Updated: Nov 15, 2019
"In the end, winning is sleeping better" - Jodi Foster
How do you feel when you get a good night's sleep? I know I feel pretty amazing. But too often when life gets busy, sleep is the first thing to go. Getting amazing sleep starts with a decision to prioritize sleep. You deserve to feel great during the day, and getting an amazing night's sleep is the foundation of feeling great.
AT NIGHT, DECLARE WAR ON LIGHT
Back when humans lived in nature, they went to sleep when the sun went down and woke when the sun came up. Their brains knew what time of day it was based on the sun. Today we have artificial electric lights that shine all hours of the day and night. When you look at your phone before bed, the light from your screen tells your brain that the sun is still out. When your brain thinks it's daytime, it is hard to fall asleep. Here are a few ways we can wage war against the blue light that keeps us up at night.
1. Plug your phone in away from your bed
“But I use my phone for my alarm!”
Having your phone on the other side of the room has forced me to get out of bed to turn off my alarm in the morning, instead of hitting the snooze and rolling over.
Additionally, having your phone away from your bed will make sure that you don’t lie awake watching YouTube videos until 2am (I’ve been there), and that texts don't wake you up in the middle of the night.
2. Blue light blocking glasses
These glasses block the "blue light" that tells your brain it is daytime. I usually put these on 30 minutes before I want to go to bed. After 10 -15 mins, I start to get drowsy and I can slip right into sleep.
3. Make sure that your room is DARK.
Like, can't see your hand in front of your face dark.
BC dorms have a bunch of random lights that you can cover up with black tape.
Any other annoying little lights.
Also, make sure that you close your curtains. Otherwise, light will shine through your window like the sun and mess up your circadian rhythm.
If your room still is not as dark as you would like it, you can use a sleep mask. Normal sleep masks tend to irritate my eyes, so I use this one instead which has concave inserts for your eyes.
1. Calm the inner chatter
There is a great quote that says, "My bed is a magical place where I suddenly remember everything I was supposed to do."
I know this has happened for me. I can find myself worrying about things I have to do the next day or just worrying in general.
In order to calm this chatter, I have found it helpful to write down everything that I want to do the next day on a piece of paper before I go to bed. That way I don't have to constantly remind myself of it, it is there on my paper for me to deal with tomorrow.
Meditation has also been extremely helpful. Simply acknowledging my thoughts, letting them go, and focusing on my breath helps me slip into sleep. My favorite paid meditation app is the Sam Harriss Waking Up app. My favorite free resource is Tara Brach's Podcast, and many meditations can be found on YouTube as well.
2. 4 - 7 - 8 Breathing
If I can't fall asleep, I use this breathing routine for 4 minutes or less and my eyelids start to get very heavy. Breathing like this slows your heart rate and calms your mind.
Breathe IN for 4 seconds
Hold breath for 7 seconds
Breathe OUT slowly for 8 seconds
Repeat until drowsy enough to fall asleep.
3. A Supplement that works better than Alcohol or Melatonin
Apple Cider Vinegar + Honey
I got this tip from Tim Ferriss' book, Tribe of Mentors, and it has since become a staple of my nightly routine.
You will need:
2 spoonfuls of Apple Cider Vinegar
1 spoonful of honey
Mix the above into hot water and drink through a STRAW. (Otherwise the vinegar isn't good for your teeth).
This cocktail regularly puts me out like I got hit with a tranquilizer. Give it a try and see if it works for you.
Alcohol and Melatonin are bad solutions to not being able to sleep
Even though alcohol may help you fall asleep, you will have lower quality sleep if you have alcohol in your system. Your body will not enter restorative, REM sleep, and as a result you wake up feeling drowsy or hungover.
Melatonin is sometimes called the "Dracula of hormones" because it only comes out at night. More specifically, it only comes out when it is dark out. If you declare war on light and follow the steps above, your body will naturally produce enough melatonin for you to fall asleep. The risk in taking melatonin supplements every night, is that your body will develop a dependence on the melatonin, and stop producing enough melatonin to sleep without the pills.
4. A request to your subconscious
"Never go to bed without a request to your subconscious." – Thomas Edison
I don't know the science behind this, but sometimes I will literally tell myself:
I will get amazing, restful sleep tonight.
I will wake up energized and excited.
I will do [thing I want to accomplish tomorrow]
True story: The first time I did this I woke up with a big smile on my face, feeling great. I couldn't figure out why until I remembered I did this affirmation the night before... Give it a try and see if it works for you!
5. If you still can't fall asleep, get up and reset
If you are lying awake in bed for more than 30 minutes, you brain can start to associate your bed with being awake instead of sleep. Rather than tossing and turning, it can be helpful to get up and read a book in dim light. When you start to feel drowsy, head back to bed. This way your brain can relearn that your bed is a place for sleep only.
DURING THE DAY
1. Get Your Rays
Just like darkness tells your brain its night-time, sunlight tells it that it is day-time. Open up your shades when you wake up and let the sunlight in. If possible, try to get outside soon after you wake up. This will help you feel alert in the morning and sleep better the next night.
2. Avoid Caffeine at least 6 hours before bed
A standard cup of coffee takes about 6 -10 hours to completely leave your system. You can count backwards from your desired bedtime to set yourself a caffeine curfew (I usually recommend 2-4pm) so that it doesn't keep you awake at night.
1. How to Nap and not feel like crap
We have all been there, you hit the pillow for a quick nap on gameday and end up sleeping for 3 hours. When you wake up, you feel worse than before the nap. There is a smarter way to do this.
For a boost in energy, take a nap for 30 minutes or less. That way you will wake up before entering the deeper stages of sleep.
Try to avoid the 60 minute nap. After 60 minutes, you are in the deepest stage of sleep. When I have napped for an hour, I wake up feeling like a groggy zombie rising from my grave. You're better off sleeping for another 30 minutes and waking up after one full sleep cycle.
After a 90 minute nap, you will wake up feeling rested and energized.
The best time of the day to nap is between 1pm and 3pm, when your body is naturally tired but it is not too close to bed time.
Remember, you don't need to do all of these things to get a good night's sleep. Even changing just one thing you do every day might do the trick. If you want a health coach to help you put some of these practices into action, you can sign up for an individual or group appointment here.