How to Get More Sleep…As Told by a Video Game
Fallout 3 was my favorite game released on the Xbox 360.
I put in damn near 100 hours of gameplay, including all of the DLC. As I think back to all the hours I put into the game, I realize I skipped over an aspect that would have greatly benefitted my character’s development: resting.
Never once did I rest in a bed while playing Fallout 3.
Resting to recover health seemed really stupid when all I had to do was kill everyone in my path and take items from their lifeless carcasses to heal myself.
However, by not resting, I was actually leaving a ton of experience points on the table.
In Fallout 3, when your character rested for longer than 1 hour, not only were all your limbs repaired and health bar replenished, but you were granted a 10% XP (experience points) bonus for the next 12 hours in the game (that’s hours in the game, not real time).
Pfft, who needs bonus XP and a FREE way to heal your character?
Sadly, when it came to my own sleep in real life, I never took it seriously either.
One of the most important tools you need to pack in your quest for fat loss, muscle gain, or living a more overall healthy life is sleep.
Yet, many of us get less than sufficient sleep and then pound 5 Hour Energy, coffee(s), or Monster/Red Bull all day just to get us to five o’clock.
Sleep Makes You More Awesome (and Sexy)
One study found that young men who slept less than five hours a night had 10-15% less testosterone produced in their bodies. Guys, if you want to burn fat and build muscle you are going to need your T levels in their optimal state, not to mention low T can really affect your overall self-esteem.
Women who toss and turn more than men may be more likely to develop hypertension. Constant high blood pressure as experienced with hypertension can lead to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), stroke, and more.
There are other factors that can develop from not getting adequate sleep, which can start a never-ending cycle of destruction.
Lack of sleep increases the likelihood of suffering from depression, anxiety, it can increase your hunger levels which can make weight loss harder, and due to impairing our bodies ability to handle glucose it can put all of us, men and women, at a higher risk for type-2 diabetes.
All of these things can cause even more stress, anxiety, and fear and thus push us all further down a dangerous path.
I get it.
We are all “busy”. We all have responsibilities that take up our time.
I have been there and for far too long left sleep for the weekend or holidays. Getting serious about your sleep though can make your quest for health far easier and provide more value to your overall well-being.
The 7 tips below, are steps I’ve taken to get serious about my sleep and that extra XP I’ve gained along the way has helped me in my fat loss and muscle building goals. And thanks to my friends over at Casper, they’ve supplied me with a few awesome infographics as well.
7 Tips to Level Up Your Sleep
1. Black Out
This may sound crazy and for some people, especially those living in cities (I lived in NYC I know how bright it can be at night), but buy yourself a pair of thick dark curtains and make your room dark. I am talking about pitch black darkness here. The kind that would make the eight-year-old version of you wish for a night light.
The darker the better.
2. Sleep Mask
If buying blackout curtains is too expensive for you, you can always grab a sleep mask. I bought one myself recently and I have to say my sleep is deeper and far more restful. Many of them have elastic bands and can cause irritation, but a great brand you can pick up on Amazon for $25 is the Sleep Master Sleep Mask. These actually go over your ears, so they help muffle some sounds as well, and it’s far comfier than elastic bands.
3. Turn Off Electronics (Leave Them in the Kitchen)
I have one rule that I have requested my wife and I follow, NO electronic devices in the bedroom.
My wife and I leave our phones in the kitchen charging over night. This does two things: 1. we do not look at a bright screen while trying to sleep (blue light) and 2. when our alarms go off, we are forced to get up and not hit snooze and roll over.
Keeping electronics out of your bedroom prevents you from getting sucked into more social media when you brain needs to be slowing down and preparing to get sleep.
Even having “sound” on while you sleep can overload your brain and not allow you the full restful sleep you need. Ditch the bedroom TV, leave the cell phone in the kitchen, and try and make your room as silent as possible.
The bedroom is made for two things, sleep and sex (more on that below)
4. No caffeine after 2 PM
Not a single cup of coffee, Red Bull or Monster after 2 pm. Caffeine has a half-life of about 6 hours and can make it rather hard to get to sleep once you have consumed it later in the day. If you happen to use a pre-workout before your afternoon workout, take a quick peek at the label because most of them warn you not to consume them 6 hours before sleep.
5. Drop the Temperature
A cold(er) room than normal can help you to fall asleep faster. Oh, and according to one study, found that healthy men sleeping in a room around 66 degrees increased their levels of “brown fat” (this is the fat your body uses to burn calories unlike “white fat” which sits there). You can also look into a breathable designed latex mattress like the ones from Casper, which increase circulation and keep your body cool.”
6. Read or Meditate
In today’s world, we’re constantly bombarded with images and videos on our phones, televisions, and fancy e-readers.
For many of us it’s hard to fall asleep because we’re constantly thinking about tasks for the next day, things we did not accomplish today, family, friends, and other life stresses.
Sometimes we just need a mental break from all of the outside stresses for our brains to finally catch a break and take a breath.
According to this study from the University of Sussex in 2009, reading for about 6 minutes actually reduces your stress by 68%. The chief neuropsychologist of this study, Dr. David Lewis, had this to say about reading:
“This is more than merely a distraction but an active engaging of the imagination as the words on the printed page stimulate your creativity and cause you to enter what is essentially an altered state of consciousness.”
Another way to enter an “altered state of consciousness” is by practicing meditation. This year a study came out of Harvard showing that those who practiced a form of mindfulness meditation actually had less fatigue, insomnia, and even depression than the control group.
Similar to the study on reading, meditation can help you by forcing you to focus on your breathing and working towards letting outside thoughts bounce off and out of your mental space, and this focus on breathing helps bring down your heart rate and help ease your mind into a relaxation phase.
This may seem strange after I mentioned reading and meditating help to bring your heart rate down, so how can sex which elevates your heart rate help you fall asleep faster?
All in thanks to a little hormone known as prolactin.
Prolactin reaches its peak when we are in our deepest state of sleep known as REM. However, it is also released after sexual intercourse. So whether you are playing a two player game or a single player game, sex and the hormones released after it can help you fall asleep faster and even sleep better.
+3 to Sleep
Getting quality sleep these days seems impossible. However, if you wanna give yourself some “extra” XP in regards to burning fat, building muscle, or being healthier, make sure that sleep is one of your highest priorities.
Those extra points you’ll gain the next day from resting will benefit you more than one more episode of Orange is the New Black.