T Nation

Training w/ Lack of Sleep, Dangerous?

Awrite troops,

First post and looking for some advice with regards to my current situation and some outside perspective would be great. basically Iv started college and am still currently working full time nightshift. looking for peoples opinion on how i could work around the long hours and lack of sleep that my new schedule is gifting me.

basically my week looks like this: wed/thurs/fri 9am-5pm college
Work 4x12hr nightshift rotation of 4 on 4 off (so one week itll be mon-thurs, week after tues-fri and so on)
Study 5hrs on sat/mon/tues

I’m 5 weeks into this cycle and would like to start training again. Was thinking about training once per week on a Monday. On the days I’m at college I walk about 4 miles a day. My biggest concern is training when sleep deprived because on the days when work and college overlap I’m only getting 3-4.5 of broken sleep (an hour when I get in from work in the morning and an hour after college, sleep most of my 1.5 hr break at work and also try to catch as much as I can when I can in between). Have always been intermittent with regards to training but really feel like this is taking a toll on my physicality and would apprieciate any advice or suggestions you guys might have.

Btw Height : 5’11"
Weight : 88kg
Age. : 28
Waist. : 34in (don’t know body fat %)

So I guess what I want to know is what you guys would do in this situation. Is it feasible to train twice a week?any recovery tips for mitigating the sleep? Anything really.

Thanks in advance.
Sean

What you need right now is to find out how to get adequate sleep.

That could mean:

  • reduce the days/hours you work, and/or find a new job
  • use student loans and cut back on the work
  • take less credit hours

It doesn’t sound like you’re recovering enough from your daily life as is; adding any training to it is just going to tax your system further.

What you’re doing might make sense in your head right now, but it will catch up to you down the road.

Thanks for the reply. Due to the course I’m doing I can’t get student funding this year,so the plan is to get by this year then go part time and subsidise the income with student loans from next year. Yeah wed-fri I’m like a zombie but usually have a long sleep on fri and am feeling good by waking up on Sunday, that’s why I was thinking of putting a training day in on a Monday.

The only serious danger would lie in your brain not working right and you making mistakes while lifting heavy things. If you’re not too worried you’ll be out of it enough to make mistakes, then there’s little danger.

It’ll impact your ability to grow and maintain muscle, 'cause sleep is possibly the third most important factor in building muscle (after food and exercise). But not danger.

Thanks commented. I’m leaning toward what your saying.been feeling totally recuperated by Mondays so seems to make sense to train then. Don’t expect to really grow at all but would hope that something is better than nothing in this case. Although Lorenz is right also, not an ideal situation to be training.

If any of you guys know of any other posts that address something similar please point me in the direction.have looked but haven’t seen anything.

Does anyone have a training programme they could suggest for my situation? Was thinking of just doing 5x5 for squat,dead and bench.

I guess you could just do the volume day of the texas method… supposedly it’s what drives most of the strength gains.

Yeah that looks similar to what I was thinking.does the deadlift really take that much recovery that 1 set is enough? Any ideas on nutrition?

Will give this a go for 6 weeks and see how it goes.appreciate the input.

Well it’s been over 6 weeks since I started this and I was thinking I should follow up with an update.

I have been training once a week on a Monday and it’s been going well.have made some small strenth gains and have been consistent which I suppose is as much as you can ask from any training schedule.my session looks like this;

Cleans 5x2reps
Squat 5x5
Press 5x5
Deadlift 1x5
Chins 30reps total
Dips 5x10

For the work with the barbell I just work up to a heaviest weight on the last set.chins are max reps each set upto 30 reps (took six sets last time) when I get to 3 sets I’ll start adding weight.im adding weight to the dips next session.

My diet hasn’t really changed much.was thinking of adding in some protein shakes for convenience.started taking zma last week and really feel like it’s helping my recovery from the busy work/study schedule.

It’s been a pretty hard 6-7 weeks all told and after some evaluation I’m going to take some of Lorez advice and am quitting my job to concentrate on studying.

Thanks for the advice u guys have me…keep it coming cause I’m all ears for other peoples take on things.

It sounds like you are going to have a challenging few months until your college course stops for the summer. My advice would be to fit workouts in wherever you can. If you feel refreshed waking up on Sunday, train then and again on Monday if that suits. If the next time you can train is Friday or whenever then that’s when you need to train. If your shift pattern is 4 on 4 off, then your workout schedule should follow this pattern.

Obviously it would be better if you could get 8-9 hours unbroken sleep every night and train 5.30pm 6 days per week but that’s not going to happen. It’s a truism that you can only do the best you can with the resources that you have available (time, money etc). So I would focus on training when you can, eating clean when you can and sleeping when you can. I would try to get in more than one workout per week as you are unlikely to see any long term gains with this.

I knew a guy who worked 12 hour night shifts and was a pro MMA heavyweight. He would work all night, drive to the gym, train for 4 hours, eat sleep and do it all again the next day. The bottom line is if you want the body and the lifestyle it is going to take work at this stage in your life.

I was wondering how long you have been lifting for and whether you live in a city or not.

i am a big believer in once a week training. i think you will be suprised how much you can grow. not only that,you may even grow more than before. got to sleep tho! take a look at my one workout per week log in the over 35 lifter. good luck with all you are doing. i respect the effort. drive, and ambition. Confusion

[quote]Seaniebravo wrote:
Awrite troops,

First post and looking for some advice with regards to my current situation and some outside perspective would be great. basically Iv started college and am still currently working full time nightshift. looking for peoples opinion on how i could work around the long hours and lack of sleep that my new schedule is gifting me.

basically my week looks like this: wed/thurs/fri 9am-5pm college
Work 4x12hr nightshift rotation of 4 on 4 off (so one week itll be mon-thurs, week after tues-fri and so on)
Study 5hrs on sat/mon/tues

I’m 5 weeks into this cycle and would like to start training again. Was thinking about training once per week on a Monday. On the days I’m at college I walk about 4 miles a day. My biggest concern is training when sleep deprived because on the days when work and college overlap I’m only getting 3-4.5 of broken sleep (an hour when I get in from work in the morning and an hour after college, sleep most of my 1.5 hr break at work and also try to catch as much as I can when I can in between). Have always been intermittent with regards to training but really feel like this is taking a toll on my physicality and would apprieciate any advice or suggestions you guys might have.

Btw Height : 5’11"
Weight : 88kg
Age. : 28
Waist. : 34in (don’t know body fat %)

So I guess what I want to know is what you guys would do in this situation. Is it feasible to train twice a week?any recovery tips for mitigating the sleep? Anything really.

Thanks in advance.
Sean
[/quote]

Hard to tell when you start your work shifts. Usually it is something like 7pm?

At any rate, your recovery will be severely hampered for a while–you can overcome this. It’s been done before. It just takes working into a routine carefully and gradually is all.

Advice: Train at a time you are normally awake–whether it is during hours you are typically at class but on days off from class, or whether it is at a time you are normally at work. If you put your activity during periods of time when your body is already kinda used to doing stuff it will make it easier on you.

Also, train briefly. Yes it is possible to train 2x a week. Not optimal, but it’s better than nothing and a lot of athletes do this while in competitive season (football esp) for the same reasons–limited recovery and a lot of stress and travel and tackling. Ideally you’d do 3x a week if possible.

Training sessions should be purely compound movements. Any time spent with isolation exercises, unless as a pre-fatigue or post-fatigue superset, is a waste of valuable gym time in such a schedule. The things going to make the biggest impact on your strength and physique are the things where you can involve the most muscles at a time–squats, barbell and db benches, chins, rows, deadlifts/rack pulls, push presses.

Training sessions MUST cover the whole body. Minimum pick 1 leg, 1 back, and 1 pushing (bench or push press variety) exercise and hit those three movements with something like 5x5, after a warm-up at lighter weights. If you could train 4 times a week and upper body/lower body split would be great, but that doesn’t look to be in the cards. If you can train 3x a week you might try the push/pull/legs split or the upper/lower/whole body split, but I believe the whole body training is the most efficient use of your very limited time. Ideally it would be nice if you could pick 5 exercises–2 back, 2 pushing, and 1 leg. However, to start slow I would say just do 3 exercises for a few weeks and see how you do.

Tips for sleeping–it is absolutely invaluable to get zinc and melatonin and take them before bed on an empty stomach (if you need you can take them 30 min prior to bed and then have a shake or something 30 min later right as you hit bed). They’ll help your sleep quality and you have to make the absolute most of that to recover from your schedule and training.

[quote]Aragorn wrote:
Tips for sleeping–it is absolutely invaluable to get zinc and melatonin and take them before bed on an empty stomach (if you need you can take them 30 min prior to bed and then have a shake or something 30 min later right as you hit bed). They’ll help your sleep quality and you have to make the absolute most of that to recover from your schedule and training.[/quote]

How do you dose the zinc?

Personally, magnesium has been vital to improving my sleep.

Guys thanks for the replies…they have been helpful and encouraging,which is always welcome.

Aragorn, thanks for such a comprehensive reply-it’s definitely given me some food for thought. I started taking ZMA 2 weeks ago and I do feel like it is helping to make sleep quality higher.when I started this I was torn between training once or twice a week and the reason I chose once a week was because I had reservations about the benefits of training in a high state of fatigue. That being said there almost definitely is periods where I could train 2x week, so i can only put that down to my time management. That’s something I’ll look to address for my next period upto the Xmas break. Aye my shifts 7pm-7am although my team at work are good and cover my last hour so I can get some extra Zzz’s. Beers are on me boys aye!!

NW, thanks for your input which was also very thorough.my diets probably more dialled in now than it ever has been…which is weird cause iv got less time to deal with it.i guess the mind has been focused to the task at hand eh?

Confusion, thanks for the words of encouragement and I will defo look up your training log soon.

Handed my notice in at work tonight so 90 days time will be taking it up a few gears.daunting though.

Right cheers guys, take it easy
Sean