Getting Better Between the Sheets: Why Missing Sleep Is Worse Than Missing Training!

by Dr. David Ryan

You don’t grow in the gym!  Have you ever heard that?  It is very true and you need to change your entire thinking process about fitness if you did not know that fact.  Not being able to get to bed and sleep is a major problem that many athletes have to learn to overcome.  Most of you reading this are thinking that there is some secret special workout that you need to help you recover and grow big.  The truth is, the biggest athletes are the ones who recover the fastest.  Learning to get the best night and sleep you can is the premiere thing that you can do to help you get fit faster.  Missing sleep is worse than missing training.

Sleep is something that you do one third of your life.  Unfortunately, most medical doctors receive little to no training in regards to the aspect of sleep.  The study of sleep is called somniology, and has really only been mainstream medicine for less than 10 years.  Please read this entire article twice and see a specialist, rather than just emailing me and asking how to sleep better.

Lack of Sleep Leads to Depression

Famous inventers like Thomas Edison have made it possible for light to change our productivity at night.  Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, Hippocrates, and others were all insomniac’s.  In their case, the lack of sleep leads to extensive imagination, philosophy, and their inventive nature.  Most people are not so lucky and only become depressed and have no motivation to do much of anything.  A lack of sleep often leads many people to a point of psychological depression, cardiovascular disease, digestive problems, gastric reflux, muscular aches, headaches, allergies, irritability, lack of mental ability, loss of lean muscle mass, loss of appetite, and lots of other things which are unappealing.

Screwing up your sleep often starts in the beginning of the day.  People eat things that do not agree with them, or things they shouldn’t be eating and that imposes a guilt, which is hard to pass off as we lye our heads down at night.  Some people have poor sleeping conditions in the bed room such as; TV’s running, radios, MP3’s, and lots of other distractions to prevent your body from going into normal sleep cycle.  Below are a list of common factors the affect most people who are having difficulty trying to sleep.  In some cases it keeps people from getting to sleep, other individuals have difficulty staying asleep.  Not having a good night sleep will restrict your body from producing human growth hormone (HGH) and other natural hormones, like thyroxin (that makes you lean).


Improper planning

Uncomfortable beds and sheets

Unexpected Stress

Normal Stess & Family Stress

Job Stress

Money Stress

Lack of Sex

Lack of proper diet

Lack of mental stability




Lack of white noise

Drugs (no not just the lack of drugs)

Improper napping

Not reading the blog


Your body sleeps in 90 minutes sleep cycles, which means that you need to sleep either 4.5, 6, 7 .5, or 9 hours.  When you are just beginning to sleep, your body is at a very close to consciousness phase, but as you sleep, the process changes and then you will enter deeper and deeper into a subconscious state.  The deepest sleep is called Delta Sleep, and if someone has ever called you on the phone and you do not remember the phone ringing, then you were likely any delta wave sleep.  If your are body accidentally wakes up from the alarm clock or you are startled during delta wave sleep, you will likely drag your rear end around all day long.  Sometimes a quick 30 minute nap will help you to recover (The Power Nap).

As you sleep through the night, your body produces a “hum,” vibration, or waves during the delta wave sleep.  Scientist are not sure how, but this event then causes organs to manufacture vital hormones, during the next phase your body mobilizes those hormones and they move into your bloodstream and dance around your body.  The REM phases is the most commonly known phase and that is where the hormones hit your brain and a balancing and checking system starts to evaluate how much delta wave sleep you will need in the next sleep cycle.  The body needs less Delta phase sleep as you progress through the night.

Stage 1/Dream stage/REM This is when the hormones react with the brain

Stage 2 This is the phase where on the way to delta sleep, the brain determines what hormones are available and what amounts are needed to be supplied and manufactured.  It is like when you computer shuts off all functions when it is producing a movie or other task that requires all of your processor capabilities.

Stage 3 Is an overlapping phase where some of the functions of stage 2 and stage 4 are occurring.

Stage 4/Delta wave deep sleep This phase is when your body is actually manufacturing the hormones and some repair is occurring.

Everyone requires different amounts of sleep each night to recover.  Limiting any particular stage of sleep will produce illness and also affect your recovery.  The Stage 3 & 4 is delta wave sleep.  Please note that actual sleep time is 7.5 hours not 8 hours.

It is actually a simple process of your brain producing waves to stimulate a normal amount of hormonal production and then shoving those chemicals out into your blood stream, then they eventually those hormones come back and hit your brain, which causes it to go nuts (dream sleep/REM/Stage 1) and tells your body what is going on (Stage 2) to determine what amounts of hormones will be produced in the next cycle (Stage 3 & 4).

It shouldn’t take you longer than 15-30 minutes to enter into a sleep cycle.  If you do take longer than the time indicated, refer to the use of tryptophan and/or melatonin below.

Missing Sleep is worse than Missing Training

When you have restless sleep or you have to get up and use the bathroom three times a night, you disturb the normal flow of sleep and the normal production of hormones.  That is what needs to get fixed or you will not recover from your previous workout.  Imagine having a skin burn that isn’t healed and having to go back into the sun.  You need the proper recover to grow and adapt for the next workout.


One professional way is to get a sleep study done at a specialized sleep clinic.  Yes you will be asked to sleep with a camera pointed at the bed the whole night, but it helps the study to understand when you are moving and when you are asleep.  They will also have electrodes on your head to determine when you are in the various stages of sleep.  If your physician feels that you are having sleep problems, then you are might be covered by your insurance.

FANS (Everyone needs a Fan)

Use white noise when trying to get good nights’ sleep.  Your nervous system has two main branches, the parasympathetic side that slows everything down and helps you rest; and the sympathetic side that speeds everything up.  Research has shown that a fan blowing on the face offers three benefits for people who sleep.

First it offers a constant stimulation to the hairs on your face (the little ones that you don’t shave off) and those are directly linked to your sympathetic nervous system.  Once they are stimulated, they go through a phase called sensory adaptation.  This is where your body stops sensing something due to constant stimulation.  This is also what happens when you wear clothes and you don’t feel them on your body unless they are too tight.  After a time, the body will force a shut down of the sympathetic nervous system and you will be able to sleep better and deeper in most cases.

Secondly, the use of a fan will also force a positive air flow at your face, if you have some pseudo-form of sleep apnea, then a positive flow of air is just what you need to help keep your airway open.  Obviously severe cases of this will require a special device to be worn to allow for significant positive airway pressure.

Third, most of the time when we sleep various sounds can wake us up and disturb our sleep.  It might be a police car running by or just a distance noise that doesn’t require our attention.  White noise is a constant vibration that again uses the sensory adaptive response and our ears offer little response to smaller stimulus.  In many cases this allows us to drift off into deeper sleep for longer periods of time.

Studies have shown that a pedestal fan is more optimal than a ceiling fan for this purpose.  Some various sizes and speeds should be tried to provide optimal sleep success, but you have the rest of your life to test it.


Some people sleep better with no light and some have to have some light on, it really doesn’t matter with your eyes shut.  It is more of a comfort level and degree of stimulation that offers the best choice for you.  Millions of people use the TV to fall asleep every night and there is nothing wrong with that as long as you use the sleep timer.  Having the noise from the TV wake you up at 3 AM will disturb your sleep patterns.


Waking up to go the bathroom is a touchy situation.  If you can’t drink your fluid in the time given to you during the day, squeezing it in before bed is a costly mistake.  It is more damaging to you to wake up two or three times during the night to urinate.  Adjusting your stoppage time of drinking fluids is a key element to make sure you can make it through the night.


You should know that I am not a big fan of using thermals.  Most people use them instead of making good food choices and that is a big mistake.  You should also know that excessive use of some thermals cause impotency, sleeplessness, depression, thyroid problems, kidney problems, and bowel problems.  However, if you are going to use them, just like fluids, you need to stop them soon enough in the day so you get to sleep properly.  You can take the thermals you want and get a bad night sleep and you will look flat and soft the next day.  I have seen it at many shows, bad night sleep and the athlete looks bad the next day.  A bad night sleep hinders your electrolytes and that takes several days to balance back to normal.  Given the choice between a good nights sleep and normal electrolytes verses the possible weight loss from a thermal, it isn’t even a contest.  Your normal Growth Hormone along with many other natural hormones from your thyroid wins hands down.


Sometimes an athlete can have problems sleeping due to night sweats.  If you have ever woken up in a pool of your own sweat, then you know what a terrible feeling that is.  Night sweats are causes by many various reasons and they can disturb your normal sleep patterns.  A fan helps dry your skin while you sleep and you should always have your night sweats reviewed by a physician.  Please don’t ignore them since some very bad medical conditions including cancer will produce night sweats.

Stress is a common factor that leads to night sweats, which is tough to control while you are sleeping.  Various temperatures of beds and your room can offer relief from this problem.  Altering sheets is also necessary.  It is very important to change your sheets ever time you sweat in them to prevent skin conditions from building up.  The use of cotton towel may help protect your sheets at night.  Black Cohosh is an herb that has proved to be helpful in night sweat prevention or control.


Going to sleep is a very tough time for many people.  It is a time that we face our lives and try to settle down.  Many people are obsessed with training or workaholics to forget about our deeper problems; however, when we try to sleep, it all comes back like a raging bull.  Prayer and meditation often provides a spiritual release to these problems and it is very important to have a positive outlet to dump all your problems on to get to sleep.  Whatever the case, anything that tends to calm you down at night is best.  Leave your emotions until the next morning and leave it in the hands of the almighty.  That’s my personal philosophy and it isn’t like I don’t have stress in my life.

There are various things you can do prior to sleep to offer stress relief and in some cases snuggling with your partner is comforting situation that allows you to sleep.  Others find it best to read a book and others unwind with TV, but be careful not to get caught up and loose track of time.


Your body naturally produces melatonin and at the right time, it will provide some improved ability to sleep.  Mixing this with vitamin C has offered the best absorption and the effects on sleep are better if both are taken in a time release form.   Studies have shown that taking higher doses of melatonin actually reverse the effects and prohibit sleep, likely because the body builds up too many chemicals to break down the higher levels.  Most people do best to start at 1.5 mg and then not to exceed 3 mg.  You can try higher levels, but it is not likely to provide more benefit, but may result in extremely vivid dreams.  Several studies have shown that using melatonin will also act as an anti oxidant and prevent the effects of aging.

Science Daily magazine offers these simple findings as a benefit with taking melatonin:

Current research is exploring melatonin’s effect as an anti-oxidant, immno-modulator in cancer, delayed sleep-phase disorders, and more. For example: “… Consuming melatonin neutralizes oxidative damage and delays the neurodegenerative process of aging

This idea of protecting you from the effects of aging goes back to the root core of the issue of good sleep and the normal production of natural Human Growth Hormone.  Melatonin will not override the effects of other stimulants like ephedrine.


When your body is in pain, your normal process of sleep is disturbed.  In some cases you may sleep deeper, but for millions the opposite is true.  You will not get to sleep, due to the constant stimulation to your nervous system.  Learning to control pain is a multibillion dollar industry that seems to be as subjective as the judging at some figure competitions.  Getting your pain under control is a key to obtaining the best sleep possible.  If your body is so busy dealing with pain, it will not have enough energy left over to promote the normal sleep cycles that you should be experiencing.

High cortisol levels from chronic pain or other common stresses will cause poor sleep by inhibiting the normal production of serotonin (a chemical that induces sleep).  Prozac works by making your nerves more sensitive to serotonin and many physicians may prescribe anti-depressants long term, which is likely to result in a hypersensitivity to serotonin.  This is scientifically called the serotonin syndrome and symptoms include: Changes in mental status (confusion, agitation, mania, anxiety, coma), cardiovascular functions (irregular heartbeat, high or low blood pressure), gastrointestinal problems (nausea, diarrhea, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, excessive appetite, cravings), movement problems (muscle spasms, muscle rigidity, restlessness, tremors, shaking, lack of coordination, shivering, seizures), dry mouth, unusual sweating, flu symptoms, just to mention a few.


·         Prozac/Lovan/Zactin/Sarafem/Erocap (fluoxetine)

·         Paxil/ Paroxat/Paxetin/Seroxat/Aroprax (paroxetine)

·         Lexapro/Cipralex (escitalopram oxalate)

·         Luvox/Faverin/Floxyfral (fluvoxamine maleate)

·         Celexa/Cipriamil (citalopram oxalate)

The use of most of these drugs should be temporarily, how long depends on your genetics and your condition. Long term use of SSRIs and other antidepressant drugs is directly associated with many side effects that are typically weight gain, disrupted sleep patterns, additional depression, irritability, all of the side effects listed above associated with the serotonin syndrome.  Always talk about your drug questions with a pharmacist and your prescribing doctor.  Remember that most medical schools offer very little training in pharmacology and the average physician is good with about four or five medications and they are not proficient in all of them.  A great website that we use as part of the Arnold Sports Festival for the issue of drug interaction is and you can find out lots of information free at that site.

Just realize that keeping an open line of communication between your pharmacist and yourself is the best format of to follow.  Make sure you have a list of questions to discuss with your physician and also ask if your pain, depression, etc. has treatment options that don’t involve long term drug therapy such as, Chiropractic medicine, counseling to learn coping mechanism, etc.  Making a drug allow you to function, while you learn how to control the problem without the drug is the right step.  Becoming dependent on the drug and not taking the next step to learn self-control and develop self-will results in long term drug addiction and a host of side effects.  Please note that due to the addictive and adaptive nature of SSRIs you need to wean from their usage and not stop them without medical supervision and guidance.


There are some amino acids that you can take to help you sleep better.  The amino acids Arginine and Orthinine are helpful to you and make your entire sleep process deeper and more restful.  The process is simple, take Arginine and Orthinine in a 2:1 ratio on an empty stomach (no food thirty minutes prior) and take with 3-4 ounces of water.  Start at 2 grams of Arginine and 1 gram of Orthininine for the first two nights and then you can double the dosage from there.  Most people see their best results when they are between 2 and 4 grams of Arginine.  Higher doses only make your toilet water more valuable.  The effects of these amino acids is to deepen the sleep cycle and therefore result in your body promoting more natural production of Human Growth Hormone.  The effects are stronger with a twenty year old, than with a middle age individual, but studies have shown this effect to be seen on a double blinded blood study of individuals up to 75 years of age.


Your body uses the amino acid L-tryptophan to make serotonin, the main chemical that helps you with sleep.  Adrenaline and tryptophan are antagonist to each other and so lower levels of one will normally result in higher levels of the other.  Never mix tryptophan, melatonin, and/or SSRIs, use them separately for best effectiveness.  The typical dosage of tryptophan is 500 mg, 30 minutes prior to bed on an empty stomach.  A hand full of shelled sunflower nuts has approximately 500 mg of L-tryptophan.  Turkey is very high in L-tryptophan and it works very effectively as demonstrated by your relatives every Thanksgiving holiday.  ZZZZZzzzzzZZZZZzzzzzz


Various other herbs are available to help calm your body down and make you feel more relaxed.  Simply put, many of these herbs have similar mechanisms of action to other drugs that result in the calm feeling.  Valerian root for example is thought to affect the same receptor sites that are normal hosted by serotonin, but the true mechanism of action is not universally agreed upon.  Consider that about 80% of all drugs are from plants and you can see why herbs can be just as effective and also just as dangerous if used long term.


Here is a simple one to try first, take a B complex just with your last meal.  The effects of the B vitamins are very helpful to normal nerve function and the production of normal deeper sleep.








·         SLEEP 4.5, 6, 7.5, OR 9 HOURS







Some people don’t need this type of assistance, but a great many of people have been helped by it. Understanding the importance of sleep is one of the keys to improving your fitness level.  Are you having trouble bulking up?  It is likely associated with poor sleep, not your training.  Are you having trouble getting lean?  It is more likely associated with poor sleep and your cheat meals!  Hey, learn to take the responsibility for what you do and then what you look like.  It all goes together.

Yours in Health!

Dr. David Ryan

Columbus Chiropractic Center Director

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Antagonism of serotonergic 5-HT receptors: mutual improvement of sleep, cognition and mood? Landolt HP, Wehrle R., Eur J Neurosci. 2009 May;29(9):1795-809. Epub 2009 Apr 28.

The relationship between gastroesophageal reflux disease and sleep.  Fass R., Curr Gastroenterol Rep. 2009 Jun;11(3):202-8.

Sleep deprivation, fatigue, medical error and patient safety. Sugden C, Aggarwal R, Darzi A., Am J Surg. 2009 May 8.

Goodman & Gillman’s The Parmacological Basis of Therapeutics: Drs Brunton, Parker, and Lazo, 11th ed. 2005, McGraw Hill Publishing

The Father of Sleep Medicine

Sleep and Wakefulness: Nathaniel Kleitman. (The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, and Cambridge University Press, 1939. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 21:370-371. J., E. (1940).

6 Responses for Getting Better Between the Sheets: Why Missing Sleep Is Worse Than Missing Training!

  1. June 25, 2009 9:03 am

    I found this article to have a wealth of info and tho I use several of the tips already I was happy to pick up some more to try. I use a fan,read for a few mins. while I relax, drink chamamile /valerion root tea,limit my fluids and meditate some to calm myself..

  2. June 25, 2009 11:23 am

    Alway thankful when someone like you takes the time to say how much they like the article. It inspires me to write more and do more for self education and self help articles for people like you.

    Thank you again,
    God Bless
    Dr. Ryan

  3. nick


    August 15, 2010 10:02 pm

    what gym do you go to? i think i have seen you at health works

  4. February 8, 2011 6:30 pm

    I train at Metro Fitness in Columbus, Ohio. I also train at Olentangy Orange High School, Urban Active on Polaris, Alum Creek Dam (Stairs and running path) and most parking lots if there is a truck to pull or push. All are welcome to train along side, it is always nice to see a fresh face and meet a new friend.

  5. February 8, 2011 6:31 pm

    aktorki, thank you for your kind comments, I do try hard. Other articles are searchable with “Dr. David Ryan” as the key words. Keep training, keep praying.

  6. June 23, 2011 6:59 pm

    Thank you for your kind words. Always a blessing to help others as Jesus told us to do.
    Best to you and a great nights sleep.