I think everyone knows the value of sleep. It feels so good, and hopping out of bed fresh is wayyy better than dragging your ass out from under the covers. But perhaps you don’t know how severe the consequences of sleep deprivation can be. And in this sense, “deprivation” does not mean a complete lack of sleep. It could be chronic sleep deprivation…as in missing a few hours of good sleep on a regular basis.
I’ll quickly recap the consequences of chronic sleep deprivation, taken from Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson:
- Immune system suppression
- Memory loss
And don’t forget about how the above conditions can further affect your body:
- Aging faster
- Decreased libido
- Increased body fat stores
I already know what you’re thinking…
“But Drew, why are you telling us the value of sleep when you don’t even get enough?”
It’s true. I’m lucky if I’m in bed by 10:00pm and my alarm goes off at 4:15am. That’s 6 hours and 15 minutes per night (during the week) on a good night. I will typically get more on the weekends, although as a new dad I am starting to find myself waking up by 5:00am on the weekends too. Because when Claire wakes up, it’s Claire time. If I have work to get done, or books to read (so that I can write awesome blogs like this one), it’ll have to get done early in the morning.
So, while it’s true that more sleep would be better, I’m simply not going to compromise my family time with Lauren and Claire or my business with all of you.
Instead, I focus on the quality of my sleep. What good are 8 hours of sleep if they are spent tossing and turning or if they aren’t truly restful hours? I would argue that it might even be worse.
So I’m not going to tell you to get 8 hours of sleep. If you can, great! But you should still try to improve the quality of your sleeping hours. Here’s how we can do it…
In his book Sleep Smarter, Shawn Stevenson lays out 21 tips to sleep smarter. I did find them all to be important, and in fact I was already doing quite a few of them. But I decided to focus on fewer things and to put more focus into each one in hopes of deriving greater value from each one.
MY TOP 5
- Be Early to Rise
I’ve been an early riser for most of my life, but I’ve been a true believer (as in 5:00am or earlier) for over a decade now. Don’t even get me started on the productivity benefits of being early to rise. Let’s just focus on the sleep-enhancing benefits. Perhaps one (potentially) obvious benefit is that at the end of the day you will be exhausted from a full day. You will fall asleep instantly with no tossing and turning, and ease into a deep, restful sleep. Ever struggle to fall asleep?
Try waking up early. This doesn’t have to be an extreme change, just earlier than you are accustomed to now. Then be sure to get to bed as early as reasonably possible.
- Get It Blacked Out
Your bedroom should be as dark as possible. Pitch black is the goal. That little light on your smart phone? Cover it up. The soft glow of your alarm clock? Move it (for other reasons too, read my tangent below). Street lights creeping in around your curtains? Shoot ‘em out, or if you want to avoid jail time you can just buy black-out curtains. In short…
If it produces light, get rid of it.
- Be Cool
This tip refers specifically to the ambient temperature in your bedroom, but I recommend starting with a cold shower. Just think how much warmer and cozier that bed will feel now! Sometimes to truly appreciate something, it’s important to experience the opposite feeling. In this case, hot vs. cold. And since it cools down to the 50’s or lower year-round in Corvallis, this one won’t jack up your electric bill. Win-Win. The author quotes a study in the book in which insomniacs (people with actual sleep disorders) actually fell asleep faster and stayed asleep longer than the control group (people without sleep disorders) by wearing a cooling cap (in other words, by cooling down before bed).
Try setting your thermostat to 68℉ and then thank me later.
- Fix Your Gut to Fix Your Sleep
Seems like we’re coming full circle with sauerkraut! Is there anything it can’t do?? I already covered the importance of gut health in another post (HERE), so I won’t rehash it here. But, the connection between gut health and your sleep is a new one (to me).
“Researchers from the California Institute of Technology reported that certain bacteria in the gut play an important role in the production of serotonin….”
And, as you may already know, “serotonin is the building block for the ‘get-good-sleep’ hormone melatonin.”
Try eating a serving of fermented food every day.
- Good Sleep Nutrients
Namely magnesium. To quote the book:
“Magnesium is a certified anti-stress mineral. It helps to balance blood sugar, optimize circulation and blood pressure, relax tense muscles, reduce pain, and calm the nervous system. Yet, because it has so many functions, it tends to get depleted from our bodies rather fast.”
I have been using Ease Magnesium Spray before bed on most nights, and it had an immediate and noticeable impact on my sleep. I spray exactly 25 pumps on my chest, shoulders, and neck and then rub it in. You know that feeling when you are dead to the world because you’re so deep in sleep and then your alarm scares you because you were still just zonked? Yeah, that happens when I use it.
Try 25 pumps of Ease Magnesium Spray right before you go to bed.
HOW TO WAKE UP
Time to rant a bit. This will be a little deviation from the primary focus of the blog, but an important one. No matter how early I get up (sometimes 3:00am in the case of an early flight), I am always awake very quickly…I’ll go so far as to say I’m awake immediately. No grogginess or trudging through that zombie-like state, and this is even before I’ve taken my first sip of my precious, precious coffee. And this has nothing to do with me being special (although my mom tells me that I am). Instead it has everything to do with how I wake up.
It’s incredibly simple. In fact it’s so simple, you might even doubt its efficacy. Are you ready? Here it is…
When your alarm goes off, get up. As in literally get up. Get out of bed and stand up.
I know, it sounds too easy. But here’s what happens when you disobey this rule:
If you lay there questioning whether or not to get out of bed, your body is trying to convince you how warm and comfortable your bed is and will more than likely overrule your mind. So don’t give it the opportunity. Just get up.
If you hit the snooze button, a few things might happen. First, it’s unlikely that you’ll even fall back asleep for that extra 7 minutes. So when the snooze goes off again you will absolutely be even more tired than when the alarm initially went off. If you do fall asleep, you will be entering a sleep phase but you won’t have near enough time to complete it. Thus when the snooze goes off your body won’t be ready to get up. End result again is that you’re more tired than you were 7 minutes ago. I’m convinced that the snooze button is a conspiracy crafted by individuals who hate productivity and efficiency. Those bastards! If you use your smartphone as an alarm, you can disable the snooze function. I highly recommend you do this.
Put your alarm out of your reach. This requires you to actually get out of bed to shut it off. Then, since you’re already up, might as well stay up and get after it!