by Tony Gjokaj February 18, 2020 8 min read

Back in 2018, I was working 50-55 hours a week managing 4 rental car branches simultaneously while physically running the busiest of the four branches.

From 6 am, It would take me 45 minutes to get there.

The branch opened at 7:30 am, but customers would line up at the doors, so I would open early for them.

After we closed at 6 pm, I would be there until 6:30-7 pm.

It would take me over an hour and 15 minutes to get to the gym from there.

My gym workouts would be over an hour.

I would go to bed around 11 pm... to wake up at 4-5 am.

In those four months of doing this (before I got promoted), I was quite SHOCKED that I didn't have gray hair.

I was completely DEPRIVED of sleep, but there was no way around it.

Even when I slept for over 10+ hours on weekends... science has shown trying to "rack up" on sleep after days of deprivation.

So I had little to no options...

 

This all adds up over time. I would try to sleep in on weekends… it was never enough.

I didn’t feel good. My sanity was non-existent.

Sleep Deprived.

Sleep deprivation sucks.

Sleep deprivation is a pretty dangerous thing: one in three people are sleep deprived. It might not sound bad, yet sleep deprivation leads to about 20% of accidents in the United States. To make matters more challenging, lack of sleep has a correlation to weight gain and depression.

In just a simple paragraph, I am telling you to OPTIMIZE YOUR SLEEP!

Many of us suffer from sleep: I had severe anxiety many times in my life, even as much as getting three-five hours of sleep every night for three straight months. I felt like I lost my sanity, mood, and self-control.

This post will dive deep into sleep, and some of the actual strategies you can use to have better sleep!

My hope is to help you get some strategic sleep.

Let’s get after it! 

Consequences of Deprivation

While "sleep is the cousin of death", sleep is the cool cousin: it extends life.

Your body NEEDS sleep for a plethora of reasons.

Sleep deprivation can impact us physically and mentally to a huge extent.

In fact, some of these problems can eventually be dangerous in the long term. No amount of caffeine can help you recover from sleep deprivation, and consuming any more than your regular cups of coffee could possibly impact you negatively.

Here are some consequences as a result of poor sleep:

  • Hunger hormones are impacted: Ghrelin (hunger hormone) increases, while Leptin (appetite suppressor, making us full) decreases. As a result, we consume more calories in the long term, which can lead to weight gain if not controlled.
  • Calorie-dense foods are preferred: Adding to the hunger hormones bullet point, lack of sleep typically makes us crave higher calorie content foods like cake, cookies, chips, etc.
  • Decrease in focus, reaction time, and performance: sleep deprivation leads to physical and mental fatigue. Mentally, it feels like brain fog. Physically, you sometimes feel like glass that can just shatter if you exert a tiny bit of force. Think about the times you worked out sleep-deprived. It's tough.
  • Negative mood and mindset: sleep deprivation impacts our mood negatively, making it easy to lash out at people for the smallest of things. Poor sleep has also been shown to potentially lead to increased bouts of depression.
  • Increased health risks: sleep deprivation leads to an increased chance of risks like cardiovascular disease or increased mortality rate. Your life expectancy is typically lowered with sleep deprivation.

Since we strive to perform and improve every day, poor sleep habits can truly impede our growth physically and mentally. 

Sleep Quantity and Quality

There's a difference between sleep quantity and quality.

The Quantity of Sleep

When discussing sleep, we typically talk about the amount of sleep we get. 

If it’s a busy or intense day, some of us will mentally calculate how many hours of sleep we will get before the next day… it is predetermined to suck if we get less than five hours of sleep.

We can argue that a solid quantity of sleep is different for everyone. Some of us may need as little as six hours, while others need as much as ten.

Some might also need more as a result of dieting and exercise.

While quantity plays a big factor, there is another factor that we believe should be optimized regardless if you get enough or too little sleep: Quality.

The Quality of Sleep

We always discuss how many hours of sleep we get, but quality plays a huge part in sleep as well.

Having a better quality of sleep means improving the effects of the amount of sleep that one gets. In addition, better quality of sleep can lead us to falling asleep faster.

Anecdotally, when I was working 60 hours a week at my corporate job, the quantity of sleep was out the window.

I could only focus on quality at that moment of my life. Maximizing my sleep quality made my five hours of sleep feel like seven.

Arguably, sleep quality should be strategically optimized if quantity is out the window.

How Can We Improve Quality of Sleep?

In the best-case scenario, a combination of quality and quantity of sleep will maximize sleep. Being well-rested is probably one of the best feelings someone can encounter.

It can be euphoric at times.

However, we can't always be perfect.

In this section, we discuss strategies in sleep that will improve the quantity, quality, or both. You can try to implement all of these strategies, but implementing just a couple of them can make a HUGE difference in your sleep.

I. Natural Light Exposure

Regardless if you're a late night person, many of us will get better sleep waking up at 7 am and falling asleep around 11 pm. Our circadian rhythm regulates this and signals to us when we need sleep.

Just by exposing yourself to the morning light around 7 am will improve sleep quality in the long-term.

Something as simple as light exposure has been proven to treat the majority of insomnia cases*. In normal adults, morning light exposure improved both the quality and quantity of sleep.

So if you can, be an early bird and experience many benefits that go along with it.

II. Limit Caffeine 4-8 Hours Before Bed

I always found it hilarious when people discuss sleep with me and I find that they drink Starbucks at 8 pm. 

We all know that caffeine promotes wakefulness, and it is typically extremely difficult to force yourself to bed right after you consume caffeine.

So limit your caffeine intake 4-8 hours before bed. Try to experiment with the lower end and then move into the higher end depending how you feel the next morning.

III. Consistent Sleep Schedule

Consistency is the key to success. Having a consistent sleep schedule can make it easier and feel less like a “chore” to some. 

This is where the habit-building comes in: if you make it a habit to sleep around the same time each day, you will create a schedule that you can be able to adhere too.

Today, I set a mini "sleep ritual" one hour before bed. In this hour, I limit electronics usage, put my phone on the charger (far away from me, I will discuss this later), and prepare some things for tomorrow morning. This helps me ease into a good night's rest.

If you're constantly on the go, set a consistent sleep routine 15-30 minutes before bed.

Just make it consistent!

IV. Comfortable and Cozy Room

Temperature, mattress quality, and the way you sleep can make a big impact on your sleep quality and quantity. It’s important to have a cool and cozy room.

V. Eliminate "Blue Light" in the Evening.

Blue light is an artificial lighting that we are exposed to through our phones, computers, or television. Towards the evening, you want to eliminate this as much as possible. According to Harvard Health, artificial lights can easily impact our circadian rhythm.

Remember that the circadian rhythm not just impacts our sleep, but also impacts our bodily functions.

In an ideal situation, you would want to avoid any forms of blue light 1-2 hours before bed… but that's VERY difficult today. There are still ways to eliminate blue light exposure if you have to do computer work or scour social media.

Here’s what I recommend if you can’t remove blue light exposure:

  • Wear blue light resistant glasses: I don't have my own pair, however, these are becoming increasingly available as of late.
  • Use “F.Lux” (Computer App): An application I use to eliminate blue light on my computer is called F.Lux. I set it so around 7 pm, my screen eliminates blue light and turns into a yellowish color.
  • Use “Night Shift” (Cell Phones & MacBooks): iPhones (& New MacBooks) have a feature called Night Shift that helps to eliminate blue light on your phone. I don't have an android, however, there should be a feature or an app for that!

I have to personally keep my phone away from reach as well so I don’t reach for it instinctively. When it's an instinctive habit to grab your phone, it's quite easy to get lost in social media, memes, and more.

While you wouldn’t think this would make a difference, it has assisted me in getting quality sleep.

VI. Strategizing Nutrition

In many articles I have read about sleep, a lot of them mention that you shouldn’t have a big meal before bed because “you won’t be able to sleep”.

I must be the outlier in the situation because consuming a lot of carbs before bed makes me sleep like a baby.

Here is what I propose:

  • If you find yourself energized from carbohydrates, you should consume a smaller meal before bed.
  • If you find yourself sleepy from carb consumption, finish your day with the majority of your carbs in the evening.

See which one works and use it to your advantage.

VII. Optimizing Exercise

Just like strategizing with nutrition, exercise could be optimized based on your energy levels. Here are some thoughts to optimize your exercise so that you can sleep soundly:

  • If you find yourself energized after a workout, try working out in the morning.
  • If you find yourself exhausted after a workout, you could exercise in the evening to make yourself sleep soundly.

In my personal experience, strength training gets me exhausted, so I prefer to train in the evening.

VIII. Melatonin Supplements

Melatonin supplements can make a big impact on sleep quality and quantity in the evening.

There are many of these supplements out there. However, some provide larger amounts of melatonin. This can lead to next morning grogginess.

We believe less is more in this approach.

Our sleep elixir, Drift, carries a small dose of melatonin. This allows us to focus on more efficacious dosages with other ingredients that improve sleep quality.

For example, we use 600mg of Lemon Balm in Drift. Lemon Balm is a herb that helps promote improved levels of calmness before bed.

Even if you get 6 hours of sleep, you should expect some good sleep with it.

You can click here to get it on Amazon, or click the banner below.

IX. Vitamin D3 Supplement

If you don't typically get sunlight because you work indoors, taking a Vitamin D3 supplement in the morning is a solid option as well.

According to various studies, weeks of Vitamin D3 supplementation has been shown to improve both sleep quality and quantity.

We believe it's a great supplement to have in our arsenal, especially when we work indoors or if you don't get direct sunlight where you live.

Sleeping Saves Lives

As you can see here, we can argue that the quality and quantity of sleep can be attributed to lots of issues in society today: hormonal problems, obesity, sleep disorders, mood disorders, and more.

Are you ready to really focus on improving sleep?

There's typically always room for improvements, and really focusing on optimizing your sleep.

To conclude this, I wanted to give you two final notes:

  • We are not somnologists: sleep doctors, and you should always consult with a professional if you are experience major sleep issues.
  • For more information on sleep, this blog post is a GREAT ONE.

Thanks for reading!

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to email us at support@reforgedperformance.com, or Direct Message us on Instagram!

Until next time ReforgedLegion! Go out there and crush it!

Tony Gjokaj
Tony Gjokaj

Tony is the Owner of Reforged Performance Nutrition. He is a PN1 Certified Nutrition Coach and has been in the fitness space for over a decade. His goal is to help bridge the gap between physical & mental health through fitness.



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