How you sleep in addition to how much you sleep is also very important. Here are seven steps to better sleep that help increase the quality of your sleep and clean up your sleep hygiene.
- Stop drinking caffeine after lunch. Studies show that caffeine in moderation, especially natural caffeine like tea and coffee, can be helpful to your health. But too much caffeine can be detrimental to your health and sleep cycle. Caffeine has a 6-hour half-life that takes a full 24 hours to get out of your system. If you have a cup at 8 a.m., 25% of it will still be in your system at 8 p.m. Anything after noon means at least 50% will be your system around bedtime. Caffeine also disrupts your quality of sleep by reducing rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the deep sleep you need the most. Caffeine in our bloodstream makes it harder to fall and stay asleep. When we wake up, we are still tired so we continue to drink even more caffeine, creating a vicious cycle. The worst are energy drinks!
Avoid blue light at night. Many people don’t realize that the short-wave length blue light that comes from televisions, your smartphone, tablet, and computer, halts production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. Blue light is at its peak in the morning from sunlight, so seeing blue light at night confuses your brain. As the day progresses, there is less blue light so our body produces more melatonin and we become more tired. At night, our bodies don’t expect blue light so it is very sensitive to it, so when we are in front of our phones, computers, and TV, this interferes with our hormones, sleep cycle, and ability to fall asleep! Avoid blue light at night or limit exposure through a filter.
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Set a regular sleep schedule. Our bodies go through a biological 24-hour cycle called the Circadian Rhythm. When we don’t get enough sleep, it can disrupt our rhythm since sleep loss is accumulative. Our bodies need us to sleep enough to make up for the hours that we are awake. We need consistent and predictable sleep, especially when it comes to waking up. By waking up and going to sleep at the same time, we are able to regulate our Circadian Rhythm. Our brain will acclimate and complete our sleep cycle to make sure we are awake and alert at our normal wake-up time. This is why jet lag can be difficult to get used to!
When we don’t get up at a consistent time, our brain will not know when to complete the sleep cycle and prepare you to be awake. Before electricity, sunlight regulated our sleep. In fact we used to sleep 1-2 hours more 100 years than today! To make up for sleep loss, many will try to catch up over the weekend. However doing that also messes with our system so Mondays are more difficult to get the day started right.
- Take Naps. President Eisenhower would take a nap everyday at noon to refresh himself. He realized the importance of taking power naps! After lunch, our bodies break down our food and produce melatonin, so we tend to become sleepy and groggy. Many companies are not starting to realize how important it is for their employees to take power naps and recover for a productive afternoon. Arianna Huffington has become one of the biggest proponent of resting in the workplace. I had the privilege of being able to take a power naps in energypods, a $13,000 chair where you can take a nap and wakes you up at the ideal time with vibrations and lights.
Companies like Google, Zappos, Amazon, the Huffington Post, offer these perks for employees, understanding that this is an investment, not an expense! While most of us can’t afford a device like the energypod, we can still take advantage of power naps. One strategy is to drink a cup of coffee (unless trying to cut back) and take a nap. By the time the caffeine kicks in, 15 minutes will have gone by, the ideal time for a power nap.
Wind down properly. Stop working before you go to sleep. You want to wind down and relax in preparation for sleep. Studies show that 60% of people check their work emails right before they go to bed, stimulating your brain instead of relaxing it, and also giving off blue light. Try to set a certain amount of time to avoid blue light devices before your ideal bedtime. Another thing that impacts quality sleep is interruptions. While you may not be able to change certain things you can’t control like kids crying, turn off your ringer or vibrator that goes off every time you get a notification. You can use apps that will turn off notifications during your sleep time except for emergencies.
Try not to drink too much water which make you get up to the use the restroom, and put in earplugs if your neighbor is loud. One of the best ways to relax before going to bed is to meditate. Click here for the 6 SMARTEST things you can do before you go to sleep! Studies show that it improves the quality of your sleep even if you can’t get more sleep. Studies also showed that it cut the average time in half from 40 minutes to 20 minutes to fall asleep. 91% of those studied needed less or stopped taking medication to fall asleep when meditating.
Avoid sleeping pills. These sedatives interfere with your normal sleep cycle, which is why you may have strange dreams when you take them! When the brain’s natural process is altered, it is more difficult to get the quality of sleep you need. The brain is unable to start and complete the cycle in a natural way, which disrupts your Circadian Rhythm, which in turn hurts your ability to be alert and awake.
Don’t give up! We all will stumble and fall in life. The most important you can do is to get right back up and succeed. Click here to see the top skill you need in order to reach any goal you set for yourself! Many of us have a tendency to look at it from an all or nothing perspective. If we haven’t achieved our goals immediately, then we get discouraged and give up. Studies have shown that being consistent with small improvements over time will give us the results we want. Even if we fail, what we do afterwards is what counts.
If getting 7 to 9 hours is too difficult, start by going to bed just 15 minutes earlier. Instead of cutting out caffeine altogether, cut back slowly. Switch one cup from caffeinated to decaffeinated until you are drinking the right amount of caffeine. Set small goals on when you will work and see blue screen devices before you sleep. Then gradually build on them. No professional athlete got that way overnight. It took years of hard work! Getting high-quality sleep is the same! You have to condition your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of your life to perform at your best!
Feel free to leave your sleep tips below in the comments section!
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