Are you satisfied with your sleep? If not, you’re not alone. Over 50 million Americans suffer from a sleep related disorder. A survey by the National Institute of Health found that nearly 30% of adults are getting 6 or fewer hours of sleep per night. We get less sleep today than ever before.
Sleep Impacts All Areas of Life
Truthfully, I feel blessed to sleep well more nights than not. According to my BASIS fitness tracker, I average a sleep score in the 90s (out of 100) with few sleep interruptions. However, sleep is something that a lot of people struggle with.
Poor sleep, or simply not getting enough, effects our entire lives. We’re less productive at work. We are sick more often due to a hindered immune system. We struggle to stay focused and we make poor decisions. We’re even more likely to get depressed. This is such a factor in performance that employers are even are taking an interest in the sleep health of their employees.
When I get to sleep on time and get quality sleep through the night, it enables me to bring my best effort to the day ahead. I have more energy, think more clearly, communicate better and make better choices to eat healthy and exercise. I am just more productive.
Tips to Boost Sleep Quality
With that said, research reveals a number of practices you can leverage to boost your sleep quality.
Using the acronym SLEEP, allow me to share with you 5 tips for improving the quality of your sleep and subsequently, your performance.
Light activates our minds and bodies. We’re created to wake and sleep with the sun thanks to our circadian rhythm. However, since the advent of the lightbulb, the human species has been artificially altering our normal responses in the name of productivity.
I’m not suggesting we should all move to Alaska and live off the grid (although I find aspects of that tempting). However, turning down the lights helps to trigger our bodies’ normal rest responses, making us drowsy and helping us get to sleep more easily. To help me apply this idea, I have a light in our living room on a timer. It goes out as a signal to start winding down for the night.
Once it’s time to sleep, make sure your room is really dark. Thin window coverings and night lights can negatively effect sleep due to ambient lighting. Our ancestors certainly didn’t have big bird plugged into the wall to ensure they could find a bathroom in the middle of the night.
A Huffington Post article summarizes findings that we tend to sleep best when the room temperature is between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit. However, temperature outside the range between 75 and 54 degrees Fahrenheit is disruptive to sleep. Temperature affects the quality of REM sleep, when you dream. If you aren’t sleeping well, it could be because your room is too hot or too cold.
So, set your thermostat to prep your bedroom for the optimal sleeping temperature.
You’ve probably heard by now that “blue light” rays emitted by electronic devices interfere with sleep. This is due to their inhibiting effects on melatonin, a chemical in the body which facilitates sleep.
Set a time each night (relative to when you want to be asleep) at which you turn off electronics. Generally, after 9 o’clock I’m off my iPhone. If I’m reading on my iPad, I turn it to a night setting. This is one reason I recommend against having a television in your bedroom too.
Caffeine blocks you from getting tired. It inhibits the adenosine receptors in your brain. Adenosine is a neurotransmitter that causes sleepiness. It builds up while you’re awake. Eventually, it reaches a threshold that makes you drowsy and and you fall asleep.
Caffeine can stay in your system over 6 hours. Therefore, I’ve found I need to limit my last caffeine fix to before 2 pm if I intend to be asleep by 10 pm.
All of the above help my mind and body to relax and wind down in preparation for getting to bed. Yet, sometimes my thoughts continue to keep my brain oscillating. I’ve found this happens most if I’ve been working late, trying to make important decisions or discussing stresses with my wife. What I need is a quiet mind.
I’ve found that I need to limit cognitive tasks about 90 minutes or so before I want to be asleep. Your timeline may vary.
Often what keeps people awake is being afraid to forget something they need to do tomorrow. Typically, I review my to-do list before I leave work to ensure everything is accounted for. But, perhaps just keeping a pen and pad beside your bed can give you a place to dump all those worries and give you peace of mind so you can catch some shut eye.
Start Sleeping Better Tonight
If you’d like better sleep, give one (or all) of these 5 tips a try. What have you got to lose? Take it a step further by combining a sequence of steps into a crafted routine that works for you night after night. You’ll get to sleep more easily and enjoy better quality sleep.
Think of all you could do with clearer thinking, more energy, better decision making and improved overall performance in everything you do.
Question: What have you found to help you sleep better? Share your own tips in the comments below.
- Article: Insufficient Sleep Is a Public Health Epidemic
- Article: Can’t Sleep? Adjust the Temperature
- Article: Choosing the Best Temperature for Sleep by Dr. Christopher Winter
- Article: Blue Light from Electronics Disturbs Sleep, Especially for Teenagers by Meeri Kim
- Gear: BASIS Peak
- Post: Think Smarter, Play Harder, Be Better: Sleep
- Post: Why Should Leaders Encourage Employees to Get More Sleep?