We’re firm believers that a great diet has more to do with getting in shape than your chosen fitness regimen. But there’s a factor a lot of guys take for granted: sleep. When you’re deep asleep, your body becomes a factory of testosterone and growth hormone, regenerative chemicals you need to repair for the next workout. So stop short-changing the most important part of your day. Use these six sleep strategies, along with a sensible nutrition plan and smart training, to engineer your perfect sleeping environment and trigger the muscle-building benefits of a good night’s rest.
Establish a pre-snooze ritual.
Schedule a hard stop for all non-calming activities. Especially in the hour preceding sleep, be sure to replace stuff that triggers your body’s fight-or-flight response (think stressful stimulation, like the nightly news) or disrupts sleep hormones (blue light from tablet or phone screens), with a routine that steadies breathing and slows your heart rate.
Escape with a book.
A University of Sussex study found that just six minutes of reading can reduce stress by up to 68 percent. Pro tip: Grab something that will tranquilize racing thoughts and encourage escapism, and read it until you feel drowsy.
Try this simple pre-sleep breathing technique, used by soldiers to stay composed in high-stress situations: Inhale for four seconds, pause, hold your breath for two seconds, and exhale for four seconds. That’s one set. Repeat three times or until you enter dreamland.
Keep your bedroom cave-like.
Researchers agree that the ideal sleeping chamber is quiet, dark, and temperate, around 65 degrees Fahrenheit with 65 percent humidity. Dyson’s Humidifier ($500, dyson.com) boasts bacteria-zapping technology to deliver clean, cooled air. Pair it with a set of blackout shades to encourage sleep-inducing melatonin production.
Ditch the outdated mattress.
You’ll likely spend one-third of your life asleep, so it makes sense to upgrade your ratty feather bed with a memory-foam mattress. Casper’s bed-in-a-box conforms to your body, which could reduce backache ($950, casper.com). Top it with a year-round 700-fill down duvet comforter, made from natural, unbleached cotton and featuring anti-cold-spot baffle-box design ($695, ugg.com).
Sleep nine hours a night.
Skimping on sleep will eventually catch up with you, leading to depressed immune function, depression, and a host of other health issues. If you want to pull away from the scrawny pack and get bigger, dedicate more time to recovery strategies, namely getting nine hours of uninterrupted sleep.