Sleep! It’s a big issue for many people. It used to be for me too. For years. It used to take me up to an hour to fall asleep only to wake up several times a night and wake up feeling tired. Now, it’s quite a different story. Most notably in how long it takes me to fall asleep.
When you don’t sleep well your performance suffers, your mood suffers, your stress levels increase, you ability to maintain or lose body weight is hindered, all the work you’ve done in the gym isn’t realised, your decision making skills decrease. In fact, there’s barely an area of your life that isn’t effected by your sleep – and yes guys, even your testosterone and libido is affected by your quality of sleep.
So it’s really, really important to be getting quality sleep. I’ve studied this topic quite a bit and as such even created an online course to help you sleep better. You can find it here: http://thethoughtgym.com/sleepsoundly
For now though, I wanted to share with you 7 quick tips to help you sleep sooner and better.
1) Eliminate electronics 60-120 minutes before bed
Yep, that’s TV, internet, tablets, phones and so on. They stimulate the brain keeping it busy and not winding down. When we put our infants to bed we make sure we relax them, bathe them, put on low lights, read to them. But then we do the opposite! It makes no sense. TV will just get you wired – even what you consider to be a relaxing show. Not only that, but the blue light emitted from these devices interferes with your body’s ability to produce melatonin (the sleep hormone). At minimum, install some kind of blue light blocking software on your laptop (f.lux) or phone (twilight for Android. Sadly iPhone users I don’t have a clue! I think that Apple are building one in to their next version). Try it for a week and see if you notice any difference.
Oh, and what will you do in that last hour or so? I don’t know – chat to those you live with, call someone on the (landline) phone, have a bath, plan your stuff for the following day, take walk, do some relaxing yoga, meditate, read a normal book, listen to relaxing music – be inventive!
2) Eliminate the news before bed
Nothing good usually comes from watching/listening to the news. It’s generally all bad and designed to get you living in fear. The reality of the world is definitely not represented by the news at large. Your mind is very sensitive to what you put in it just before you go to bed. If it’s all about war, crime, murder, tax hikes, increases in travel fares, diseases, famine, droughts, climate change, racism, floods, poverty and so on… just think about it. Would you allow your kids to be read a story with all that in just before they go to bed? I would hope not!
If you must get your news, I suggest in the middle of the day in the written form (audio/visual can always express a different reality based on how it’s delivered). True also of the written form but I don’t find it as intense. Plus I can read it once, rather than hear/watch the same news 15 times a day! Ideally take a news abstinence for a month and see how that affects you (unless a particular part of the new you need for your job). Trust me, you won’t miss anything important. That stuff will find you – it always does.
3) Do away with the time!
This means don’t look at the time! I know this sounds crazy and controversial but if you can avoid looking at the time from 2 hours before your desired bedtime this will be great for you. Two hours before you should be winding down anyway. Say you want to be asleep by 11pm, then from 9pm don’t look at the time. Remove clocks from the room (or put display to sleep). I avoid the time on my phone if I look at it (for example to turn it to airplane mode in the evening) by putting my finger over it. Why? What’s the last thing a lot of people do before turning in? Look at the time. Then they say to themselves:
“Man, I’ve got be to up in ‘x’ hours” or “I’ve been trying to get to sleep for ‘x’ amount of time!”
That’s not helpful at all. It will stress you out (releasing cortisol) and make falling asleep even harder.
Again, don’t take my word for it, but give it a go for the next couple of weeks or so and see how it affects you.
You don’t have to go full on lotus zen monk here. Just set on your bed upright and take a “pause”. Sit with your breath for a few minutes. Maybe even just 10 breaths. As you breath in say to yourself “ONE”, as you breath out say to yourself “TWO”. Maybe continue the count to 10 or repeat 1,2,1,2,…. for a little while.
Word of warning – YOUR MIND WILL WANDER!
Almost immediately. But that’s what focussing on the breath and the count is all about. It will bring you back. Your mind will wander again, and again, and again. That’s okay. They idea is just to keep coming back to what you’ve chosen to focus on. In our case the breath and/or counting.
Start with 30 seconds and then build up to 15/20 minutes over a period of about 6 months. The key (I’ve found) is to GO SLOW with it. Don’t try and sit for 20 minutes right from the off. Not many people can do that. Or if they can, will keep it up. As if they don’t have 20 minutes, they won’t then sit for 1 minute as they’ve become accustomed to longer sessions thinking a short won’t be effective. If you start at the short end of the scale, you get into it gently and also realise when you are short of time in the future that a short session can also be beneficial!
5) Avoid alcohol!
Some people think that alcohol helps them sleep. Whilst it might help you fall asleep, your sleep will be broken, not as restful, you’ll be overloading your body with toxins (just when it’s about to try and offload a load of other toxins from your system) and you’ll be even more dehydrated.
If you must drink, stop 2 hours before you go to bed. Drink water for the next hour, and then leave an hour to just chill.
You’ll thank me in the morning!
6) Get it Out of Your Head
When thoughts are racing through your mind – what you need to do the next day, how you should have reacted that day, what are you going to cook your dinner guests at the weekend and so on – it screws with your head. Just write down everything somewhere to free up your mind and stop dwelling on it.
Best thing, is to keep a pad by the bed so you can do this.
7) Keep the bedroom for just one thing!
OK, maybe two. Sleep and sex. That means no TV (couples who have a TV in their room have been reported to have less sex than those without!), no work, no arguments, no eating, no nothing!
Just to sleep and have sex in (of course, you can do that elsewhere too!).
Otherwise you’ll create “mixed associations” between the bed and the other activities. Your brain needs to identify the bedroom as a relaxing sanctuary and the bed with sleeping.
It amazes me how many people finish up work in bed, whilst eating and watching TV all at the same time. Crazy.
I hope you take this advice and play with it and see how it improves your sleeping patterns.
What tips have you got? How did this work for you? Please let me know in the comments section below. And if you want a deeper dive, then check out http://thethoughtgym.com/sleepsoundly