In parts 1 and 2 of this ‘Waking up to Society’s chronic sleep deprivation’ series, we have covered why sleep is so crucial for sustaining life, and the detrimental effects of sleep deprivation that is plaguing developed nations.
Finally, in this article, we will be going through eight easy ways to maximise sleep quality and duration each night. Some are obvious that you may have heard before, others less known.
- Time in bed
If there is nothing else you implement from this list, at least implement this one. Sufficient time in bed (8.5+ hours) allows the opportunity for a full eight hour’s sleep a night. This is such an easy, guaranteed method for improved sleep, yet night after night, people find themselves absorbed on netflix or their phone to leave themselves much less than 8 hours in bed before having to get up the next morning.Early in the night, calculate backwards what time you need to be in bed to allow 8.5 hours before getting up, and ensure you plan your night to make it on time (Ideally gadget-free), no exceptions.
- Stick to a sleep schedule
Your circadian rhythm is an internal 24-hour clock that is based on the day/night cycle of the earth’s orbit. By going to bed and waking up at similar times each day, you can train your circadian rhythm to set your recycle rate within those timeframes, so sleepy hormones are released when you’re ready for bed, and waking-up hormones released around your waking time. This is incredibly powerful in improving time taken to fall asleep, sleep quality and arguably more importantly, ease of waking up in the mornings.
- Avoid caffeine completely if possible, or only drink it early in the day.
You all already know that caffeine is a stimulant, which prevent you from not only falling asleep, but also having deep, uninterrupted sleep. But did you know that caffeine has a half–life of 6 hours. Meaning that if you have a coffee at 9am in the morning, there’s still a quarter of the caffeine in your system at 9pm that night, interrupting the natural release of melatonin which is the hormone necessary for you to fall asleep! In addition, caffeine is a diuretic which causes bladder irritation and increases urinary frequency, especially at night for some people.For example, one ELITE client used get up 3-4 times each night for the bathroom, which would quash his energy and training severely. After trialling reducing his coffee intake from three to one a day, there was still no difference noted. However, after taking it one step further and cutting out coffee completely for four whole weeks, did his night-time urinary frequency start to reduce. He is now able to sleep uninterrupted the whole night.
- Avoid alcoholic beverages late in the day
Similarly to caffeine, alcohol is a stimulant that is known to suppress REM sleep, consequently leaving an individual with fragmented, light sleep. Sometimes, a beverage or two is harmless but heavy consumption will cause not only poor quality sleep, but also unpleasant physiological and psychological symptoms into the next day, known as the common hangover.
- Train early in the day
Training late at night releases adrenaline and endorphins, which activates the ‘fight or flight’ system for hyperarousal and alertness. Since this will delay the onset of sleep, it’s best to train early in the day. I’ve noticed this phenomenon quite obviously after starting soccer recently, which are scheduled 7-9pm games. I’ll always have a harder time falling asleep those nights.
- Keep the room dark and cool
In order to induce sleep, body temperature must drop by approximately 1 degree celcius. Darkness indicates to the brain that it is nighttime and melatonin release is signalled for sleep onset. Keeping your bedroom dark and cool is the optimal environment for a good night’s sleep.
- Unwind for the last hour of the day (Ideally gadget-free)
Unwinding for the last hour of the day encourages the parasympathetic nervous system to prepare for sleep. Unwinding is best without technology, as the blue light from tvs, phones and laptops have been shown to push back the circadian rhythm by 2-3 hours through reducing melatonin concentration by up to 50%.If you want to fall asleep as soon as you put away your phone at night, it may be hard as your melatonin levels haven’t started rising yet. This is why you may spend half an hour or more tossing and turning before slipping into sleep. Instead of using technology before bed, have a hot bath, read a book, write in a journal, listen to a podcast, reflect on the day or plan for tomorrow.
- Get sunlight during the day
As much as we talk about reducing blue light at night from technology, what about obtaining sufficient sunlight throughout the day to consolidate the circadian rhythm. It’s often reported that sleep quality is generally worse during winter, and that is more than likely due to lack of sunlight. I suggest you make the time to get 1-2 hours sunlight during the day, whether it’s going for a walk, having lunch or doing work outdoors.
Now to implement
I’m sure you have heard many of these tips before, but how many have you consciously implemented into your life? How many of you have read these things in an article, then forgotten about them almost immediately to simply continue with your usual routine? Remember… Knowledge is not power, implementation is power.
My challenge for you is to change 1-2 of the above right away, if not TONIGHT. I promise you can change your life as soon as you prioritise sleep. Feel free to send me a message to thank me later 😉