It is probably redundant to mention the vast importance of sleep for people in general, and trainees. More articles have been written about the subject than have likely been written about the importance of any other non-training subject in the strength training world, save for perhaps protein, so there is little need to belabor the point.
Sleep. You need it like you need oxygen, protein, and sex.
Why don’t people get enough sleep? The factors are more numerous than tanning salons down the Jersey Shore, but they include people dicking around with their phones in bed, electromagnetic fields in and around the bedroom, poor diet, lack of exercise, and a litany of other factors. In this author’s opinion, however, the blame can be placed squarely at one asshole’s feet- Thomas Edison.
Prior to the invention of the electric light bulb, people slept an average of 10-12 hours a day. Thomas Edison, the inventor of the electric light bulb, was a workaholic who believed that sleep, and rest in general, were unnecessary, primitive, and to be championed only by people so lazy that they rode around in whatever passed for Walmart’s too-fat-to-walk scooters. I suppose he needed all of that extra time awake to steal as much as he possibly could from other inventors, electrocute elephants, hire henchmen to beat up his competitors, force the world’s greatest mad scientist Nikola Tesla to work a ridiculous 10 AM to 5AM workday, and get his assistants killed working on a ghost busting machine.
Whatever his other asshattery might have been, however, we can hate him most for the fact that he is directly responsible for the modern idea that getting “too much” sleep is unhealthy, and the fact that Americans average 20% less sleep than they did in 1900. In contrast to our modern sleep habits, Paleolithic man (who was demonstrably stronger, healthier, and essentially better in every possible way than modern man) slept from dusk until dawn, which means a little over 10 hours a night in the summer, and considerably longer in the winter. Were this unhealthy, it’s unlikely that they’d have done it- they had fire, so they could have kept themselves busy into the wee hours of the night if they’d wished to.
Amusingly, although Edison was a massive fan of jamming as much sex and violence into his movies as possible, he probably had erectile dysfunction and couldn’t whip it out and jerk it to the films he made. Edison reportedly only slept 3 to 4 hours a night, and studies have shown that his penis probably worked as well as the Marine Osprey VTOL airplane as a result. One study has shown that dudes who only sleep for 4 hours had testosterone levels between 200 and 300 ng/dl, then compared that with bros who sleep 8 hours a night- they’re rocking test levels between 500-700 ng/dl, even when you account for all the other factors that might play into testosterone levels (Goh).
So now that we’ve covered some of what you likely already knew, let’s cover a subset of sleep that is never discussed in strength training literature- the importance of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. The REM phase of sleep is one in which the sleeper has rapid eye movements (obviously), low muscle tone, and badass, vivid dreams. Why this is never discussed baffles me more than the fact high school bros are wearing short shorts in the gym these days, because REM sleep deprivation depresses growth hormone production and increases somatostatin, a hormone that inhibits growth hormone, insulin, and thyroid hormones (Toppila). To add to that crap sandwich, testosterone levels are also depressed when people take longer to get into REM sleep, and even more depressed when people spend less time in REM sleep (Luboshitzky). In other words, reducing your time in REM sleep, or increasing the time you take to get into REM sleep, is probably the biggest enemy to gains since the invention of vegetarianism.
No worries though, because there is a way to ensure you won’t have a problem getting into REM sleep or staying there, and that you can likely increase the amount of time in REM sleep past the standard 90 minutes- lucid dreaming. For those of you not hip to what lucid dreaming is, hold onto your shaker bottle, because lucid dreams are more dope than all of the poppy fields in Afghanistan. Lucid dreams are (obviously) dreams during which the dreamer is aware of dreaming, and they can control everything that goes on in them. It’s badass- the dream kind of develops on its own initially, but once the thing gets rocking, you can do whatever the hell you want- you control what goes on, where you go, who you meet (or bang, if you’re face deep in a Bangladeshi sewer), and literally even the physics of the dream.
Let’s say you’ve googled it and you’re more skeptical than Bill Bye the Science guy at a creationist conference that lucid dreaming could do jack crap for your test and GH levels. The research backs the theory that lucid dreams occur in REM sleep based on EEG data (Dresler, Mota-Rolim, Hurd). With that out of the way, lucid dreaming begins immediately (well, sort of prior to) after falling asleep, which means that you will enter REM sleep more quickly. If you’ll recall what was mentioned above, the longer it takes you to drop into REM sleep, the lower your testosterone will be. Thus, you ensure a peak testosterone release by getting into REM sleep as quickly as possible, and because each REM period (we go into REM every 90 minutes through the night) gets much longer and occupies a larger chunk of that 90-minute cycle each time, you ensure a greater total testosterone and growth hormone release overnight if you get your full 8 hours of sleep (Lite). This also explains why you’re committing hormonal seppuku if you’re cutting your eight hours a night short.
At this point, it should sound like lucid dreaming is one of the easiest and most badass ways to boost your testosterone and growth hormone release overnight. That’s because it is. It’s more badass than the child Chuck Norris and Ronda Rousey would produce, and it’s easy as hell to induce. Basically, there are four methods of inducing lucid dreaming (Google the methods that interest you for detailed instructions on how to use them- I’m just giving the broad strokes):
MILD (Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams): Fall asleep while focused on your intention to remember that you are dreaming. This is best for people with good prospective memory (really solid future intent).
WILD (Wake-Initiation of Lucid Dreams): Keep your consciousness while falling asleep and go straight into a dream (this is badass because you can induce lucid dreams at will). This is best for people who want to reliably have lucid dreams. It’s also awesome because it shortens the time it takes you to get into REM sleep to nothing, which means you’ll have maximal test and GH production while sleeping.
EXAMPLE OF WHAT I’VE USED: IF YOU KEEP YOUR EYES CLOSED FOR A WHILE, YOU’LL NOTICE THAT DOTS FORM ON THE BACKS OF YOUR EYELIDS. THEY’LL THEN FORM PATTERNS AND SWIRLS. YOU SIMPLY WATCH THOSE SWIRLS AROUND UNTIL THEY BEGIN TO COALESCE INTO SHAPES, WHICH USUALLY START AS VERY DIM BUILDINGS, SHADOWY PEOPLE WALKING PAST YOU, AND THE LIKE. FROM THERE, THE DREAM KIND OF TAKES SHAPE HOWEVER YOUR BRAIN THINKS, BUT YOU CAN MODIFY THINGS AS YOU GO. FOR SOME REASON, I OFTEN END UP RUNNING FULL TILT THROUGH INCREDIBLY GREEN VALES AND VALLEYS.
VILD (Visual Induction of Lucid Dreams): By repetitive visualization, incubate a dream in which you do a reality check (this is also badass because you can induce lucid dreams at will). One problem (which I often have with this) is that visualization can keep you awake for hours. This is best for people with good visualization skills. Just like WILD, this drops the time it takes you to get to REM sleep to zero, so you’re shooting your test and GH into the stratosphere.
1) ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE– I ALWAYS BEGIN IN A HAMMOCK UP IN A TREE AT DAWN. I CREATE A DETAILED ENVIRONMENT OF WHAT’S AROUND ME, WHAT THE TREES LOOK LIKE, WHAT MY GEAR LOOKS LIKE, AND WHERE THE ZOMBIES ARE… THEN I START THE KILLING.
2) ROLLER COASTER– FOR SOME REASON THIS WORKED LIKE A CHARM FOR ABOUT A YEAR. I’D JUST MAKE AN INTENSELY DETAILED ENVIRONMENT STARTING AS I GOT INTO THE ROLLER COASTER. I’D IMAGINE THE FEEL OF THAT PLASTIC ON THE PADDING AS I GRIPPED THE SAFETY BAR AS I PULLED IT DOWN, THE JOLT OF THE START, THE CLACKING AS WE’D ASCEND THE FIRST HILL, ETC. BY THE TIME WE WENT OVER THE TOP, I WAS ASLEEP AND OFF TO THE RACES.
3) RANDOM POST-APOCALYPSE- I BEGIN THIS ONE ESCAPING FROM A COLLAPSING BUILDING AS THE UN SHELLS IT, THEN CARRY ON A CAMPAIGN OF RESISTANCE AGAINST THE NEW WORLD ORDER. WHILE I WAS READING PREPPER NOVELS (LIKE PATRIOTS OR GOING HOME), THIS SCENARIO KILLED IT FOR ME.
TLDR: MAKE THE SCENARIO SOMETHING THAT REALLY INTERESTS YOU, AND THAT YOU CAN INTENSELY AND VIVIDLY PICTURE. I ALWAYS USE THE EXACT SAME OPENING SCENARIO TO MAKE THIS EXTREMELY EASY. YOU’LL GET BORED WITH THE SAME THING OVER AND OVER THOUGH, AND YOU’LL FIND A SCENARIO WILL STOP WORKING AFTER A POINT.
If those seem daunting, worry not- I have two badass hacks that work with the WILD technique to the point I felt like I was hallucinating, and I woke up feeling so refreshed I considered going running, something I wouldn’t even do if I was in a roomful of bears. Nevermind the fact I wouldn’t be able to outrun a bear and know that- I despise running, but I felt so good upon waking I didn’t know what to do with myself. Instead of going for a jog, I ended up doing two hours of band curls while eating steak and watching hardcore videos on Youtube. In any event, here are the two things that make the WILD technique incredibly easy when used in Tango and Cash / Starsky and Hutch / BJ and the Bandit style.
Chaos and Pain developed this product specifically as a lucid dreaming aid (in addition to being a sleep aid), and it works. The key ingredients in Hypnos for sleep induction are phenibut (a Russian compound designed as an anti-anxiety and sleep aid) and GABA (the main neurotransmitter involved in chilling you out), both of which help with lucid dreaming because they will get you into REM sleep faster and cleaner, especially for anyone with a touch of insomnia. So, once you’ve got those two firing your first stage rocket into REM stage sleep and lucid dreaming, the main herbs in Hypnos to aid the journey into dreams so insane you’ll be amazed you had the imagination to create them are:
- Hops– an herb that causes “spaciness” for lack of a better term. You’re not tired on it, but you are goofy and happy, which sets the ideal mood for lucid dreaming.
- Passionflower– an herb that’s been used since pre-Columbian times to induce sleep and euphoria, making it perfect for excellent, cheerful, vivid dreams.
- Valerian Root– your basic relaxant, although it increases concentration, which obviously makes it ideal for the VILD method in particular.the efficacy of which is insanely improved by combining it with passionflower.
Check out the full list of ingredients here. They’re all perfect for lucid dreaming because every one of the ingredients either improves your mood and relaxes you or helps drop you into a deep, restful sleep.
Binaural beats are an auditory magic trick- by playing a sound at one frequency in one ear and a sound at another frequency in the other, the listener perceives a third sound. Combining this with the use of specific percussion techniques can induce an altered state of mind like the one people get in hypnosis and deep meditation. Together, binaural beats have been shown definitively to decrease anxiety (Le Scouarnec), improve creativity (Reedik), reduce the perception of pain (Zampi), and improve cognitive flexibility (Hommel). It doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to see how all of those things could improve your lucid dreaming to an insane degree, and the awesome news is that Youtube is jam packed harder than a Black Friday Walmart with 3 to 8 hour binaural beat tracks.
You can’t beat free, right? Bear in mind the best way to listen to them is on headphones, but surround sound has worked just as well for my, and a properly placed soundbar has done the job as well.
To Sum It Up
You can raise your testosterone and growth hormone simply by getting 8 hours of sleep a night, but you can get even more bang for your buck using lucid dreaming techniques. Add on top of that you can extend the effect of both with the synergistic use Olympus Hypnos and its auditory companion binaural beats, and you have a recipe for overnight growth the likes of which the world may have never seen.
Grow while you sleep- nothing could be easier, so you’d be ridiculous not to do it.
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