14 Tips to Help You Sleep Better

hardgainers need more sleep to build muscleI used to think the definition of a “hardgainer” was a skinny dude who had trouble gaining muscle.

But now I know that’s not true.

A skinny ripped dude is just too lazy too eat. That’s his only problem.

A “hardgainer” is the skinny fat guy who has zero muscle mass with an A-frame physique, narrow shoulders, pipe cleaner arms, a little belly and soft pecs.

They’re everywhere these days.

For some odd reason it seems like not as many of these guys existed years ago. The majority of skinny guys were leaner.

The ever declining quality of our food and water supply surely has something to do with it.

These guys are hormonally fucked.

Their cortisol and estrogen is too high, their insulin sensitivity is horrendous and their testosterone levels are too low.

So hormone optimization really becomes the key to transforming a hardgainer.

The number one factor above all else is going to be improving sleep quality.

Hardgainers always struggle with this because of their hormonal make up and their personalities. They are usually wired with tons of nervous energy and tend to think too much and overanalyze things.

That’s some shit you need to get over on your own. Read some Zen books and chill the fuck out.

In the meantime here are 14 tips that will help you sleep better:

1) Get to Bed Earlier

Go to bed by 10:30 or 11pm at the latest. Ideally you should be going to bed with the moon and rising with the sun. Since that’s not going to happen for most of us try to come as close as you can.

2) Cut the Lights

Wind down and lower the lights after it gets dark. Bright, Yankee Stadium-like lights in the house will keep you stimulated and awake longer. Use the dimmer switch or light some candles.

3) Get Off the Computer by 8pm

The light of a computer or TV screen will get you overstimulated and make it harder to sleep. It will also lower melatonin production and fry your pineal gland.

4) Read a Book

They still make those, ya know. But it has to be something non stimulating (that won’t get your mind racing with ideas, etc.) like fiction or an autobiography. No training or biz or motivational books.

5) Take an Ice Bath or Shower

Taking an ice cold bath or shower an hour before bed knocks you out pretty nicely. But I mean ICE COLD, as in this is not a comfortable experience in the least and shrinkage should be at an all time high. For that reason, if you plan on having sex that evening it’d be best to do it before the icy plunge.

6) Train Earlier in the Day

If you have trouble sleeping you should train before 3pm. Training later seems to keep the majority of people with sleep issues up all night. Especially if you do CNS stimulating Renegade style workouts.

7) Get Some Sun

Get 20-30 minutes of sunlight each day or get one of those goLITE’s by Phillips and use it for 15 minutes a day like I do during the winter. This will help improve your natural melatonin production.

8) Try Some Cool Mist

A cool mist humidifier in your room can help you sleep better.

9) Get Rid of the TV

The bedroom is made for sleeping and sex. That’s it. Never have a TV in the bedroom. Instead try the Nightwave, which I also use.

10) Eliminate the Electronics

Ideally you want to have as few electronic devices as possible in the bedroom. This means computers, stereos, alarm clocks, etc. They should all be moved somewhere else, or at the very least- unplugged at night.

11) Can the Cell

I repeat- the bedroom is for sleeping and sex. Never keep your cell phone in the bedroom.

12) Eat Earlier

Try not to eat too close to bed time if this keeps you up. For me I need at least two hours between my last meal or I don’t sleep as well. Experiment with different timing and see what works best for you.

13) Eat Carbs at Night

In The Renegade Diet I prescribe carbs at night. One of the main reasons for this is that carbs during the day tend to tire you out. Better off saving them for the night time when you want that effect.

14) Get it On

Have sex an hour or so before going to bed. This is preferably done with another person as your hand doesn’t seem to produce the same knockout effect. Longer duration, high intensity cardio type sessions can also have the opposite effect and keep you up for a few more hours, so keep it short and sweet if you want to get the deepest sleep possible. Yes, I’ve tested these theories thoroughly.

Improving sleep quantity and quality has to take precedence over all else when you want to improve your hormonal profile.

I know most people will ignore this advice and start looking for the greatest new supplement. But trust me NOTHING is more important for your health and your gains in the gym than sleep.

I have struggled with this for years myself and always kick myself for not seriously addressing it sooner. It could have made a world of difference in my progress.

Don’t make the same mistakes I did. Address this now and your rate of progress and your quality of life will improve dramatically.

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40 Responses to 14 Tips to Help You Sleep Better

  1. endz August 4, 2011 at 2:22 am #

    Very nice article. One of my classmates in school is 95% like this guy at the picture. And the reason is quite clear – eating ’bout ca 500-1500kcal less to maintain his bodyweight for ca 6 years and sitting in front of the computer at least 6 hours a day. And he thinks too much and overanalyze things just like you described. But thats sometimes a good thing for him – i think, cause he is like a genius in school but outside, not so much…
    I think that overanalyzing thing is caused by this constant caloric deficit or what you think?

  2. Shaun August 4, 2011 at 2:40 am #

    Hey Jason,

    WOW! You hit the nail on the head with this article. You basically descibed my body type and almost all the symptoms of my poor sleep that I’ve been trying to rectify for a little while now.

    You see, I’m also skinny fat at the moment since I’ve gone through a weight loss period for the last 3-4 months. It’s been just over a year since I started ‘real’ strength training. I started with those 15kg 1″ barbells with the squat/bench/press. A year later, about 3 months back, before I actually started a fat loss phase my strength was climbing: Squat 110 kg, Deadlift 125kg, Bench 60kg, Press 47.5kg.

    Now with the fat loss I’ve also lost a lot of strength and can no longer squat/bench nearly as much. I only lost about 4kgs and now hover around 72kg. Just from those number you’d be able to guess I’m pretty skinny fat. Guessing my BF% is around 14%-15%.

    However, I’ve been reading your blog articles a lot and have implemented some of your advice and think it’s really awesome. Just got myself some Maca powder yesterday so hopefully that also help. If only there was an easy way to get a nap during lunch at work.

    Thanks for all the great content!

  3. John August 4, 2011 at 2:52 am #

    LOL! So true. So really skinny fat guys are doomed unless they train hard and eat big all the time? Once the true hardgainer gains a lot of muscle through heavy frequent work, will he lose it quicker than a skinny ripped dude who has undergone similar training and gains when they both stop training for a long time? Well, I am exactly in the same club as the true hardgainer. Well, cheers Jason and other true hardgainers.

  4. Ollie Chapman August 4, 2011 at 5:19 am #

    Totally agree Jason, I was a pot belly fat kid at school and train clients of similar nature and its so much harder for them. The skinny kid has no idea of the difference. Getting someone to put on muscle but also eat right so they don’t gain fat and actually lose it is a totally different ball game.

    I’m also a big fan of magnesium, zinc and 5 HTP before bed to help relax people and get them sleeping better, I find a big meal can also be a good thing if its high in carbohydrates and good fats a few hours before bed as it releases serotonin and can really nock people out especially if they have the cold shower or ice bath an hour after then go to bed in a room thats dark and like a cave.

    Keep the articles coming mate.


  5. Britt August 4, 2011 at 6:02 am #

    Why do you have to post my picture to prove your point?!

  6. jc August 4, 2011 at 7:42 am #

    Great post! This pretty much described me to a tee. Growing up, I had a terrible time falling asleep. I could probably count on 2 hands, how many times I had a good night’s sleep.

    I had a friend who was the “classic hardgainer”, had maybe 3 inches on me but the same weight or slightly less. Great bone structure as opposed to me with poor posture. The difference was he as a superb athlete, fast twitch, played HS football.

    One thing I like to add is stay away from caffeine. Besides colas, I started off really young drinking tea as well. We have so much nervous energy, we don’t need to add to it.

  7. Lame-R August 4, 2011 at 7:56 am #

    Melatonin has been great for me, started using it 3 years ago and I love being able to sleep well now.

    Sleep is hugely underrated!

  8. Tom August 4, 2011 at 8:06 am #

    Brilliant post, brings home just how important sleep is. Not entirely sure how you can call fiction books non-stimulating though!

  9. Dan August 4, 2011 at 8:26 am #

    This describes me exactly. Thanks for the great article.

  10. Erik August 4, 2011 at 8:37 am #

    Last week I was actually thinking about this subject, and it’s true.
    There are a lot more skinny fat guys around, in the past they were just skinny but today also a little bit fatter. Is it more difficult for skinny fat guys to built muscle, than for just a skinny guy maybe because they have different metabolisme? Would a skinny guy with a fast metabolisme gain muscle quicker?

  11. Ryan August 4, 2011 at 8:48 am #

    The “sleep bot” android app is fantastic. It helps to realize patterns and if you’re deficient

  12. Travis August 4, 2011 at 8:55 am #

    Great post Jay!

    Way too many peeps over look sleep and recovery and wonder why the f*ck their not getting results!

    It’s like a quote I saw the other day….

    “A lot of people are on GSP’s training regiment but the only thing is, their not on GSP’s SLEEP and RECOVERY program…” HUGE difference there!

    I avg about 6-7 hours of sleep with a 20 min power nap in the afternoon and it works for me well! I’m up 5 days a week for boot camps at 430am… Simple – go to bed earlier…

    Great post Jay as always!

  13. Mike T Nelson August 4, 2011 at 9:14 am #

    Great stuff man! I’ve found the exact same thing over many years. Right behind good overall movement (esp exercise), sleep is the next most critical thing for myself and many of my clients/athletes too.

    Ironically, it is the one thing that I have struggled the most with too! I am much better now than I used to be, but still working on it. I always feel like I can push it just a bit more and then have to pull back and get my shut eye.

    I’m sure you’ve seen a really cool study where they screwed with the sleep of average, non diabetic college kids and within about 5 days they made diabetic or very close to diabetic since it messed with their insulin/glucose so much! The good part was that as soon as their sleep debt was replaced, they were back to normal again.

    Good feedback on the goLITE as I’ve heard good things from others on it.

    Rock on
    Mike T Nelson PhD(c)

  14. Steve August 4, 2011 at 9:19 am #

    There are some great tips in there. I’ve always had a great deal of trouble sleeping, subconciously I always try to watch for the moment that I fall asleep as if it’s going to enlighten me in some way. I have no idea why I do this but I’ve done it for as long as I can remember. A couple of nights ago I started taking a shower on the coldest setting it would go at full force for 30s-1min (which feels like an Arctic Ocean plunge) seemingly it has made a huge improvement as the last 2 nights I have fallen asleep incredibly quickly and have been way more relaxed in bed. Still too early to tell though I guess.

  15. Scott August 4, 2011 at 9:44 am #

    Excellent advice! I like most everything you’ve said here. Very willing to give all this a try, especially since I grew up an ectomorph who had terrible sleep habits, yet craved sleep all the time. (Shoulda listened to my body more.)
    But one of your points just doesn’t make sense: going to bed with the moon? The moon rises and sets at all times of the day and night, depending on what phase of the cycle it’s at. So I’d have to throw that one bit of advice out.
    One other point I’d make is this: make your bedroom as fully dark as possible. Pitch black is best. Wear a face mask if you have to. Melatonin is great to take – if you need it – but before you try it, do this, and your body will automatically begin to make more of its own melatonin. I drive this point home to my patients every time they come in with insomnia or a hormonal imbalance.

  16. Niel Rishoi August 4, 2011 at 10:11 am #

    When I was growing up in the early-mid 70s, 98% of the kids I grew up with were skinny ectomorphs. You know why? Outdoor playing and minimal junk food. Now they watch too much TV play their X-boxes, load up on sugary juices, sugar snacks, and convenience junk foods. Pop, juice, junk snacks and chips were simply once-in-a-while indulgences. And kids rode their bikes, ran, built tree forts, swam, played ball games. I recall only a few ecto-endos. Now I see chunky children EVERYWHERE.

    Sleep help: Valerian. Wal-Mart, 4 bucks. 4-5 capsules a night. Takes a week or two to kick in.
    Additional help: L-Ttryptophan, and Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime tea.

  17. Geo August 4, 2011 at 12:54 pm #

    This post is so spot-on when describing the true hardgainers. I was skinny fat too and I understood it was totally different than the guys that are really thin but really lean.

    Also regarding the sleep, if you’re on a diet and a training schedule I think it comes naturally. Personally I was “programmed” to go to bed around midnight this past year that I’ve been training, sometimes even earlier.

  18. Raymond August 4, 2011 at 1:21 pm #

    I would love to get more sleep (typically in bed by 10-11pm up around 4 am) and I thought getting older (48) I would but really I have so many things to do that I just ‘find the time’ to sleep!
    Do skinny fat guys have extra fat around the internal organs too making it really unhealthy?
    Raymond Ho

  19. Vaclav Gregor August 4, 2011 at 1:30 pm #

    Great summary of what one should do to get a proper sleep. Just a quick question about napping. When do you recommend to take a nap and for how long? How you do it? I sleep from 11pm to 7am and usually take it for 20 minutes around 5pm, what aobut you?

  20. John August 4, 2011 at 2:18 pm #

    After working in a circadian rhythm lab for the past 2 years, here’s what I’ve learned about getting to sleep at a certain time…

    1. Just like above, you should get used to going to sleep as near as possible to when it gets dark outside and to getting up with the sun.
    2. Once it starts to get dark outside, you want to make it nearly dark inside as well. Any lights that you have on should be warm in color (any light should be similar to that of a fire). Make sure any lights that are cool in color are off; blue light in particular is responsible for signaling to your body that it should be awake. Warm (red) light doesn’t produce the same response. (TVs and computer screens are going to give you a lot of blue light. If you want to keep working on your computer after dark, download Flux (http://stereopsis.com/flux/) which will automatically change the color profile of your screen according to when it gets dark in your timezone.)
    3. Take melatonin a couple hours BEFORE you actually want to go to bed. Melatonin is partly responsible for the feeling of being tired. Inducing this feeling will, obviously, make you want to go to bed.

  21. Koosh August 4, 2011 at 2:23 pm #

    I read this article while destroying a sweet potato the size of my head

  22. Kathleen August 4, 2011 at 4:18 pm #

    You don’t know a hardgainer unless you know a postmenopausal woman! We never had much testosterone to start with. After menopause, we have even less, along with less estrogen and progesterone, and ever-declining growth hormone. (We tend to have low thyroid function at this point, too.) It’s really challenging to gain muscle or drop fat.

  23. Ryan August 4, 2011 at 5:27 pm #

    great article, Jay and these are things I need to look into since i’m currently struggling with my T levels right now and sleeping…

    But, I work night shift (Monday through Thursday, 7pm-5:30am).

    I’m going to look into the Nightwave but I hear there are a type of window shades you can place on your windows that will block out sunlight and help you sleep. I know if my bedroom is completely black, I’ll fall asleep quickly…

    Oddly enough, I am sleeping better with the new schedule..getting roughly 7 hours a sleep. I’m shooting for 8 or 9 though.

  24. Dylan August 5, 2011 at 3:09 am #

    I sat my nocturnal 2 year old down and read this to her. She must have enjoyed it because she woke up at 3am so I could explain it to her again..

    • Tim April 18, 2013 at 2:20 pm #

      Sounds about right Dylan.

      Number 14 needs to come with a caveat about short-term effects vs long-term consequences ;)

      And to cap it off, some evidence that having kids helps T levels take a nose dive.


  25. David Frost August 6, 2011 at 5:42 am #

    I read, as a rule of thumb, every hour you sleep before midnight counts as two hours. For me, I feel so much better sleeping 9:30-4:30 than I do 10:00-5:00, even though it’s the same amount of time.

  26. Jon August 6, 2011 at 8:54 am #

    -Nor drink alcohol too close to bedtime. For many, this can negatively affect sleep.

    -Plus the sugar (and internal conversions) contributing to fat stores. -Plus with beer, the contribution to estrogen levels.

  27. Jason August 6, 2011 at 11:06 am #

    “The skinny ripped guy calling himself a hardgainer is really just a guy who’s too lazy to eat.”

    Thank you for saying that. It gets me so upset when I hear people say that they can’t put on muscle then you see what they eat, or what kind of lifestyle they have. You are not a hardgainer, you are hard headed.

    The same goes for those who say they can’t lose weight. Get them to live on a remote island for a month like in Survivor then tell me you can’t lose weight.

    Like you said people who truly can’t build muscle or lose weight have messed up hormones. Thanks for setting things straight.

  28. Jack August 6, 2011 at 2:04 pm #

    As always, valuable information.

    “Have sex an hour or so before going to bed. This is preferably done with another person as your hand doesn’t seem to produce the same knockout effect.”

    Further proof that compound movements are more beneficial than isolation.

  29. Nick August 8, 2011 at 9:32 am #

    Sex must also boost testosterone! I had a threesome a couple days ago and still feel like Leonidas today.! Haha! And had awesome numbers in the gym this morning! Also, a zinc before bed makes me dream like crazy and feel like I got deep sleep. Keep up the excellent work Jason! Your opinion is very valuable.

  30. Ricardo August 9, 2011 at 7:47 pm #

    @ jason

    So basically what you’re saying is if your always under 10% bodyfat and making very slow gains but using your training programs and sleeping correctly that it just means you’re not eating enough?

    Could you give a quick breakdown of how much to eat? calories, carbs, protein?

    Reason I ask is cause I know you’ve evolved in your training over the years.. Thanks.

    P.s. any other opinions from those reading this would be much appreciated.

  31. Till August 9, 2011 at 11:34 pm #

    @Ricardo: It’s quite simple, your body will do SOMETHING with excess calories, either build muscle or store them as fat. So if you’re not gaining any sort of weight after consistently eating a certain amount of calories over the course of, say, two or three weeks, you’re not eating enough. Sometimes that is because your metabolism is really fast. Olive oil and nuts might help you – oh, and don’t forget oatmeal.

  32. John August 10, 2011 at 7:37 am #

    The typical protein recommendation, of course, is 1.8 g of protein per kg of desired bodyweight (or roughly 1 g of protein per lb desired bodyweight). Make sure you’re getting this minimum amount. As long as the rest of your food comes mostly from lean/healthy meats (chicken, grass fed beef, fish) and whole vegetables and fruits, the specific breakdown probably doesn’t matter much. You just need to make sure that your weight is increasing at some steady rate, and that means eating more. If the scale hasn’t changed recently, then you’re definitely not eating enough. Sometimes you might not have to change what you actually eat that much, just supplement each meal with some kind of meal replacement shake, thus increasing your total caloric intake.

  33. Andrew August 16, 2011 at 2:44 am #

    Took me years to realize all of this as well. Good article – some great strategies there!

  34. Simon August 22, 2011 at 8:36 am #

    I actually find that having a totally dark room triggers my over active mind in to overdrive. Seems the shut eye clears my mind from distraction & then thoughts kick in. Really annoying. My body shape is pot belly, thin limbs. And I train hard hitting same muscle twice a week.

  35. Niko August 26, 2011 at 5:59 am #

    Jason, I’m a shift worker which at it’s worst I am working up to 10 shifts straight of 10pm till 6am shifts. Obviously myself and other shift workers have the odds stacked up against us when it comes to quality sleep, do you have any advice for me or people like me when it comes to shift work and sleep?

  36. SportsDoc August 29, 2011 at 9:15 am #

    I know this is true for a fact. Great post and I have seen it 1st hand. Throughout school I was always a really skinny guy. Then I went to college and started gaining weight. Then I went on a huge muscle gaining spree. I went from 175 to about 215 in a year. Working out and Cardio everyday, eating everything in site. Bam this is what I wanted. Then I went to the Doc and had my blood check; Cholesterol 315. If you don’t know that is sky high. Point is if your eating everything in site make sure is healthy and low fat foods. You can really do harm to your body. Great article and cant wait to read more.

  37. sam September 1, 2011 at 2:22 pm #

    Testosterone should cure the problem. The beauty lies as to how increase this hormone naturally, not out of the bottle!

  38. sam September 1, 2011 at 2:23 pm #

    Great article.
    Testosterone should cure the problem. The beauty lies as to how increase this hormone naturally, not out of the bottle!

  39. Brian April 25, 2012 at 10:41 am #

    Fantastic article, Jason! I am one of those unfortunate ones who is also “skinny fat”. We have ectomorph, mesomorph, and endomorph as the body types. The ectomorph, from what I understand, is the small framed person who can’t gain weight, but is lean. That’s not me (naturally), and like you say, many other guys. So, I guess we are ecto-endo’s? LOL. I recall a homeopathic nutritionist a long time ago telling me that if I really want to get lean, I would have to starve. Well, this was 1/2 true. I do have to maintain an absolutely clean diet, or forget it! I am 46 years old, and after having back surgery (Nov 2011), I lost so much weight (mass) that I am the weight I was at 14 years old. I have a SUPER, I mean really SUPER small frame. However, I maintained my 11%-12% bodyfat. It is a bitch, but I would rather be lean, than ever have that ponch again with skinny limbs. As a result, my testosterone is within normal to high limits for a dude my age. I don’t always get enough night sleep, but I am fortunate to have time during the day for a brief snookie.