Sleep is, by far, the highest leverage behavior a person can affect to improve performance and well-being.
Trouble solving complex problems at work? Get some sleep.
Irritability dragging your relationships through the mud? Get some sleep.
Working hard in the gym but not seeing the benefit? Guess what? You might need some sleep.
My overarching goal in life is to be the best version of myself that I can be across the spectrum – physically, cognitively, and emotionally. After years of burning myself to the ground in my personal and professional life, I concluded that these lofty goals start with a good night's sleep. Sleep is the X factor that allows us to meet every day with a positive mental attitude and a full gas tank. Underestimate its importance at your peril.
Great. So now what.
Through years of research, trial, and error, I've identified the following tools, habits, routines, and behaviors as the 90%+ solution for restful nights. Take a look – pull what works for you and disregard what doesn't. Then, incorporate the tools and techniques that work for you into a repeatable routine from there.
Habits, Routines, and Behaviors:
- Get more sunlight during the day[i]. Your circadian rhythm is largely set by exposure to sunlight[ii]. When you get outside during the day, you set yourself up for great sleep. One NIH study in older adults found that 2 hours of bright light exposure during the day increased the amount of sleep per night by 2 hours and sleep efficiency by 80%[iii]. Not bad.
- Cut out coffee/caffeine in the afternoon. I stop at 1 pm. Studies consistently show that consuming caffeine even 6-8 hours before bedtime impact sleep quality negatively[iv].
- Build a bedtime routine. Consider the following:
- Avoid alcohol – this can be a bummer, but alcohol has been shown to significantly diminish quality sleep by disrupting natural sleep patterns[vii] and negatively impacting your body’s natural melatonin[viii] and HGH[ix] production. Sometimes we all need a drink, but be smart about when and how often you’re willing to trade a beverage for a good night’s sleep
- Phone tools/limits. Modern phone OS’s have great tools to help you get to sleep on time. For example, Apple’s iOS has a “Sleep Mode,” accessible from the “Health” app where you can set a sleep goal, and wind-down period, a sleep time, and a wake-up time (with an optional alarm if you didn’t put your phone in the kitchen). Once you hit the wind-down time, your phone will automatically enable Do Not Disturb so you don’t get any more notifications to interrupt you, darken your phone’s screen, and change your lock screen so it requires a couple of extra touches to unlock. It might seem annoying at first, but making it just a little harder to unlock your phone will be a constant reminder that it’s time to put the phone down and head to bed!
- Vitamins & Supplements:
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These Tools, Techniques, Tactics, and Procedures are the 90%+ solution for getting your sleep (and life) on track. For most folks, this should do it. If you give this a real shot for a month or two and are still a soup sandwich in the sleep department – consult a medical professional
Good luck and good sleep!
[xv] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22612017/[xvi] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6326553/pdf/18-041.pdf