Sleep is so under valued in our modern era. Sleep is medicine for your body. And lack of sleep can literally kill you. 12 tips below and 2 books will improve your sleep, health and quality of life.
1. Don't "jet lag" yourself every weekend. Going to bed and waking up at the same time 7 days a week is the #1 thing you can do to improve your sleep. Unfortunately, most of us stay up later on weekends and sleep in later. This literally is creating "jet lag" every Monday morning and potentially for several days into the work week. Change this habit. A consistent sleep schedule is critical.
2. No caffeine after Noon. Caffeine has a "half-life," so it takes up to 8 hours and sometimes more to get out of your system. Only drink caffeine in the morning and ideally not a lot of it. Green tea is a good substitute for higher caffeinated coffee.
3. Track your sleep on a FitBit, Apple Watch, Garmin etc. I have been tracking my sleep this past year on my FitBit Charge 2 and it has been a game changer. FitBits track the 4 stages of your sleep: REM, Deep, Light and Awake. Seeing these metrics has improved my habits to have a more consistent bed time and try to get more REM and Deep sleep, the 2 critical stages of sleep.
4. No screen time 1 hour+ before bedtime. The blue light from our smart phones, laptops and TVs cuts into our internal melatonin production, which is critical for getting to sleep. Shut it all down at night. Or get some blue light blocking glasses, if you must. I think being on screens keeps your mind firing too much, so you're not relaxing before bed.
5. No stress before bed. Relax. Stress is really not helpful to getting good sleep. Working before bed can be stressful. Instead talk to your family, read some fiction, take a hot bath or shower, or meditate. Chillax for a good hour+ before bed!
6. See a doctor. Get a sleep study. Sleep apnea can kill you. If you are having serious sleep issues I highly recommend you see a doctor as soon as possible. You might have sleep apnea, which can kill you. Sleep apnea is where you stop breathing hundreds of time during the night, so your brain wakes you up to get you breathing again. This is horrible on your heart and your sleep stages. A doctor and a sleep study can save your life. You might need a CPAP machine. Or, there is a new implant called Inspire that works like a pacemaker for sleep apnea. If you're in the Denver area, UCHealth has some great sleep doctors and an overnight sleep study clinic. Note that most sleep studies are now done in the comfort of your own bed. The clinics will train you on a device to take home, sleep one night, and bring it back. This costs only a few hundred dollars compared to a few thousand dollars for an overnight sleep study in a clinic. Your insurance hopefully will cover both, as needed.
7. Sleeping Pills don't really help you. CBTI does. I've read so much on sleep that I've learned that sleeping pills really don't help you get good quality sleep. They can knock you out like a sedative does, but they often don't allow you to get the nourishing REM and Deep sleep stages. I am sure there are some scenarios where we do indeed need sleeping pills for a short period of time. But your goal should be to get off sleeping pills and CBTI can help big time.
8. CBTI - Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Insomnia. CBTI is really what you want to embark on if you have sleep issues. This is a process where a doctor will help you inventory all of your sleep habits or your "sleep hygiene." They will work with you to improve these habits and improve your sleep. This is therapy. And it is a beautiful thing. There is no shame in therapy for whatsoever you're working to improve in your life. Therapy works and can save your life.
9. Exercise helps you sleep better. Staying active helps you sleep better at night. Ideally you want to exercise in the morning when you wake up. However, exercising anytime of the day up until early evening is great. You just don't want to exercise late in the evening before bed. This will be counterproductive to your sleep, as your body is heated up.
10. Eating healthy nutritional meals helps sleep. This is pretty self explanatory. Eating too much sugar can spike your insulin, which can affect your sleep. Or eating rich foods that upset your stomach affect your sleep. Eat healthy for a myriad of reasons, with sleep being one. Limit alcohol too, as it can negatively affect your REM sleep.
11. Don't go cheap on your mattress or pillow or sheets. It is worth it to invest in a great mattress, pillow and sheets. You are spending a third of your life on your bed, and I personally have found that a better mattress indeed helps with better sleep. I currently sleep on a hybrid mattress of memory foam on top and traditional springs on the bottom. I got a terrific deal on this at Mattress Firm, negotiating 25% off retail price. I also found an amazing curved pillow at a Sleep Number store. The nice thing about Mattress Firm and many other stores is that you can test out a mattress for up to 3 months and then return or exchange it if it is not working well for you.
12. Sleep sound machines are great. I have used a fan for white noise for many years. I've tried white noise apps on my phone, but personally haven't found anything great yet. This past year I used a Dohm white noise machine, which was pretty good but it broke. So, I invested a bit more into this Sound+Sleep white noise machine and I am loving it.
Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson has 21 practical tips to improve your sleep. If you have any sleep issues whatsoever, start with this book. It's terrific. The book expands on many of the tips in this blog post, and has some additional interesting tips such as the importance of getting sunshine on your skin during the day to improve your sleep.
Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker is a scientific look at the importance of sleep. This book amazed me in every chapter. It explains how lack of sleep literally will kill us. Protein plaques get built up in our brains during the day and we need sleep to clean out those plaques. If we don't get enough sleep the plaques can build up, which creates significant risk of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and other brain related diseases as you age.
Check out this terrific video interview with Shawn Stevenson, author of Sleep Smarter:
I hope this blog post has been helpful! Please share in the Comments section below any sleep tips or books you would add to this post? Thanks!
p.s. I plan to blog about Work-Life Happiness at least weekly in 2018. I'd be honored if you'd subscribe to my blog's emails on my website at: www.mikepritchard.com/subscribe.html