5 Steps to Improve Sleep
Updated: Dec 10, 2021
In a recent article I mentioned some forms of Biohacking, and I asserted once or twice in the article, that despite how cool the latest trends were (massage guns, cold lasers, etc.) if you are not optimizing the "Big 4" you'll never really perform at your best. Those "Big 4" would include getting good sleep, being physically active, maintaining a healthy diet for your lifestyle, and reducing mental and emotional stress.
We as humans like to follow the paths of least resistance however, if we can just throw money at our problems and "solve them" that way then we'd often times defer towards doing that. Its completely rational in our perspective to proceed this way as many of us often feel like we lack the time & energy to appropriately solve our physical, emotional or mental problems. This could possibly because we often feel rushed or behind the curve.
Well, if we really wanted to get ahead of the curve and do almost no work to obtain a feeling of readiness, balance and have an influx of more energy to tackle the day, the least we could do is optimize our sleep!
So how do we get better sleep? What should we begin doing or stop doing to help us optimize our sleep since it can have so many benefits to our physical, emotional and mental health? Check out the below options laid out to help us optimize our sleep.
Follow the Light: Expose yourself to natural light (while outdoors, if possible) earlier in the day. Getting enough natural light during the day will also keep our body clock on a healthy sleep-wake cycle. Dim the lights when you’re home at night. In addition to being more low key, indirect light is less disruptive the body’s natural circadian rhythms. Your PC & Phone are sleep killers. Even in night mode our phone's Blue and Yellow (in night mode) light will signal the hormones that promote being awake and reduce the chances of us dropping into our normal sleep cycles for up to a handful of hours. Either we should get blue-light blocking glasses (usually a $25-$50 expense) or resolve to stop checking social media and/or our work emails 1.5-2 hours before our bedtime. Go to sleep in a dark room. Studies show excess light in the bedroom can affect sleep quality, disrupting the body's natural circadian rhythm. Artificial light, such as that emitted by smartphones, e-readers, and televisions, cues our brains to wake up, thus suppressing the production of melatonin, your highly prized sleep-producing hormone. While eye masks can help, your skin can also absorb light like a sponge, so do your best to blot out any harmful, artificial or natural light in you room.
Limit your Vices: Consider limiting caffeine and alcohol later in the day. Part of winding down at night actually begins during the day. It includes exercising early, limiting caffeine — coffee, tea, and soda — after lunch,and perhaps skipping happy hour, since alcohol too late in the day can diminish sleep quality. And for those fans of an afternoon "toke" while marijuana users find it can help them get to sleep faster, researchers have also specified that it disrupts the normal sleep cycle, resulting in bad sleep.
Soothe your Wild Soul: Bathe before bedtime. Taking a warm bath or shower 1-2 hours before bed has been shown to relax both the body and mind, in one study lowering both heart rate and blood pressure. Heat also relaxes tense muscles, and helps you de-stress. Your body will also start to release the heat from your bath/shower and that will make you begin to feel cooler — which is good as lower room temperatures have been linked to better sleep. Music can soothe us. Rather than listening to the chatter in your head/mind — when you get home, put on your favorite music. While classical music has been shown to lower blood pressure and reduce stress, any music that you enjoy will help you quiet down and lift your mood.
Make your Room a Sleep Palace: Declutter your bedroom. One study suggests that those surrounded by clutter were more likely to have a sleep disorder. What your eyes see when you walk into a room can influence whether or not you’ll have an easy time falling asleep — so clean up your room. Lower the temperature. Our bodies are programmed to experience a slight dip in core temperature in the evening. Turning the thermostat down at night (to between 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit) may help with temperature regulation and signal your body that it’s time for bed. Reduce the noise. Some areas in a town can be noisier than others, consider investing in a white noise machine (or a fan as that'll help lower the temperature in the room too). Pick the best bedding. There are a range of things you can consider when it comes to sleep, but choosing the best bedding for you may have to come first, beds are expensive and if you choose the wrong one it might be hard to sleep on.Test your bedding and pillows to make sure you're in the best possible sleep environment for you and/or your partner.
Sleep & Restlessness: Leave the Room. If you can’t get back to sleep after trying for 20 minutes, don’t try to, says Michael Perlis, PhD, director of the behavioral sleep medicine program at the University of Pennsylvania. “The problem with staying in bed for any appreciable amount of time is that this reinforces sleeplessness, physiologically and psychologically,” Which may make your body feel less prone towards sleep when you're in your bedroom. When you leave the bedroom on those occasions though try keeping the lights low in the room you go to and practice some peaceful activities; listening to soft music, meditating, deep breathing techniques or reading. Don't switch on your phone, TV or PC if you can avoid them, as the light they emit can signal your brain that its time to get up.
I hope each of us learned something from the list I curated. I find that if we do the little things mentioned above we would start to reap serious rewards as a result from better sleep. We should see our cognitive abilities increase, our mood become more positive, and our physical readiness improve too — just from getting the better sleep!
Also, for your own curiosity; below are a list of sources I used to make this article in case you wanted to do more research.
Sleep deprivation: Impact on cognitive performance https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2656292/
Short- and long-term health consequences of sleep disruption
How Dark Should Your Room Really Be for Sleep?
Effects of light on human circadian rhythms, sleep and mood
Artificial light during sleep linked to obesity
The Best Temperature for Sleep
That is White Noise?
Can't Sleep? Just get Out of Bed
People at risk of hoarding disorder may have serious complaints about sleep
Bathe before Bedtime Best for Sleep
Check out Matthew Walker's book "Why We Sleep" as that will offer you a lot of insights on the latest sleep research and how you can further optimize your sleep.