“You can have the best diet in the world, have the best exercise program, be free from emotional stress, but if you aren’t sleeping for WHATEVER reason, it is virtually impossible to be healthy.”
–Dr. Joseph Mercola
Last week we spoke about “Becoming a morning person”. I want to encourage you and clarify that you certainly do not have to be a morning person to be a successful, effective, happy human being. Throughout history, there have been world-changers that had a slew of different sleeping habits (morning people, night people, nappers). However, you should have the capacity to get up and be effective whenever you want/need to! It always bothers me to hear people say something like, “I just can’t get going in the morning without my cup of coffee”…or “I will be miserable tomorrow if I stay up late”. We should be able to do whatever we need to do and still be happy, content and extremely effective.
Now with that said, there are some habits that if executed consistently will cause your productivity to be maximized. And isn’t that what we want…to get the most (and best) work done when we work, to make the best memories with our family and friends when we are spending time with them, to have our best workout ever every time we train, etc?
In a perfect world, we would sleep between the hours of 10pm and 6am. Another way to look at it would be to sleep when it is dark outside and be awake and active when it is light. Seems pretty obvious but let me expand. A couple hundred years ago, there were no electric lights so people generally arose with the sunrise and then ended their day shortly after sunset. This is what you are programmed for based on your circadian rhythm AKA your 24 hour internal clock. Now if this is not an option because of work schedule or babies, etc, don’t worry. You can still be an amazing sleeper.
Good Sleep Practices
–Consistency in sleep habits. Same (or at least similar) sleep time and wake time everyday, even on weekends
–Get exposure to sunlight during the day
–Keep room as dark as possible when sleeping. Install black out drapes. If a dark room is not an option, purchase an eye mask
–Turn off computer/tv/cell phone. At least 1 hour before desired sleep time. If you need to keep your cell phone or computer on, dimming the brightness is a decent option.
–Keep work out of the bedroom.
–Add white noise if needed. I have an old air purifier that I have had for years. I don’t think it does anything beneficial to the air anymore. But it makes a great hum that drowns out the sounds of living in a big city 🙂
–Keep a journal/notepad next to your bed. To record thoughts/ideas that might otherwise go rogue and cause your mind to race. That way you can forget about them and review them in the morning.
–Create a “bed time routine”. Visualization, deep breathing, reading, relaxing music, etc.
–Exercise! A Stanford University Medical School study found that after 16 weeks in a moderate-intensity exercise program, subjects were able to fall asleep 15 minutes earlier. That is huge!
How Much Sleep Is Enough?
Now there is one other topic I want to cover. How much sleep do you actually need? This is a very common question and there is not one single correct answer.
Dr. Rubin Naiban of Circadian Health Associates answers like this,
“Enough hours so that your energy is sustained through the day without artificial stimulation, with the exception of a daytime nap”
I think that is a pretty solid and simple outlook. It takes a little trial and error. But ideally we want to find the amount of sleep that causes us to have energy all day long, to be able to focus and operate creatively, to have effective memory and to feel recovered physically from day to day. Here is some great advice on how to find that magic number for you…just how much sleep you need to be the most amazing version of yourself every single day.
“The next time you get a break, a vacation of a week or more, let yourself sleep as long as you can. Try to go to bed at the same time and sleep as long as you can every night. While you’ll sleep longer the first couple of days as you repay your sleep debt, pretty soon your length of sleep should level off, showing you how much snooze you should be getting.”
-Dr. Lawrence J. Epstein, author of “The Harvard Medical School Guide to a Good Night’s Sleep”
Common Sleep Mistakes
1. Eating excess sugar and grains
2. Eating allergens (commonly wheat and “conventional” dairy) before bed (and in general)
3. Drinking coffee after lunch time and/or lots of fluids in the evening
4. Keeping a clock where you see it every time you wake up in the middle of the night (1am…2am…4am…is it morning yet?)
5. Staring at a computer, TV, or cell phone screen well into the evening until you go to sleep. This confuses your circadian rhythm (internal clock) and can disrupt melatonin production.
Last thought. I saw this interview the other day with one of my favorite healthy lifestyle teachers, Dr. Mercola and sleep expert, Dr. Rubin Naiman. They give great insight into some of the myths about sleeping such as why it isn’t a bit deal if you regularly wake up in the middle of the night, why “sleeping-pill sleep” isn’t the same as actual sleep and how many hours our ancestors probably slept before modern light inventions. Click below to check that out.
This week, see if you can start adding in some of these habits and removing the mistakes. Let me know how it goes! Sleep well!
Rested and energized,