When you go to bed, you want to wake up refreshed and ready to face the day.
You want to do this consistently.
You want it to take the least amount of time, but the maximum amount of benefit.
However, if you’re like most people, you’re not getting the most out of your sleep. You might be frustrated when you wake up in the morning and you don’t feel ready for the day.
Each morning turns into a hassle, each alarm clock alert a taunt as you struggle to open your eyes. Your head rests against the side of your shower, and your eyes dangerously doze as you drive in on the morning commute.
The thing is, we all want better sleep.
The bad news? Hardly any of us are getting the sleep that we deserve.
The good news? You can start getting better sleep tonight. How? By learning what different factors you need to monitor for your sleep.
Let’s start with the basics.
First, there is the quality versus quantity categories. You’ll want to start by looking at the quantity first and quality second.
Quantity is very simple. You’ll need to experiment with how different amounts affect you.
The baseline recommendation is 8 hours of sleep per night for optimal physical, mental, and emotional health.
However, your individual needs will most likely vary. There are two ways to focus on that.
The best way is to do something on your next consecutive days off.
Go to bed at night, and then try waking up without an alarm. Log what time you went to bed, and what you woke up. Do that again for the next day, then average the results. If you got 10 hours of sleep the first night, but only 7 hours of sleep the second night, then you should shoot for a baseline of 8.5 hours of sleep per night, and adjust from there.
The second way to determine quantity is to start with 8 hours per night, and then experiment with decreasing/increasing time by 30 minutes over the course of a week.
You will intuitively know when the amount of sleep is working for you or against you. There are some baseline “tests” that you can take to measure your brain activity and see if it improves based on sleep or gets worse. These will be covered in a later post.
Once you settle on a quantity of sleep, then shift gears to looking at the quality of sleep.
As I mentioned in my previous post, sleep is a very intuitive activity that all creatures have been doing since the dawn of time. Now, modern sleep science has opened up a whole need world of possibilities for sleep, and it’s possible to get the consistently best sleep ever, every night.
No supplements, no gimmicks, no short term solutions.
All long-term, sustainable solutions that have been proven to help you sleep better.
Sleep quality comes down to a variety of factors that were touched on in the Modern Sleep Problem article.
Quality sleep starts with:
- Preparing for the next day
- “Winding-down” process
And moves on to:
- Sleep environment
- Sheet Coverage
- Clothing Choice
- Sleeping Position
- Outlook for the Future
- 10/2/1 Rule
We’ll touch on each point briefly, then wrap it all up at the end and recap the steps to take to establish your sleep health baseline.
Effective sleep starts at the beginning and end of each day with a regular routine. I’ll cover this in greater detail, but you want to do the same sequence of activities in the morning and night.
For example, at night you might want to: –> Put away your phone –> set your lunch and breakfast for the next day –> prepare your clothes for the next day –> get all of your materials together –> take a shower –> brush your teeth –> dim the lights –> read 20 minutes of fiction (more on this later) –> journal for 10 minutes –> envision yourself falling asleep and waking on the first alarm the next day –> go to bed.
In the morning, you might: –> Wake up on the first alarm –> Check your phone for texts/email –> read the morning news for 10 minutes –> shower –> brush teeth –> get dressed –> eat breakfast –> write for 20 minutes –> drive to work.
Diet will be covered in extensive detail, but the summary is a simple message from Michael Pollan: Eat (whole) food, mostly plants, not too much.
Exercise has tremendous benefits on stress levels, sleep quality, and overall health. This will also be covered in extensive detail, but exercise can be a simple 20 minute walk in the morning, on your lunch hour, when you get home from work, after dinner, or during the late evening.
Listen to your favorite album, better yourself through listening to an audiobook or a favorite podcast, or spend the time reflecting and thinking deeply. Whatever you do, try to walk for at least 20 minutes on top of any other weight lifting, team sports, or group exercise you might do for that day.
Your routine will entirely depend on your schedule, goals, priorities, and lifestyle. The key point is you want it to be the same every morning and night so your body realizes when its time to go to bed and when its time to wake up. This will help your circadian rhythm adjust itself.
You have to plan your sleep environment. You want the room to be as dark as you can make it. No nightlights, minimal lightness from alarm clocks, and you should use black-out curtains if you need them.
Your sheets should be a smooth cotton or silk as the bedsheet and first sheet. You want to be between cotton/silk layers when you go to bed. If you want to add blankets, add them on top of that layer, so you can keep the cool cotton layers on you.
Humans sleep better in the cold. Keeping your room at 68 degrees or under would be ideal. You can use air conditioning or a fan in the summer, and a furnace or space heater in the winter.
Lavender is associated with helping people sleep deeper and longer. A small sniff of 100% therapeutic grade lavender essential oil will do the trick, or you can rub a little on your wrists.
Finally, you sleep better when you have “white noise” in the background. White noise has been shown to help you sleep better and deeper. It works because your brain focuses on that sound, and it drowns out any other ambient noises that might be heard during the night, keeping you sleeping and waking up feeling rested.
The clothing you wear (or don’t wear) to bed can make a big impact on how well you sleep. Ideally, you want to sleep in minimal clothing to help get the best sleep. A basic cotton t-shirt and cotton pants work best. Avoid heavy materials that will cause you retain heat, such as wool.
When you go to sleep, try to focus on your breathing. Your mind will naturally wander, and that is ok. Each time your mind wanders, gently come back to your breathing. It should generally take you less than 20 minutes to fall asleep.
Focus on your breathing in and out. You could try a technique like the Dr. Andrew Weil 4-7-8 breathing technique where you take a 4 second inhale, 7 second hold, and 8 second exhale. You repeat until you fall asleep.
Mindset and your outlook for tomorrow can have an outsized impact on your sleep. Focus on two key areas to get the best sleep:
- What is your reason for getting out of bed tomorrow? Your family? Important work? Major project?
- Believe you are going to sleep, and be optimistic that you’re going to get the best sleep of your life tonight because you are choosing to get the best sleep you can.
The 10-3-1 Rule is simple and effective for getting your body physically and physiologically ready for the next day. Stop drinking caffeine 10 hours before your bed time, stop eating 3 hours before your bed time, and have no more blue light 1 hour before bed. Follow these simple rules and watch your sleep quality deepen tremendously while falling asleep quicker than ever before.
There are a lot of different factors that go into measuring your sleep baseline, and it might seem overwhelming. But, I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be.
When measuring your sleep, answer these 4 simple questions:
- How long did I sleep?
- How many times did I wake up during the night?
- How many times did I hit snooze?
- Did I wake up feeling refreshed?
Then, track your data over the course of the week.
Not getting enough sleep? Hitting snooze too much? Feeling groggy in the morning?
Follow the steps outlined above to improve your sleep.
The step after that? Keep tracking your sleep. Watch it improve week by week, day by day.
Pick 1 step at a time. Implement it one day or week at a time. Before you know it, you’ll be implementing all of the steps, and you’ll be getting the best sleep of your life. You’ll be one pivotal step closer to living your Peak Lifestyle.
Most importantly? You’re finally designing the life you want to live, not living the one chosen for you.
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