Sleep is a topic that is dear to my heart because I’ve long been a proponent as sleep as one of the four pillars of health. This post for Day 30 of the Idea Machine Project offers 10 tips for better sleep.
The Shinecast four pillars of great health were inspired by the wisdom of Benjamin Franklin and my own experiences at lifehacking since I was a pre-teen.
Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.
Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanack
Although I developed my own four pillars of health before I heard of him, they are similar to James Altucher’s four daily practices and the teachings of other leading voices in what I loosely define as the “real” health movement.
10 Tips for Better Sleep
1. No TV in the bedroom.
If you insist on having a TV in your bedroom, do not watch TV in your bedroom after 7 p.m.
Why no TV in the bedroom?
The blue light spectrum from the TV disrupts your brain waves. See the next two items.
News and other visual media content consumed before bedtime will register in your brain and potentially “get on your mind” if you do wake up in the middle of the night.
Television news focuses on the sensational and overly-dramatizes everything. It’s well-established that people who consume TV news perceive the world to be a more dangerous place than it really is.
Get your news online from a variety of sources, preferably in a form that allows for meaningful, in-depth coverage, not sound-bites and drama.
2. No LED screens after 7 p.m.
Original Kindles and the Kindle Paperwhite are OK because they do not emit light on the same spectrum as iPads, Kindle Fire, other tablets, mobile phones and TVs.
3. Avoid Blue-Spectrum Lights At Night
These include traditional fluorescent lights, the newer CFLs that fit into traditional light sockets and the LED lights.
Blue-spectrum lights disturb the brain wave patterns you want to develop for sound, restful, rejuvenating sleep.
4. Track Your Caffeine Response
Some people can handle caffeine in the afternoons and early evenings. Others find that caffeine makes it hard to fall asleep or triggers a middle-of-the-night wake-up call.
Once you’ve eliminated screens and other blue-spectrum lights, if you’re still having trouble with sleep then caffeine might be playing a role. If you don’t eliminate the screens first, that might be the source of your problem, not the caffeine.
I can drink coffee anytime of day and it doesn’t seem to affect my sleep, provided I’m avoiding screens after 7-8 p.m. and have a reasonable stress load. On the other hand, one glass of a caffeinated beverage after lunch will keep my mom awake all night.
Alcohol can also trigger middle-of-the-night sleep disturbances.
5. Darken Your Room (But Don’t Blacken It)
A dark, cool room does wonders for sleep. But your body also responds to natural light. If you completely block out all natural light, you may disturb your body’s circadian rhythm, which is the ability to get in sync with natural daylight cycles.
If you must use room-blackening shades (due to street lights in an urban setting), get some full-spectrum lightbulbs to use as soon as you wake up each morning.
A loose-fitting sleep mask can work for some. I used to use a sleep-mask when I lived in a condo that had lots of windows and exterior lighting that permeated the room.
6. Use a White Noise Machine, Air Filter or Fan
The steady-hum of a white noise machine, fan or HEPA bedroom air filter can do wonders for blocking out random noises that disturb sleep. Currently, I’m using a white-noise app on my phone and I love it. I keep my phone at least 3 feet from my bed, just in case there’s anything to the concerns about waves.
I prefer the HEPA air filter machines but I found the devices I was buying only lasted about 2 years. I got tired of buying the air filter machine, then buying replacement filters at $10-15 each every month or two, and still having to discard the machine after a couple of years. Not economical and not sustainable.
7. Turn Down the Heat
60° Fahrenheit, maybe even cooler, is better for good sleep.
Fortunately, I love to sleep in a cool (cold, actually) room with several blankets. In the winter, I turn my thermostat down to 54° at night when I got to bed. And keep it on 60-64 degrees F during the day, even when I’m home. Definitely saves on the home heating costs (and may explain why I don’t get colds). In warmer seasons, I use a ceiling fan to keep my bedroom closer to 65° F when I’m sleeping.
As anyone who lives in the South and has had to sleep in a hot room without air conditioning knows, it’s very hard to sleep well when it’s too warm.
8. Invest in a Good Mattress & Pillows
After 15 years, even a quality mattress can start to break down. The mattress and “sleep industry” recommends 10-year replacement cycles. Personally, I think that’s a bit too frequent and designed to sell more mattresses.
The reality is that mattresses do degrade and the quality of your mattress affects the quality of your sleep.Buy the best mattress you can afford.
If you wake up aching, the mattress might have something to do with it. I remember when my parents bought a new mattress for my bedroom when I was a senior in high school. It was amazing how much better I slept, even as a teen (and we know that teens can sleep anywhere). Same thing happened when I later replaced the 15+ year old mattress I was using at the time.
Figure out how you sleep and then buy the best pillows for your sleep style. I’m a side-sleeper and benefit and need a different-style pillow than someone who sleeps on their back or stomach. If you can’t afford a new pillow, experiment with using 2-3 pillows or just one to help align your spine and head while you are sleeping.
9. Don’t Stuff Yourself Just Before Bedtime
Going to bed hungry can make it hard to sleep and stay asleep. But similarly, your body can struggle to achieve deep sleep if it’s busy digesting a heavy, complex meal that you ate at 8 or 9 p.m.
Depending on what time you eat your evening meal, a light snack might be appropriate, provided you eat it at least 30 minutes before you lie down.
In addition to affecting your sleep, lying down shortly after eating can play a role in the development of acid-reflux. Regardless of how much you eat, wait at least 30 minutes before you lie down (longer for full meals.).
10. Get Moving During the Day
Regular physical activity will do wonders for helping you sleep more soundly at night. Even something as simple as spending an extra 15-20 minutes a day walking the stairs at work or parking in a distant lot, will help you sleep better.
In a perfect world, you should get at least 30 minutes of sustained physical activity each day. But 10 minutes here and there is better than nothing. If you have a desk job, stand up as much as you can and walk around while talking or taking coffee breaks.
I hope you found these tips helpful. I typically fall asleep within 5 minutes of lying down and use an alarm as a safety mechanism on days that I have an early commitment (or plane to catch). Most nights, I sleep well. Although I usually wake up at least once each night, I fall back asleep immediately.