There’s nothing worse than getting your arse to the gym and feeling like you’re too tired to put in the work. But sometimes, going at 100mph 24/7, leaves even the smuggest gym bro feeling spent. But there is a secret to crushing that lifting session or that mid-afternoon meeting that actually happens between your sheets? It’s true: sleep can have a major impact on your performance, according to Dr Mikhail “Mike” Varshavski, known to his 2.2 million Instagram followers as simply “Doctor Mike.”
“When you get a full night’s sleep, which can vary from 7 to 9 hours for different individuals, it’s been proven that all aspects of performance increase,” he says. “Not only do you become quicker, faster, but your concentration greatly improves.”
But what happens when you can’t necessarily nail seven hours night after night? That’s when a focus on quality reigns supreme over quantity. Quality, or deep sleep, is when your brain is in your most relaxed state. “During this time the connections that have been created throughout the day, or what you learned, become fortified,” says Dr Mike. “In order to remember what you studied or to replicate your new skills you need this fortification to occur.”
Dean Karnazes, famed runner and bestselling author, has mastered the art of getting quality sleep. As someone who’s run a marathon everywhere from the South Pole to all 50 states, the man knows a thing or two about getting up and out the door early to nail some morning miles. “I have to put an emphasis on quality sleep, especially since I’m not always in a place I can get a lot of it,” he told AskMen at a recent event for Kala Sleep.
Here, Karnazes and Dr Mike offer us their five essential tricks for better quality sleep:
1. Get Dark. Real Dark
“A dark room facilitates your body’s natural ability to make you sleepy and reach that ideal deep sleep,” says Dr. Mike. Karnazes has his own secret to making sure even the dimmest lights are a non-issue. Forget sleep masks, Karnazes reaches for his favourite long sleeve from The North Face featuring wicking, FlashDry tech. By draping the sleeve over his face, he blocks out light and doesn’t feel restricted by straps or weighed down by heavy fabric. “It works like a dream,” he says.
2. Take A Chill
For Karnazes, sleeping immediately after a workout or long run means waking up shortly after hitting the hay in a pool of sweat. “I just can’t thermoregulate. You’re creating all this internal body heat, which can happen whether you’re running an ultra like me or doing a HIIT workouts,” he says. “So I crank the room temperature down.”
3. Cut Out The Noise
Ever think that the perma-racket outside your window could actually have an impact on your health? Even low-level noises may impact your health, according to a research review published in the Noise & Health journal, which exhibited a link between night time environmental noise exposure and cardiovascular disease. Live in a big city loaded with noise? While you can’t shut off the world, you can alter what you hear the most. Options like White Noise Free and Sleep Fan play ambient sounds outside of your phone’s speaker.
4. Pick THE Best Quality Bed, Period
High thread count sheets are pricy for a reason: that softer, comfortable feel actually delivers a better snooze experience. Karnazes is a stickler not just for the best of the best sheets at home, but also the best of the best mattress, something Dr. Mike can get on board with. “When patients complain to me about hip or back pain when going to bed, that can often be related to the firmness/type of mattress they are using,” he says. “Always do your research before jumping to purchase a mattress.”
Cell phones, tablets, iPods, watches: you name it, you turn it off. Or at least put it in another room. “The light emitted by your screens stimulates your hormones in a way that makes it difficult to fall asleep,” says Dr. Mike. “Your body naturally responds to this light by decreasing the hormone melatonin to avoid sleepiness throughout the day.” The goal? Avoid this type of light stimulation during the evening at ALL costs. Not only will you sleep better, but will avoid a case of FOMO from that end-of-day Instagram scroll.