How to Improve Your Sleep

Today I want to address one of the most important aspects of recovery: quality sleep. Here’s a question I recently received from a reader.

Question: Hi Chad, I purchased your HFT program and I’m wondering if I should modify the workouts to take into account high stress and poor periods of sleep? I have a stressful job and two young toddlers so sleep is often less than perfect on a weekly basis. Thanks, Matt

Answer: Matt, I feel your pain. I’m not someone who functions well on less than eight hours of sleep, and I rarely reach that coveted goal these days. Oftentimes my athletes can’t get a full eight hours due to travel and schedule demands, so I had to find a way to make the most of their sleep time.

The key is to maximize however much sleep you can get. Six hours of high-quality, restful sleep is more beneficial than eight hours spent tossing and turning.

So before I answer your original question about manipulating the HFT workouts to meet your sleep insufficiency, I want to outline my three top tips for improving the quality of your sleep.

1. Take Vitamin C and magnesium before bed: Magnesium is a powerful mineral that helps relax the central nervous system, and Vitamin C lowers cortisol. The combined effect helps you quickly feel drowsy, and then it helps you remain asleep.

The best concoction I’ve found for improving sleep quality is with a combination of Vitamin C and magnesium. But just any old Vitamin C/magnesium combo won’t work since neither nutrient is easy for the body to assimilate in regular supplement form. You need a high-quality version of each nutrient to get the job done.

My clients and I use Lypospheric Vitamin C and Mineralife Magnesium 15 minutes before bed. Mix the two nutrients in a few ounces of water and shoot it down like a shot of tequila. It tastes terrible so don’t let it sit in your mouth.

2. Sleep in a cool room: Research demonstrates that the optimal room temperature for sleep is between 60-68 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature range lowers your core body temperature which helps you feel sleepier. It’s important to lower your temperature because an elevated core temperature is one physiological mechanism associated with the wake cycle. People with insomnia typically have a higher pre-bedtime core temperature.

3. Sleep in a pitch black room: The tiniest bit of light can have a negative effect on your sleep quality by reducing melatonin. There’s a small region of your brain within the hypothalamus called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) that controls all aspects related to the sleep/wake cycle, including melatonin production.

When your body senses light, the SCN turns on physiological processes related to the wake cycle: it stops melatonin production, and increases cortisol and core body temperature. Since those three factors are related to the wake cycle, you obviously want to minimize them by keeping your bedroom pitch black.

Now, back to the original question: Should you manipulate the HFT parameters when you can’t get adequate sleep?

Yes, and this applies to any training program you’re on. When you feel rundown, you should decrease the intensity of all the sets. This could mean either lowering the training loads by 20-30% or stopping each body weight exercise an extra rep or two sooner than normal.

In extreme cases, it never hurts to take an extra day off. But in most instances, just going through the motions will actually help you sleep better that night since there’s a strong, positive correlation between exercise and sleep quality. This is true even when your workouts aren’t up to par.

And speaking of HFT, I recently did a 45-minute interview with Dr. Lonnie Lowery’s Iron Radio podcast where I discuss the mechanisms, observations, and science behind my HFT protocols.

You can listen to my interview at Iron Radio.

Stay Focused,
CW

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5 thoughts on “How to Improve Your Sleep

  1. Hi Chad,

    I’ve bought the HFT program and have been following it for several months with good results. Due to time commitments I’ve been thinking of cutting the workouts in half (except the heavy lifting day) and working out 7 days per week instead of 4 days per week. Just spreading each workout over 2 days instead of 1. Would this work? The weekly volume remains the same, but the frequency is doubled.

    Thanks!

    CW: Yep, that’ll work.

  2. Hey Chad,
    I’m in the 2nd week of phase 2 in get big and the workouts are awesome. However, I’m trying to keep up on my Muay Thai and usually do 10 three minute rounds, on the heavy bag, with 1 minute rest in between each round. I could do this no problem during phase 1 right after I lift, but the workouts in phase two are much more demanding. Any thoughts on how to work both of them around a typical 9-5 work schedule? Also, I really struggle with sleep no matter how hard I work out at night. A friend of mind said Benadryl helps knock him out. But I’m gonna try the vitamin C magnesium combo. Any other tips for someone who struggles to fall asleep and stay asleep would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks for all the advice!

    Mike

    CW: Lower the intensity of your workouts in phase 2. Use less weight and stay further away from failure on body weight exercises. That will help your recovery processes catch up with your current program.

  3. Nice tips, I will mention some things that have helped me:
    1. Meditating before bed.
    2. Washing feet with warm water.
    3. Tensing and then relaxing my body multiple times, with deep breathing.
    4. Reducing exposure to bright lights b4 bed, I just walk around with lights off for some time, and no laptop, tv, loud music atleast 15mins before bed.
    5. Warm glass of milk an hour before.

    Thanks.

    CW: Thanks for the tips!

  4. Hi Chad this article really helps me as I struggle to manage stress with a busy schedule and it affects my sleep. Anyway I know this is off the main topic but with your PLP program, would it be fine to continue it past 60 days, as in your Waterbury challenge it lasts well over 100 days?

    CW: Sure, continue as long as you’d like.

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