In my constant endeavor to better myself, I happened upon the podcasts of two authors Arianna Huffington and Shawn Stevenson who were promoting their new books that emphasize the benefits of getting great sleep. Arianna, the creator of Huffington post, spoke on this podcast about a collapse she had a few years ago from burning the candle at both ends. Now, she is an advocate for sleeping well and referenced multiple successful entrepreneurs and athletes who swear by attaining good sleep. Shawn’s story was about his struggle with obesity and coping with a diagnosis of degenerate disk disease. He never found true solace in just diets, medicine, and working out, but he claims that once he decided to sleep better the weight began to fall off. Since then, he has recovered from his disk disease and has become a very famous nutritionist and trainer.
Listening to them speak made me take a harder look at my sleeping pattern and I realized I had a pretty bad relationship with sleep. I have always been prone to staying up late and getting short hours of sleep. It dates back to my childhood. I once actually couldn’t sleep for a whole week and ended up in the hospital. The doctors ended up telling me that I was trying too hard to do too much and needed to focus on relaxing more. What a novel idea. Since then I have done a lot of research on sleep and found my way to better sleep that I thought I’d share with you.
I think we all know that we need to sleep more/better but we never can seem to catch up. I think this is because our society falsely promotes lack of sleep as a consequence of being busy or having success. It’s almost looked down upon to sleep too much. People often boast about how they pulled all-nighters for this project or stayed up so late for this party; wearing their lack of sleep like a badge of honor.
On the contrary, the key to high performance is sleep. There is so much science behind this. Sleep is a keystone habit to take care of. Sleep is a performance enhancer. Good sleep is better for you than working out and eating well when trying to lose weight. Achieving and winning is a function of your brain and your brain cannot work at full capacity unless it is fully rested. Being fully charged makes you more efficient, mindful, and happier. When we sleep our brain flushes our bodies’ toxins away, repairs itself, and produces energy hormones (natural HGH). Kids have a high count of these hormones but adults stop prioritizing sleep so they start to lose their production.
Being sleep deprived makes you more irritable and makes you more prone to dwell on your mistakes. Actually, most of the time when you’re irritable or sluggish, you’re probably sleep deprived. Lack of sleep is linked to depression and anxiety, obesity, heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, cancer, and Alzheimer’s. When you’re up for 17-24 hours, you’re pretty much drunk and being sleep deprived is the same as being hung-over. A clear sign of not sleeping well is not remembering your dreams or not dreaming at all. Sleep researchers say not to lose sleep in order to get stuff done because being sleep deprived makes you dumber, hungrier and more error prone.
One of the biggest examples of the effect of lack of sleep is that drowsy driving now actually kills and injures more people per year than drunk driving. So please don’t try to push through or ever drive tired. I know I’ve even done it a few times with friends or siblings in car, never again.
Tips to get the best sleep (Tried and True):
- Get more sun during the day
- Our bodies actually go through its own version of photosynthesis which triggers our natural cycles.
- Get grounded
- Walking barefoot on sand, grass, or dirt actually reduces inflammation and puts your body in a state of rest. That’s why people are always sleeping in parks or on the beach.
- Get good exercise (morning and afternoon)
- A short morning workout does wonders because we evolved for millions of years exercising right as we woke up. This will energize your morning and also set you up to be more tired at night.
- Exercise in general prepared your body for rest later on. The key is not to work out too close to your bed time because it will keep you up.
- Create a sleep sanctuary
- Get a black out curtain
- If there’s light in your bedroom, your body is picking it up and sending messages to your brain and organs that can interfere with your sleep.
- Sleep experts suggest that your room be so dark that you can’t see your hand in front of your face.
- Eliminate TVs, laptops, electronics and clutter.
- Add plants, water fountains, sound machines etc.
- Get a real alarm clock and plug your phone far away from your bed
- Tip: Keep an alarm on both your phone and the clock so you have to get out of bed to turn the phone alarm off.
- Get a black out curtain
- Have caffeine and alcohol curfews
- Caffeine has a half-life of 8 hours so it’s technically still affecting you 8 hours after you drink it.
- Alcohol will help you get to sleep but inhibits your brain from reaching its deepest state where it flushes toxins and reorganized memories.
- Start using dim lighting and night lamps early in the night
- This sends signals to your body to start preparing for sleep.
- Give yourself a transitional time for your brain to relax before you sleep
- This helps put your mind at ease and calm down the chatter from the day’s worries.
- Putting the day behind you in preparation for tomorrow truly helps.
- Avoid blue light screens (TV, phone, comp) 30-60 minutes before bed
- Blue light is known for keeping your brain awake at night
- You can download an app called lux which removes blue light closer to bedtime
- Turn the new nightshift feature on your phone from sunset to sunrise
- Read physical books/magazines instead
- Read books intended not to matter too much at night so you can sleep easily and not worry about taking notes
- Have an actual bed time
- This sets your body on a natural rhythm so getting to sleep becomes more natural.
- This one was harder for me to implement so I started without a strict one but just knew to get to bed around midnight.
- Keep your room cool (62-68 degrees)
- The body naturally wants to cool down as you begin to sleep and this assists that process.
- It also just feels great to be under the covers in a cool room.
- Eating late at night is actually ok, avoid carbs, fats and proteins are good.
Since taking the initiative to focus on sleeping better, I definitely feel a lot better. I feel sharper and more motivated from the second I wake up. I am more productive. My muscles are less sore after hard workouts. I never really get hangovers. My temperament is almost always calm. In conclusion, I agree with Arianna and Shawn that something powerful takes place in your overall wellness when you emphasize good sleep. Let GO sleep well!
Calls to action:
- Start slowly implementing some of these tips in your routine and see if they work for you
- Please share any tips you might have for sleeping
- Please share this if you find it valuable
- Subscribe to this blog if you haven’t already!
- Let’s GO!