“Hey I didn’t know sleep is good for me!”- said no one ever. In this day an age you’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t understand that sleep is important for your health. However most people, myself included would also admit that they have a hard time getting enough, quality sleep.
“Ya, obviously sleep is important, and I try so why am I still tired?” Well for most people I believe they can fix their sleep patterns with simple lifestyle changes. If you have a crazy schedule, or a sleep disorder your needs will be different, but for me and the general population, these are helpful strategies.
- Be like Batman: If you ever get the choice of someone to emulate, choose Batman. What’s he like, he’s cool and dark and he has a sick man cave. Make your room dark. Get black out curtains, turn alarm clocks away from you, and put tape on all those little electronic lights I’m talking pitch black. Get a sleep mask if you have to. Make it cool. Don’t kill yourself with a crazy electric bill, but make your room a little cooler at night. We like it 70-72 degrees F. Good luck not getting sleepy in these conditions.
- Schedule your time: Your time reflects your value. The rest of your day is scheduled in a binder that would make Leslie Knope proud, and you’ve blocked out an hour to kick ass in the gym, you’re killing the game! Well don’t stop your scheduling after 6pm, pencil in some sack time.First decide how much sleep you need, hint not everyone needs 9+hours a night although that would be nice. If you have to get up at 6am, then to get 8 hours you need to be asleep at 10pm, that’s not lying down and playing with your phone at 10 either, and we’ll get to phones later. Set an alarm on your phone for 9pm. when it goes off, stop what you’re doing and begin your sleep process.
- Develop a Sleep Process: Your body will respond to familiar patterns. Don’t believe me, have you ever walked into a bathroom just to wash your hands but after you got in there all of the sudden you need to pee? Come up with a routine that you can repeat every night just before bed. It doesn’t have to be fancy, 3 hours of hot yoga would be hard to keep up. When your time for bed alarm goes off, begin your sleep process. Take a warm shower, get into your PJ’s and brush your teeth you caveman! Eventually your body will recognize familiar patterns and start to relax as you perform them. This will also help when you travel.
- Tech-no: Cell phones are great, mine can be found glued to my hand 90% of the day. I use it for my job, and to escape my job, it’s a great tool. So are hammers, but you wouldn’t cuddle up with your hammer at bed time. Unless someone is calling you on their death bed, there really isn’t a good reason to be on your phone after 9pm. Why, well the blue light emitted from your phone tricks your brain into thinking its daytime. This will interfere with your natural production of melatonin, the sleepy hormone. And every time you hear your familiar notification sound, you get a Pavlovian response where you just can’t stop thinking about how many likes your latest selfie received, not that many. This goes for the TV as well. If you’re bored in bed, read a book. If you can’t avoid your phone you can always get these bitchin, blue light filtering glasses.
5. Drugs are bad, mm-kay: There really is a pill for everything these days, and sleep is no different. I’ve tried sedatives and guess what; they really worked for me, for like 30 min. The problem with sedatives is just that. They sedate you, they just knock you out. Your body needs to go through several cycles as you sleep and if you take drugs to put you into a coma, your body will just lie there unconscious and the restorative process will not happen. If you’re training hard, you need that deep stage 3, non-rem sleep that repairs bone and muscle tissues. I know it’s easier to take drugs and think they’ll allow you to sleep better, but trust me they don’t work like you think they do. Plus, what if your house catches on fire, do you want to fight an Ambien while you attempt to rescue your family?
REM sleep is for dreaming but NREM is where the magic happens and you repair your body.
The same goes for stimulants. I love coffee more than my dog. In the morning I pour a cup of coffee before I let my dog outside. But I know that if I don’t limit my intake I won’t sleep well. As a rule I stop drinking coffee after lunch.
They bottom line is if you want to feel better during the day, and recover from those hard gym sessions you have to get some good sleep. Try these tips for 1 week and see if you don’t feel better. There will always be circumstances out of your control that affect your sleep. Kids, travel, emergencies. Luckily the human body can adapt to these conditions for short periods of time, but when you can control your situation doing these things will help. And as always, if you have the choice, choose Batman.