and supplements like Chamomile, Melatonin, Kava Kava, Valerian root and magnesium to more esoteric hacks like EMF isolation, grounding, and gut smashing.
All of these are great, but as with any lifestyle change, take one small change at a time, try it out, and if it helps, keep it.
If not, move on to the next.
Process, not perfection.
Let’s do this.
Sources: https://news.uchicago.edu/article/2010/10/03/sleep-loss-limits-fat-loss-study-finds  https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090608071939.htm  https://www.fatiguescience.com/blog/5-ways-sleep-impacts-peak-athletic-performance/  http://tanaamen.com/2015/11/04/2-week-sleep-hygiene-challenge/  http://sleepsmarterbook.com/