You have heard that you need to sleep more, but you struggle to get a solid 7 to 8 hours of snoozing into your system? Well here are some useful – actually, paramount – tips to improve your time in bed.
You can’t beat around the duvet anymore: it is a FACT that sleep deprivation (even missing an hour) can result in fat gain, diabetes, depression, low sex drive, heart disease, increased risk for strokes, etc. Besides affecting your physical state, it also decreases your mental clarity, your productivity and your ability to positively affect the lives of others.
To give you an idea: an hour of sleep missed every night decreases your focus and output by a degree comparable to a shot of whisky every hour.
A study on violinists has found that as they came closer to investing 10000 hours of purposeful practise, they came closer to achieving ‘mastery’. The same study, and this is less known, showed that SLEEP is the second highest contributing factor to achieving mastery. The closer the musicians came to 8.6 hours of sleep a night, the more likely they were to attain ‘mastery’.
It all comes down to this: You have to take care of yourself to be able to take care of others and the things in your life, and without enough quality sleep your ability to do so diminishes significantly.
Having cleared that up, these are 5 tips paramount to improve your time in bed:
1. Create a routine
Set regular sleep and wake times. Try to go to bed at the same time every night and don’t get out until 7,5 hours later. Why 7.5 hours? Your sleep consists of cycles: 1, 2, 3, 4 and REM. 1 is light sleep and 4 is deep sleep. REM (Rapid Eye Movement) is where the more visual part of dreams occurs.
If you wake up halfway through a cycle you will feel groggy for most of the morning. Each sleep cycle lasts for about 1,5 hours. You should be aiming for 5 to 6 sleep cycles per day, so 7,5 hours gives you 5 full cycles.
By following a very specific routine before bed you will fall asleep quicker as your body will recognise it is bedtime. A morning routine is also essential for separating sleep and work as much as possible.
2. Blue light exposure
10000 years ago we woke up because of the light of the sunrise, the blue part of the light spectrum in particular. That blue light still triggers wakefulness, and things like your laptop, TV, phone, lightbulbs all give of huge amounts of it, which makes you alert. Think about the following things:
- Try to stop using electronics 1,5 to 2 hours prior to bed (bring talking to each other back!).
- Get some light blocking glasses. If you still need to use electronics close to bedtime, these will stop your eyes from picking up all the blue light from your screens. And they are funky orange!
- Your skin also detects the blue light, to decrease that effect you can invest in a low blue light lightbulb to use at night.
3. Binaural beats
Binaural beats play 1 frequency in one ear and another in the opposite ear. This can trigger different brain waves to be produced (different brain waves are associated with different levels of alertness). The specific waves that you are looking for – and are associated with light sleep or meditation – are THETA waves. You can find them on Spotify or YouTube, and they will help you to nod off.
4. Avoid caffeine after midday
Caffeine lives approximately 5-6 hours in the body of most healthy adults (for some this is up to 24 hours).
Coffee has a lot of benefits too, but it does wake you up and stops you from going into a deep sleep if you consume too much or too close to bedtime.
5. Take care of your bedroom
A little checklist:
- Make sure it is as dark as possible (blue light exposure)
- Day light simulation alarm clock: this will help you to wake up easier in the morning
- No electronics. Some studies show that the electromagnetic field can affect our brain waves and thus interfere with your sleep pattern. You will also be more inclined to grab your phone when you know it’s next to you.
- Make it cold: 14 degrees seems to work for men, usually 3 degrees warmer for women.
- Keep your room tidy and calm. Don’t put too much stuff in there.
Extra notes: sleeping position
The best way to sleep is curled up in foetal position, laying on your non-dominant side. If you are right handed, this would be your left side.
The reason for this dates back to our evolution.
If you lie flat on your back, you are vulnerable to an attack because your organs are displayed.
If you lie on your front, you have hidden your vulnerable organs but cannot fight off an attacker. Plus you have your neck rotated to one side to breath, and being in that position for 7 to 9 hours is definitely going to cause problems.
If you lie on your non-dominant side, you have your strongest arm free to fend off attackers and your spine can be kept in a neutral position.
Sweet dreams! Karen 😊
Tom Foxley - Sleep: The Western World’s Dirtiest Secret
Matthew Walker - Why We Sleep. The New Science of Sleep and Dreams