sleep hygiene 101
I talked previously about some foods to choose and foods (or drinks) to lose to better your sleep. But this time, I wanted to get into some more of the sleep hygiene strategies that can truly make a difference in the quality of your shut eye each and every night so you can meet the Rhone March Pursuit of Sleep (and beyond) without a problem.
Why does sleep matter?
Well, for starters, even if you’re otherwise healthy, shorting yourself on sleep by just 1 hour can
Increase your risk of heart disease
Increase your risk of catching the common cold by up to 4x
Decrease how much you’re liked by your colleagues (yes, this has been shown in science)
Decrease your productivity
Decrease your physical and mental performance
And that list is merely scratching the surface. That said, let’s get right into it.
I get it. You’re staring at a screen right now reading this. Hopefully not in bed. Very simply, electronics – TV, phone, IPad, computer – any of them, emit blue light. This blue light changes your normal secretion of the “sleep hormone” melatonin. Melatonin is an important regulator of our daily circadian sleep wake rhythm, and the normal nigh time rise in melatonin (prompted by darkness) facilitates the onset of sleep.
Notice I said “prompted by darkness?” What if that darkness doesn’t occur because you’re lying in bed, staring at your phone, scrolling through Rhone’s oh so tempting new summer colors of their commuter shorts? Or maybe you're watching a game or anything else on a device.
Well, that in turn can lead to what researchers call a “melatonin hangover” meaning normal secretion is pushed until later in the night and the quality of your sleep is affected.
The recommendation? Shut down electronics at least 60 minutes before bed and don’t make your bedroom an office or a place where you’re doom scrolling well into the wee hours of the evening. The bedroom is for 2 things – sleep and sex – not staring at a TV or your computer. If 60 minutes sounds insane to you, start with at least 15 and build from there.
Would you believe that there is an actual recommended sleep temperature? Yes, yes – it’s 62-68 degrees in the evening. In other words, keep it cool to lower your core body temp and then curl up in your sheets. You essentially want to make a cool burrito – to help your body get into the deep stages of slumber that are necessary for optimal sleep and recovery. Of course you can turn your thermostat down in the warmer months or there are even devices that help you better control the temperature of your mattress. The one we have on our bed is called the Ooler Pad, which is seriously a game changer. It allows you to bring the temperature of your mattress (or the cover on your mattress) to 55 degrees or up to 110 and it all happens automatically. It’s well worth the money in my opinion and if you share your bed with someone, you can each control your temperature separately so there’s no fights about sleeping hot or cold.
Light (or Darkness)
I remember the conversation I had with a sleep researcher a few years ago. Her exact words, which I’ve read before but never sank in, were this “if you can see your hand in front of your face, it’s too light in your room.” I thought – no problem – we close our blinds at night. Until I started to notice just how much light was coming in our room from the sides of our windows, the smoke detector in our room, the alarm for our house.
It may sound strange, but even when your eyes are closed, your brain can still sense the light around you and research suggests you will have a harder time getting into those deep stages of sleep that are necessary if there’s light in the room.
So we took matters into our own hands and immediately got room darkening shades, put a little piece of black electrical tape on the light of the smoke detector – moved the alarm system for our house out of our bedroom that was there from the previous owners. It’s now pretty much a cave. And it’s made a world of difference.
We could have made it easier on ourselves and used one of those eye covers but neither me or my wife find those too comfortable and only wear them if traveling internationally and will be overnight on an airplane. But many find no problem, so that’s an option.
Alright, I’ve hit you with a few big sleep tools that can make a big difference but there’s one that sleep researchers and books continue to say is the most important habit you can create if you want a quality sleep.
Go to bed and wake up at the same time. Every. Single. Damn. Day. Yes, even on the weekends. Now, heck, this may have been easier with COVID and how it’s changed our social lives, but maybe not. Maybe now you just binge Netflix all night or never shut down work until the wee hours of the morning. The truth is, this one single habit is a game changer. It allows your body to create a specific routine, system and ultimately get into a pattern to regulate your circadian rhythm to go through the stages of sleep necessary and repeatedly throughout each and every night.
Try it. Even on the weekend. Can you start creating more of a routine, where your bedtime looks consistent each night – say, 10 PM and ultimately your wakeup does too.
For my wife and I, we quickly learned that we go to bed pretty soon after our kids and this allows us to wake up well before them to have our own, quiet time in the morning. It’s a game changer for those who are parents and admittedly, we haven’t once set an alarm since March of last year and that too has been a game changer.
If you try any of these hygiene tips, consider the last as a trial run – there’s a reason it’s one of the 12 Pursuits – because it’s that damn important.
Need more tips? Check out this infographic with 22 Different Tips to Get Better Sleep
Want more on sleep? Check out MohrResults.com/sleep