“Hey, you look like you got a great night’s sleep” is not a thing people say.
“Hey, look what the cat dragged in” is.
If you're trying to improve your health or looks, it all starts with sleep. Then comes nutrition. Then working out. In that order of importance. Recovery is what dictates your performance at work, how productive your gym time is and even the success of your relationships (no one wants to have lunch with grumpy you).
Most men put little thought into their nighttime and wake-up routines. Thankfully, scientists and your highest performing peers have.
We boiled down their findings into three lessons every man should live by. One note: sleep quality and length are not synonymous. The first two points below address the former, the third the latter.
Men in 2015 tend to unwind by plugging in: to a TV show, Netflix, their daily reads online. But in doing so, you’re keeping your brain in a compulsive workout mode. There are blue light rays emitted from those devices that delay your sleep hormones (melatonin). No bueno.
We recommend a window of down time before hitting the hay. This could be catching up with friends or spouses (not via text message, obviously). Follow that with your usual night hygiene routine and a foam-rolling session on tight areas along with some stretching.
This daily cooldown gives you a headstart on quality sleep … just like a morning routine sets up our day.
2. Optimize Your Sleep Space
First things first: sleeping on the couch is not optimal. Stop that.
Second, maintain a bedroom temperature of around 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit and absolute you-can't-see-jack, pitch-black darkness. Eye masks help, but light hitting the skin (the largest organ in the body) still triggers wake-up hormones (cortisol).
Lastly, make it quiet. A dull fan is fine, but loud neighbors or spouses that snore like a disgruntled old hound dog will disrupt sleep. Earplugs are the easiest option here. Second is moving out. Bedding is also important, but start with the above.
3. Find the Time
The ideal range for optimal, life-changing, day-conquering sleep is 10 p.m.-6 a.m. This lines up with the body's innate sleep cycle (called the Circadian Rhythm). Hormones for sleep peak around 10 p.m.. Hormones for waking up peak around 6 a.m.. From 10 p.m.-2 a.m., the body does all of its physical repair from the previous day (muscles, bones, organs,etc). From 2-6 a.m., the body does its work to recover the nervous system.
If you go to bed late or wake up too early, you're shorting yourself in one of these areas. So if you're sore from a workout, get to bed earlier. If you're out of it mentally, make sure you can sleep in until 6 or 7.
Now you have the foundation for better sleep. From here, you can mess with beds, pillows and supplements to help optimize things further.
Good luck and good night.
Words by Will Maloney