I love my job. I spend my time with some of America’s most alpha males, the majority of whom are genuinely good dudes. They’re my best friends in a world where your crew defines you. One major drawback to my profession is the number of sleepless or sleep deprived nights. Having periods of two weeks where I average four or five hours of sleep is not uncommon. Initially I struggled with this setback, but I wasn’t going to let it affect my performance on the job, in the gym, or with women. I’ve developed and embraced some useful tactics to combat sleep deficiency. As a disclaimer, anyone reading this needs to realize that fighting sleep is simply not healthy. In a perfect world, and whenever possible, I sleep a minimum of eight hours a night and prefer nine or ten. There’s no better method for ensuring maximal results from what you do in the weight room and keeping your immune system strong. That being said, this is how to limit the problems associated with insufficient rest:
Get the most out of the sleep you do get.
There are two main categories of sleep: non-rapid eye movement, or “quiet sleep,” and rapid eye movement, or “active sleep.” While both are helpful in different ways, REM is essential. Research is not definitive as to what truly happens when we sleep, but we do know there are incredible restorative properties that occur during the REM cycle. Memory is developed during this state and some claim we interpret our active thoughts during this phase. Depriving yourself of REM sleep will reduce cognitive function, creativity, and reaction time. We limit our sleep in order to meet project deadlines, do important jobs at specific periods of the day, or increase productivity. Performance in all of these tasks will suffer without some REM sleep. How do you make sure you’re getting the most time in REM during the little sleep you’re getting?
▪ Sleep in 90 intervals – REM occurs every 90 minutes, so if I know I can only sleep 4 hours, I’ll sleep 3. This maximizes the efficiency of my sleep, and you feel more rested when you alarm doesn’t go off during REM, the deepest phase of sleep. A great device to check out for this purpose is the Zeo Sleep Manager. I use it religiously.
▪ Take a cold shower/ice bath immediately before sleeping. Lowering body temperature increases melatonin production, the hormone telling your brain to sleep and stay asleep. Cold water therapy also has the convenient side effect of increasing testosterone production.
▪ Eliminate all light sources, especially LCD screens like phones and televisions. I use a sleep mask to guarantee no light gets to my eyes and use f.lux on my laptop.
Ensure you’re getting the right nutrition.
My practice is to cut out all unnecessary carbohydrates when not getting enough sleep. Check out the nutrition posts to see the pros and cons that come with carbohydrates and how to utilize them. You should keep your workout intensity low when you’re not sleeping enough, so drop the carbs. Your body runs much better when getting its energy from fat, therefore I increase my clean (link) fat intake as well to keep the calorie load sufficient. Also, this is the time to pump the micro-nutrients from organic vegetables and supplementation. Supplements (link) won’t make or break your diet but can make a noticeable difference.
Utilize stimulants properly.
I’m not a doctor and I don’t pretend to play one on the internet. Take this advice with a grain of salt. Drugs can fuck up your body, and in my profession most of them are prohibited. This being said, using drugs to hack productivity while sleep deprived is one of your most effective options. Caffeine is the most mild and readily available. My cocktail of choice is Dave Asprey’s Bullet Proof Coffee. Espresso and tea are good natural options, but I also use diet energy drinks like Red Bull Total Zero and Monster Rehab. Don’t drink anything with sugar; you’re just asking for a crash two hours later. The next level includes nicotine gum (a better alternative to other tobacco products), Adderall , and Provigil. I can’t speak to Adderall or Provigil but know others have been successful in using them. Cocaine is the ultimate stimulant and the drug of choice for many investment bankers and computer programmers. You’d have to weigh the benefits against the risk of overdose, addiction, breaking the law, and interacting with drug dealers. I don’t imagine many situations where it’s worth it solely for this purpose (using it for game, social settings, etc. is a different story). So how do you use these stimulants properly? The key is minimum effective dose. This is the smallest dosage you can take of a given stimulant while still receiving its benefits. Minimum effecting dosing allows you to limit desensitization and any negative effects associated with the stimulant. The less the better. You’ll have to experiment to find your limits.
You won’t feel like it, but you need to keep your physical routine. It’s not only necessary for enforcing the positive habit but also to keep your bodily systems from going dormant. Increased adrenaline, endorphins, heart rate, and respiration will keep you cognitively effective and give you a two or three hour post-workout high. Don’t go too far with this concept; 20-30 minute workouts will suffice. Don’t try to making any drastic gains when you’re burning the candle on both ends.
No trick will stop nature from eventually taking its course. Your body needs rest. This is especially true if you do the amount of physical work that I do daily. Often times getting enough rest is made possible through discipline and eliminating wasted time from your schedule. Try these methods to minimize your damage and keep progressing in what’s important to you.