There is no question that quality sleep is crucial for promoting good health (and let’s be honest, good moods)! But getting enough sleep is only part of the sleep equation. You have to get the right kind of sleep to be effective.
In fact, 20%-25% of the energy your body generates supports the activities of your brain. This is why getting “good” sleep is so important and is generally defined by a few characteristics:
Falling asleep soon after getting into bed, within 30 minutes or less.
Sleeping straight through the night, waking up no more than once per night. Sleeping the recommended amount of hours for your age group.
If you’re anything like me and have struggled with getting that good sleep night after night, consider these tips and see what might work for you.
1. Clear your mind before bed.
Don’t fire up your brain right before you go to bed. Your brain needs some downtime. The most important thing is to stop working or doing anything else very mentally stimulating 1-2 hours before you go to bed. However, it’s best to also turn off the movie, sports, and news as well. Trade those for something more relaxing like music or reading. When I did this, my sleep experience immediately changed. Meditation and even a warm soothing bath will help train the mind to unwind and fall asleep.
The goal is to lower the intensity of your brain activity. If you go to bed with your mind clear, you have a much better chance of getting healthy, restorative, and deep sleep.
2. Turn off electronics.
We’ve all been told to reduce screen time if we expect to get a good night’s sleep. Not only will turning off your devices help calm your mind, but it will also prevent your brain from being tricked into staying awake, especially as it’s stimulated by the blue lights emitted from modern-day electronics.
The best thing is to walk away from electronics just as you do anything stimulating, aiming for 1-2 hours before bedtime. And leave cell phones, tablets, and computers outside the bedroom to avoid checking your feed one last time. If that feels like too much to ask, the second best thing is to try dimming your screens or using orange-lens glasses and screens.
There are also new software applications like f.lux for computers and Twilight for mobile phones, that help protect eyes from blue light and allows melatonin levels to rise. This way, if you’re up late looking at a screen, your body’s ability to manufacture melatonin isn’t disrupted.
3. No alcohol before going to sleep.
Do your best not to drink alcohol for 4 hours before going to bed. While alcohol in sufficient quantities will put you to sleep, it can prevent deep sleep and inhibit REM sleep. Alcohol may also cause you to wake up in the middle of the night when it has metabolized and wears off. While studies have shown that one glass of red wine in the evening may help you sleep, three glasses will interrupt it.
4. Cut evening caffeine.
This may seem obvious because caffeine keeps you awake, but I’m not just talking about the latte or cup of Joe eight hours before you go to sleep. Eating chocolate at 9 pm is just as bad and may keep you up because it contains caffeine.
Caffeine consumed a full 6 hours before bedtime is shown to have significant effects on sleep. This is why everyone should avoid caffeine consumption after midday, including coffee, tea, caffeinated sodas, and sweets like chocolate.
5. No foods, especially sugary foods and drinks, before bed.
Stop eating and drinking 2-3 hours before bedtime if you can. If you’re a person that has a bite before bed, do your best to keep it small and avoid sweet things. For example, if you take a big drink of orange juice at 9:30 pm, that’s going to set you abuzz because your body will race into action to handle all that sugar. And that bedtime snack could be even worse. Eating any food late in the evening is very likely to throw off your metabolism, so close up the kitchen well before bedtime.
6. Start your day with exercise.
Exercise in the morning and be less active at night. If you like some movement as part of your evening routine, try walking after dinner, doing light chores, or stretching and doing some gentle yoga poses instead. All of this is great as long as you don’t push your heart rate above 100.
7. Create a conducive, restful environment.
Make your bedroom a haven for quality sleep. Keep your room cool, dark, and comfortable. Our bodies cool down when we sleep and a warm room (above 68 degrees) competes with that natural cooling process. Remove the TV from the room, invest in a quality mattress and bedding, and try hanging blackout curtains so its dark during the summer. Seriously consider spending as much as your budget allows on a good mattress and spend the money on the sheets and pillows you love and that will keep you cool and comfortable. The benefit to your body and your immune system will be tremendous.
8. Plan your sleep.
It may not sound fun or exciting to have a regular bedtime, but that’s the ideal and you’ll thank yourself for setting it. Go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time each morning. Your body wants to be trained to go to bed at a certain time. It will regularize your circadian rhythm and set its own clock: “Oh, it’s time to go to bed.” You’ll sleep better, and when your whole body is in sync and regularized, your moods, alertness, and ability to focus may improve.
9. Do a health check
If you’re doing all the right things and still having trouble, consider seeing your physician or even a sleep specialist. Sleep apnea is one of the more common and very treatable conditions that can impact a good night’s rest.
I prioritize sleep above all things because I understand how important it is to my performance as a husband, father, and CEO. Here’s to hoping some of these tips help you get more shut-eye and improve your overall quality of life.