You’re driving to work and forget you had to go to the dry cleaners. You end up missing the exit. You’re fifteen minutes late for work and you can’t figure out where the morning went. You are in a fog for most of the morning and blow off that spin class you’ve promised yourself you’d attend for the last two months. All of this anxiety is likely due to your sleep cycle or lack thereof.
Not getting a good night’s sleep is related to so many consequences. You would think that we would have a class in high school on how to get a good night’s sleep rather than world history or calculus. Want to know what the result can be? Here are a few: depression, weight gain, poor cognitive processing, lower sex drive, quicker aging, forgetfulness, and poor judgement. Hmmm. Sounds like we all need a good quality night’s sleep.
So here are some suggestions:
- Detach from your phone. I actually plug in my phone to charge in the kitchen at 7 PM, rather than charging it in my bedroom. I will make sure that it’s set to ring, just in case. My kitchen is about 50 feet from my pillow but if someone REALLY wants to reach me for an emergency, I can hear the phone from there. My son was driving home to Miami the other night and my phone was in the kitchen as usual. I got up to go to the bathroom and walked into the kitchen to check his progress. Then I went back to bed and, yes, went to sleep. The last thing your mind needs is unnecessary pings and pongs in the middle of the night.
- Wait until morning to send the email. If you send an email right before you head off to bed, what do you think happens? For one thing, you are likely to think about that email for a good part of the night. In addition, you are keeping someone else, the receiver of that email, awake (unless they are reading this post and following the first bullet). It’s like being at a bar after midnight: not much good from writing emails, drinking, or anything else late at night. Wait until morning when you can execute your best thinking.
- Keep it cool. You ideally want to sleep in a room that is between 60 to 69 degrees Fahrenheit. I turn a fan on in my bedroom. It keeps the room cool and the white noise from the fan drowns out any noises that might wake me. Your body needs to drop its core temperature to sleep properly. If you think about it from a caveman’s perspective, they were sleeping at night in cooler temperatures. So turn down the thermostat and get some better, quality shut eye.
- Make it dark. One of the best things I did while repairing my home after Hurricane Matthew was to put in blinds on my French doors in my bedroom. It completely shut out any external light. I felt the quality of my sleep improve. I remember going to my brother’s home in Albuquerque, New Mexico and he had aluminum foil on his bedroom windows. He has always worked graveyard shifts, so blocking the sunlight is imperative. In addition, I don’t have anything in my room that typically lights up at night, like a clock, television, or computer. There is one small night light in the bathroom so that I don’t need to turn on a light (and wake completely up) if I need to use the bathroom in the middle of the night.
- Dim the lights. Bright light is understood as the sun in your mind, in the sky which is code for, “It’s daylight, let’s get to work.” I make a concerted effort to keep my lighting to a minimum in the evening, especially an hour or so before bed. So put a forty or twenty watt bulb, or a dimmer switch next to your bed so that you can ease yourself into a good night’s sleep.
- Don’t hit the snooze button. Apparently about a third of the population are addicted to snoozing in the morning. It’s about the worst thing you can do. I’ve been reading Mel Robbin’s 5 Second Rule, and she suffered for years by hitting the snooze button. You sleep in 90-minute intervals. Mel says that in the last two hours before you wake up, your body is preparing to wake up. So if you don’t have a 90-minute sleep cycle coming, you need to get out of bed. Ironically, I woke up this morning at 4:20 AM and my alarm goes off at 5 AM. I knew I couldn’t squeeze in another 90-minute cycle, so I got out of bed. If I had stayed in bed and tried to sleep, I would have been woken up mid-cycle and been groggy the rest of the morning. Snooze does the same thing. It perpetuates grogginess.
- Caffeine and alcohol. Stay away from caffeine after 2 PM and alcohol after 6 PM. Caffeine seems obvious since it’s a stimulant. I personally need to stay away from it after noon. Alcohol is more deceptive. It lulls you into thinking you are going right to sleep, but it actually causes disruption in your REM sleep. So if you are drinking into the evening, your sleep won’t be as restful and of poorer quality.
I put these habits into place over the last three months and my sleep has dramatically improved. I have also increased my quality and quantity of mediation but that is for another post. Try one or two of these and see if your sleep doesn’t improve. What are your secrets to a good night’s sleep?