Sleep – Where Most Students Often Fail
In our quest to staying lean, sleep length & quality can often be our biggest enemy, particularly for students.
It affects our appetite, mood and motivation, and is particularly noticeable when we don’t have enough of it. Of course, this means it its critical to diet adherence & long term sustainability.
As mentioned here, diet adherence underpins 80% of our total physique success. It’s all fine & dandy being able to stick to your diet for 80% of the time, nailing down the calorie balance, macro ratios, micros, meal timing etc. But if you binge the other 20% and completely cock it up due to tiredness/being hungover, it’s useless.
Not only does a lack of sleep affect us psychologically, but also physiologically. This means poorer recovery from training and therefore inhibited ability to gain/maintain muscle (depending on what your current goals are).
In my experience, the main factors causing me to have poor sleep are:
- Social Events
- External Factors
Of course, with students the main ones are alcohol and social events, a match made in heaven. So it should be obvious, that if you are serious about making gains, you can’t be staying up past midnight on a regular basis, and/or drinking heavily.
When I say alcohol, 1-2 beers or glasses of wine doesn’t seem to make any difference, but any more and you are at risk of lowering sleep length & quality.
Also, an important note, is that timing is crucial. Having an active social life is part of being a student, that’s undeniable. But we need to time these social events so that they interfere with other life goals as minimally as possible.
If we take myself as an example, I work hard from Monday to Saturday, taking Sunday off as a complete doss day. The first 6 days involve uni work, blogging, language learning, working out (Monday, Wednesday & Friday), doing employability awards, applying for graduate schemes, playing football, kickboxing etc.
Going out mid-week definitely will have an effect on my other life goals.
However, I can minimise the damage by either:
- Not getting very drunk (only 3-4 drinks & drink lots of water).
- Only stick to the pub/bars, and be back home for midnight-ish (which implies not being smashed).
- Sticking to spirits, for reasons described here.
Obviously, with Sunday as a complete chill day, Saturday is the clear favourite in terms of going out. Sunday is also a relaxation day (NOT a cheat/binge day) for me when dieting, so having the psychological effects of sleep deprivation from Saturday night isn’t an issue.
The main point here is not to be a dumbass and time your social life around other life goals.
As with anything, there will always be a trade-off, but you can limit the damage in either direction by being smart!
Moving on to stress, I personally have found (like many others) that the best way to help with stress, which at certain times in your life will be unavoidable, is to meditate. Ideally, we would like to prevent the stress from occurring in the first place, and time management is often the deciding factor there. Especially if the stress is from non-physical activity. But that’s another post for another time.
If the stress is from overtraining, read my post on volume optimisation.
In regards to external factors, there is usually very little you can do about these. These are things like noisy neighbours, housemates, random dickheads making noise at 3am (we’ve all been there), poor sleeping environment when travelling etc.
Again, following the theme of damage limitation, some helpful tools to combat these external influences are:
- Earplugs (Life saver for me personally at uni)
- Eye mask
- Hypnosis videos on YouTube (played with headphones in)
Time to wrap up, hopefully this article has highlighted how important sleep is in our quest to achieving and maintaining an awesome physique.
It’s important to realise that once you are severely lagging in any key area – Food, Training stimulus, Sleep, your progress will be halted and possibly even reversed. This is why damage limitation is so important. Same with any other areas of life. Once you have enough of something, it is diminishing returns beyond a certain point. But once you are in a state of lack, you really, really notice it!