I 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 screwed.

Their cortisol and estrogen are 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 makeup and their personalities. They are usually wired with tons of nervous energy and tend to think too much and overanalyze things.

That’s some stuff you need to get over on your own. Read some Zen books and chill the hell 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 11 p.m. 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 8 p.m. 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 3 p.m. 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 to 30 minutes of sunlight each day, or get one of those goLITEs by Philips 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 cellphone in the bedroom.

12. Eat earlier. Try not to eat too close to bedtime if this keeps you up. 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 nighttime, 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.

Jason Ferruggia is a renowned fitness expert based out of Santa Monica, CA. He's trained hundreds of clients and been featured in various media outlets during his 18-year career. Find more of his content on his website and follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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