Want to increase your creativity, social skills, emotional regulation, decision making and productivity?
Want to learn quicker, have better physical health and reduce your risk for a bunch of chronic and ageing-related illnesses?
If you’re a digital nomad hustling to make the dream a reality, a student cramming for your future career, a worker living the daily grind or a human, then what you need is…sleep! Alongside eating well and exercising a booming body of research has shown that getting enough sleep is vital for daily functioning and lifetime physical and mental health. So, let’s take a quick look at sleep and 5 tips for how to get some good shut-eye.
Sleep is often seen as a resting state, I mean you kind of just lie there right? Well, it might seem passive, but your brain is actually quite active; consolidating memories and learning, detoxing and sending out chemicals to help heal and maintain other parts of the body. A regular sleep cycle has five stages and most adults require 7-9 hours of sleep a night. Getting this much sleep has a bunch of benefits, like those listed above.
Unfortunately, with the demands of modern work and life, most people don’t get enough sleep. This can mean a bunch of things from a weakened immune system and increased risk of heart disease to being cranky and forgetful. There’s research and debate about whether it’s possible to make up for lost sleep or not and how to do it. Either way, the best thing you can do is start sleeping enough from now on.
So, now we know sleep is important, how do we activate this superpower? The answer is good sleep hygiene. Here are 5 tips:
1. Only use your bed for sleeping and sex
Doing things like watching TV/Netflix, reading or listening to music in bed makes our brain associate being in bed with being awake, not so good for sleep. If you like to read, listen to music or do something else to relax before bed, it can be a good idea to do it in a different room too. If you keep your bed and bedroom for sleep and sex only, your brain will unconsciously associate them with sleep, and it might be easier to nod off.
2. Make your bedroom dark, quiet and a comfortable temperature
Creating the right environment for sleep is important. Our bodies are geared to respond to light and darkness. Light=day=awake, dark=night=sleep. It’s not always easy, but using blackout curtains, eye masks and restricting the presence of light from things like alarm clocks or other devices in your bedroom can all help you get better sleep. Noise and temperature are important too. If where you live is noisy, buy earplugs. If you hate total silence, use a white noise app or machine. To create the right temperature, around 15C/60F, choose the right bedding for the season, the right clothes to wear or not wear to bed, use a fan, a heater, an open window, whatever.
3. Establish a sleep routine
Having a pre-bed routine can help signal to your brain that it should prepare for sleep. This means doing the same things in roughly the same order before you go to bed. It might look something like shut laptop>drink herbal tea>brush teeth>go to the toilet>bed. As a general rule going to bed and getting up at the same time is also a good idea. The idea is to create a pattern so that it’s easy for your brain to follow the sleep groove.
4. Limit screen time before bed
I don’t think this is big news to anyone, but consider it a reminder, for me too! The blue light from TVs and devices makes our body think it’s day time and as we read in tip #2 day=awake. There’s more and more technology addressing this, like blue light filtering apps or settings, but their effectiveness is unclear and they reduce rather than filter blue light. Blue light blocking glasses filter blue light and appear more effective, so they might be an option for some people. However, considering the things we watch and do on our devices tend to be stimulating, it’s generally a good idea to try to reduce device usage before bed. Stopping one hour before you want to sleep is recommended. This gives our body time to start winding down and receive the message that it’s sleep time.
5. Get help when you need it
If you establish good sleep hygiene and still regularly have trouble getting to sleep, you might be experiencing a sleep disorder. You should speak to your doctor and/or therapist who can support you to identify treatment options.
I’ll be sharing some more tips for good sleep soon, so keep an eye out. In the meantime, you can check out some great TED talks like this one about sleep:
So, how do you create or maintain your sleep fortress? If you always sleep well, what’s your sleep secret?