Sleep comes to you, it’s not something you do

Sunset beachAll my life I have been struggling with, what I think is called onset sleep insomnia – meaning trouble falling asleep. Once I have fallen asleep I usually sleep just fine. So not the serious kind that keeps you from sleeping several days in a row, but still incredibly annoying.

I even think I know how I got it. When I was a little boy my parents and all the other families on our road used to gather around for special occasions which usually kept on till way into the night. I thought it quite cool to be up with the adults so I fought my tiredness and stayed awake as much as possible. I can even remember the adults saying how impressive it was for me to be able to stay awake. If I had access to a timemachine, I would fly right back and throw that “trying-to-be-cool-child” in bed! That “coolness” has sort of kept up with me for some time now.

Over the years I have tried quite a lot of different things in order to combat this annoyance – some with more success than others and I will probably come with several pieces of advice in this regard, although truth be told I haven’t yet totally figured it out. But I have found a lot of little hacks and things that work in favor of falling asleep faster. I can still have nights where nothing seems to help and as if planned this actually perfectly leads into what I will describe in this blog post.

As Epictetus famously said:

“Man is troubled not be events but by the meaning he/she gives them”

Meaning nothing is ever really good or bad, it is all in how YOU decide to frame it. Your perception colors the experience. Not digging to deep into this, but what does it have to do with sleeping? Glad you asked!

If you have trouble falling asleep you’ll with guarantee recognize the scenario where you lay in bed trying to fall asleep and nothing happens. You turn to one side – no help. The other side – no help. You start to count sheep – 1,2,3…7…24…78..167…498 – okay this is jus stupid. You try all you can to get to sleep – and nothing happens. If anything you may feel more fresh than when you initially put your head on the pillow. You frame yourself as being bad at getting to sleep. You can’t seem to do it. You put pressure on yourself for being bad at something as simple as falling asleep.

Well this is where this concept comes into play. I actually didn’t pick it up from some famous sleep-article or research paper, but read it in a book that hasn’t really got anything to do with sleeping. It does have a lot to do with how you live your life and how to think, so under that wide umbrella you could say that sleeping somewhat must find itself. The book is the somewhat famous Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. First time I read this book several years ago I didn’t actually finish it. I was in no way impressed with it and probably only got halfway through – but all that is for a different time. Luckily I picked it up and read it again a second time where I really enjoyed it, at least most of it.

But staying on track. If I remember correctly there is actually at least two times in this book where he mentions/touches on this concept. It is only as a strayed out sentence each time and something that could easily be missed. I probably only picked it up because of my long troublesome relationship with sleep, so anytime I see something that has to do with this subject I automatically pick it up or dig a little deeper.

Paraphrasing from memory, the first time this “concept” is mentioned it is written something like:

“I lay there in what seems like eternity but no sleep comes”

And the second time something like:

“It is 5 am, way too early, but no more sleep to be had”

So there are some subtleties in those two sentences that might go unnoticed, but really clicked with me. What he does here is speak of sleep as something that “comes” and something “to be had”. Framing sleep this way, it suddenly goes from something you do to something that either comes or not.

But what is the difference, why is this important. Good question! And “important” might be overselling it, but at least in my opinion rather interesting. The subtle difference between seeing sleep as something you do as opposed to something that comes to you lay in the difference of control.

In general, things you do are things you can be better or worse at, but in the end it is you doing it, meaning your responsibility whether the outcome is good or not. Things that come to are out of your control. They either come or they don’t, not much you can do about it.

Herein lay the interesting difference of looking at sleep. If you think of it as something you do, then you are in control and you can beat yourself up about not being good at it. On the other hand if you see it as something that either comes or not, then it is out of your control. You can’t or shouldn’t beat yourself up over something out of your control does not come to you. It can be really annoying still, but no need to beat yourself up about it.

For me this actually helps when I have evenings where sleep does not seem to come. Then okay, it is not yet time for sleep, then I get up and read and try again a little later when I feel more tired.

Of course this won’t magically make you fall asleep in less than a minute, but in my experience it actually lightens some of the stress of not being able to fall asleep or waking up early. Well okay, no more sleep to be had.

I will give a lot more tips on sleep in the future, so please stay tuned. Whether taking advice on sleep from one that isn’t an expert at it must be for you to decide 🙂

Reduce pre-workout supplement sleep problems

How do you get to sleep normally while taking pre-workout supplements? Some people do not experience any problems, but for a lot of people preworkout supplements messes with their sleep. The easy way to avoid this of course is to just skip the pre-workout altogether, but I know from my own experience how tough this can be. Because pre-workout supplements actually works, you CAN feel a difference. I learned to go without them, but this post will focus more on what you can do if you cannot live without your pre-workout.

If you are having trouble sleeping while taking pre-workout supplements, then first of all realize that you are compromising your sleep and as far as sleep concerns you are starting from a dug out hole. But know that you take your pre-workout, what can you do to optimize your sleep and perhaps counteract some of the negatives from the pre-workout.

You can of course start by trying different types of pre-workout to see if any of them has less negative effect on your sleep. I have detailed my experiences with different types here(which may be where you came from) Trouble sleeping because of pre-workout supplements?. Further more experience with the minimum dose you need in order to feel the effect of the supplement, this may be less than what is actually recommended on the supplement itself.

Studies has shown that coffee after just 1 pm can affect your sleep. As most pre-workout supplements are way stronger than a cup of coffee, this may be something to have in mind. Can you train earlier or perhaps ingest your pre-workout earlier to avoid problems?

Then work on your sleep hygiene. As you are compromised on some areas, work to improve on others. Good sleep hygiene includes the following:

  • Pitch black room
  • Absolute silence
  • Cold or at least not too hot
  • Go to sleep and wake up same time everyday
  • Avoid light from pc’s, mobile devices, tv’s etc. before bedtime
  • Shower before bed
  • Trigger point massage
  • Read fiction before falling asleep

One of the problems during summer is you need to have your windows open to keep the temperature down, which potentially gives problems with light and noise. First pitch black room – is literally pitch black. If you can’t get pitch black with curtains, consider using a night mask – that helped me. To cancel out most of the noise from having open windows, I sleep with earplugs as well.

Your body likes regularities. You probably get hungry just about the same times everyday(of course determined by what you eat), and the same goes for sleep. If you get into a good pattern of going to sleep and waking up the same time everyday, then both falling asleep and getting up will be a lot easier.

If you have to work in front of your computer at night, then install f.lux. But really consider skipping all devices an hour before going to sleep and have as little light as possible as this automatically provokes tiredness.

The shower before bed can really help, but should you go with hot or cold? My experience is that if you shower at least an hour before going to bed, the cold shower can work. But if you shower just before going to bed I would go for the hot shower, since the cooling of the body afterwards again provokes tiredness.

As Kelly Starrett said somewhere; “How do you feel like after getting a massage; like hitting somebody?” And of course not, you are relaxed and tired. You can replicate some of this yourself. Get a tennis ball or anything similar, lay on the floor and roll around on it; on your back, thighs, standing on it and massage the underside of your feet etc. You are not aiming to do any specific changes, just roll around for 5-10 minutes, this may help you relax.

Lastly, if you read in bed before falling asleep, which I would strongly encourage, then keep your reading to something that won’t give you to much to think about. Which means this is not the time to read your business books, Feymans lectures on physics or any of the sort. Read fiction or anything you can consume without having to think too much about the content afterwards. You are aiming to calm your mind, not fuel it with ideas.

These were some tips on how you might reduce your sleep problems when taking pre-workout supplements. They really helped me, so I hope they can do the same for you. Feel free to add any of your own tips in the comments.

Trouble sleeping because of pre-workout supplements?

One of the most important factors behind a good workout, is energy and a focused mind. One of the most important factors behind muscle growth and enhanced performance is adequate sleep. But could your pursuit of a good workout be limiting your ability to get a good nights sleep?

I can’t really recall when I first experimented with pre-workout supplements, but I have this incredibly clear picture of the first time my training partner, at the time, had a scoop. We sat home at my place, he had stopped by to pick me up, on the way to the gym, and he was literally not feeling like going to the gym. Long day at work, didn’t feel like he’d being run over by a bus, but more like he had pushed a bus – with flat tires – over a sand dune. He really needed some energy if he was going to do anything else, than sleep on a bench, at the gym. I had just got my hands on some pre-workout drink and said he should try it. With quite some skepticism, he tried it. We put on some good energetic music, I packed my bag and we went on our way to the gym.

At first it did not seem as though it had helped all that much, but after like 20 minutes into the workout, he was like reborn and filled with energy. He almost seemed like the slightly drunk version of himself – in a good way. Cheering on people, screaming out the last reps and psyching himself for every lift. Yes pre-workout supplements do work. They of course bring energy as promised, but even more profound is the mental focus, you just do what you came for; no messing around.

Now this is not going to be a post only highlighting the benefits of pre-workout supplements, but actually more look at one of the adverse effects of some of them. I have noticed that even though 2 brands may deliver somewhat the same results in the gym, they still can be very different in the adverse effects department. My philosophy has always been to find the supplement that gives the most of the effects I DO want and the least of the effects I do NOT want – the positives should be as high as possible with minimal downsides.

At one point I wanted to try something different than the product I had used for some time then. I switched to this(at that time) new NO-Xplode that promised – as all supplements do – even greater performance, pump etc. etc. The effects was as good and perhaps a little better, than the other product I had used up until that point. But what was most certainly different, was the effect it had on my ability to fall asleep. I have never been good at falling asleep, but even though I had taken a scoop of this at 15-16 in the afternoon, my body still felt almost restless at 23 at night. There was something in this product, that just would not get burned during my workouts, which left me energized and restless, when I needed to be relaxed. I abandoned it.

After a few months I tried it once more, but with the exact same results. I asked some of my friends who used it if they has any similar problems – but none of them had. So it might be something unique for me, but I am sure not using that brand anymore.

After NO-Xplode I went for Biotest Power Drive, which is also a very old product by now. This product really gives the same mental focus as the others but without the same boost in energy. Not to say it does not deliver energy – it does, but not as profound as the others. If I had to train in the evening and needed some pre-workout supplement, this would be my favorite choice or if you are really bothered by pre-workout sleep problems – this could be the solution.

But the product I keep returning to is Super Charge by Labrada Nutrition. It gives me all the energy and mental focus I could ever need. And most importantly it does not affect my sleep. It is not something I would use just before going to bed, but having a serving at 17.30 does not mess with my sleep in any way. I feel like it fuels my workout but does not leave me restless or artificially energized once the workout is done – just what I look for in a pre-workout supplement.

As stated earlier I have never been that good at falling asleep, so my case may be rather unique, but if you experience some of the same symptoms, I would consider trying to look at your supplement list or change your training schedule. If you are not having a good night sleep you are not giving your body the needed rest, to reap the benefits of those hard earned hours in the gym!

I am very skeptical at both taking sleeping pills and taking supplements to counteract the effect of other supplements, but if you can’t live without your pre-workout buzz, then melatonin might be worth a try. It is a natural hormone that is released in the evening signaling your body to start getting tired and preparing for sleep. You take a little dose before heading to bed and it may help you fall asleep. But it’s one of those supplements where more is not better. I bought these NOW Foods Melatonin 3mg pills and they initially did not help me get to sleep easier, on the other hand they made me feel slightly hangover the day after. But after some reading I tried separating the pills and only taking half dose – this worked way better, both in terms of falling asleep and no side-effects the day after. Therefore my recommendation would be these Now Foods Melatonin 1mg as you then can start with 1 mg and feel the effect.

And finally remember this; that pre-workout supplements are just that – supplements – don’t use them everytime. It is quite possible to have an amazing workout without them. They should not be your default choice.

*Edit if you want more tips on how to reduce the negative effect of pre-workout supplements on your sleep, look here: Reduce pre-workout sleep problems

Trouble falling asleep? Emtpy your head. Then sleep!

I have for many, many years had problems falling a sleep. Once I layed my head on the pillow, the mind seemed to go beserk and wanted to evaluate all things I had done through the day, plus all things I should, or may, do the following days. This has led to some good ideas, but for the majority of cases this only led to very, very bad mornings!

I tried all kinds of different things, drinking tea, hot showers, walking before bed-time, ZMA – but none of them seemed to quite do the trick. Some helped a bit, but if my mind wanted to wander, the body did not seem to have that much to say in the fight for sleep.

Then somewhere I stumpled upon this simple advice I wille give to you. In all it’s simplicity it is a technique that helps you empty your mind of thoughts. When done fully and correctly you can experience a striking silence inside your head.

What you need is this:

  • A pen
  • A notebook

Then you lay in your bed and simply write everything you think about down on the paper. Not in diary-form, not meant to give any meaning – simply just exactly as the thoughts are inside your head. You do this one by one until you cannot think of anymore to write, then you close the book, turn off the lights and lay your head on the pillow. What almost certainly will happen is that you think of some of the things once more, but simply say to yourself that you can take care of that tomorrow, and that it is in your book so you will not forget it. But if you think of something that you have not written in your book, you open the book and write that thought down onto the paper.

This procedure is repeated until your mind finally gives in, and realizes that it can rest, as everything is archived and can be solved tomorrow. Some days you write half a page, some days it may be 4 or 5 pages, just keep at it until your mind realizes that it can relax. I have had a few experiences where it just felt amazing, that nothing flew around inside my head, just silence, just complete calmness(if that’s a word). Then sleeping comes much more natural!

I have successfully used this technique, especially when I had very thight schedules and a lot of things going on around me. Every morning I would then start of by looking at my notes, to see which needed to be adressed during the day and what could be put off or simply forgotten. By doing so, I also trusted the “system” much easier in the evening. I knew that writing the thoughts in the notebook, meant that they were safely stored until I woke up in the morning.

If you are having trouble getting you mind to shut up,when going to sleep, then try this simple technique and see if you can get the same possitive results. A pen and a notebook is not that much of an expense – you have everything to win!