Sleep Better (6 Easy Tips)

Let’s face it…we all know that we need sleep but how many of us make it a priority? Do YOU get enough sleep? If not…why? Sleep is CRUCIAL for health and wellness yet many of us are sleep deprived (some don’t even know it!).

I’d like to share 6 quick tips to help you to sleep better and move in the right direction to getting your best night’s sleep yet. Without further adieu and in no particular order…

1. Stimulants

Coffee EnergyI think it’s safe to say that most people use some form of caffeine on a daily basis to put some pep in their step. What’s also common is consuming these elixirs of energy too late in the day, thereby making it difficult for our bodies and minds to calm down enough to fall asleep.

It will take some self-experimentation to figure out how much your system can handle and at what time during the day you should cut yourself off. If your nervous system is overly excited when you’re trying to sleep, chances are that you either 1). won’t fall asleep or 2). you’ll only be able to sleep “lightly” and find yourself waking up frequently.

Another consideration to keep in mind is that caffeine has a slight diuretic effect which means that it can promote a bit of dehydration if enough water isn’t consumed. Dehydration can manifest itself in sleepiness but also insomnia (sometimes both).

Action Step – Monitor your daily caffeine intake and when you consume it. If you’re having a “hit” in the afternoon or evening, try to move your last drink to the morning and notice if your sleep improves.

*Remember that caffeine is an addictive drug and that if you’re trying to reduce or remove to do it slowly to minimize withdrawal symptoms.

2. Darkness

InsomniaThis seems like a “no brainer” but many of us have sources of light both big and small that illuminate our sleeping domains. Whether it be a streetlight shining in from the window (through the blinds), our digital alarm clocks, night lights, and even power indicators on our electronic products (TV, fan, air filter, gaming system, etc).

These may seem pretty harmless but they probably do have an effect on your sleeping cycle to some degree. Keep in mind that our bodies are hardwired to use light and darkness as indicators of when to wake and when to sleep. This is known as our circadian rhythms.

When the sun goes down and dark is prevalent, our pituitary gland starts releasing melatonin which prepares us for sleep. On the flip side, when light is in our presence, production of the chemical diminishes and we transition into a more awakened state.

The problem is that when we try to sleep in the midst of light sources (as mentioned above), it messes with our brain…giving us mixed signals; do we wake up or stay asleep?

Fun fact that blue lights cause the most disturbance with our sleep patterns.

Action Step – Take inventory of all light sources in your bedroom and turn off/redirect as many as possible.

Bonus Action Step – If you go to the bathroom at night, try to keep it as dark as possible. I use these amber lights in my bathroom.

3. Hardware (Mattress/Pillow)

Mattress and PillowEver wake up with a crick in your neck or pain in your back? Chances are that it’s time for a hardware upgrade. Let’s face it…that mattress and pillow that you’ve had for the last 20 years probably aren’t in their prime anymore.

Consider that we spend about 1/3 of our life sleeping. Wouldn’t you want to have the best tools possible for your body, sleeping position, etc.? We often take our beds and pillows for granted, while we tend to spend lots of time and money on our cars, houses, computers, and whatnot.

Finding the right mattress/pillow(s) for you is of the utmost importance if you want to get the best sleep possible. You need to consider items such as firmness, shape, temperature (some will become hot while others stay cool), durability…just to name a few.

Action Step – Take inventory of your current hardware. Is it providing the appropriate amount of support and comfort that you need? If not then consider investing in a new bed/pillow. Remember that you spend 1/3 of your life in bed…

4. Get Those Ideas Out of Your Head

To Do ListIn our crazy fast-paced world, we often try to juggle everything in our heads. To-do lists, work projects, schedules, contact information, etc. Aside from our brains not being built to function effectively in this manner, it can also screw with us getting a good night’s rest.

Have you ever laid down and your tired, but your mind is racing? You’re thinking about what happened that day, what needs to be done tomorrow, don’t forget to make that appointment or call that person. You just can’t relax!

Our minds are brilliant and creative tools readily at our disposal. They are NOT good placeholders for our calendars, task lists, address books, etc. So what happens is that we’re constantly flipping back and forth trying to remember information, and at the same time worrying that we’re going to forget the information that we’re trying to remember. Who can keep up with that?!? Alas, our minds never have a chance to relax and quiet down.

Try the action step below and notice that not only you’ll sleep better, but you’ll be more organized and less stressed/more relaxed throughout the day.

Action Step – Find a tool/method that works for you to take information out of your head and record it. This can be high or low tech -whether on your smartphone/computer or a piece of paper. The key is that you have to trust that you will come back to this “device” regularly for review. Otherwise, your brain will not trust that the information is secure and won’t let go and relax.

5. Duration

Sleep DurationLength of sleep is overlooked by many of us. We think that if we get a few hours that we’ll be good or that whatever we happen to get each night will suffice. The reality is that we each have our own “sweet spot”. For some 8 hours is ideal…others 6…I’m a 7.5 hour guy.

Sleep deprivation is running rampant in society these days. Many of us don’t even realize that we’re operating in a less than ideal state. It’s easy to mask symptoms with a morning cup of “mocha-choca-latte-frappuccino” but remember that this is only a temporary bandaid…not addressing the issue. Duration is another one of those things that you’re going to have to do some self-experimentation with.

Action Step – If you don’t already know your “sweet spot” for sleep duration play around with different lengths of time and see which allows you to wake refreshed and rejuvenated. If you’re feeling groggy you may have slept outside of your “sweet spot” (too short or too long). Once you find it, do your best to stay the course with it.

6. Exercise

Man ExercisingThis might actually sound a little counterintuitive but exercising helps us sleep. I don’t think anyone would dispute that exercise is part of a healthy lifestyle but sleep better? Yup!

Along with all of the beautiful chemical reactions that occur in our bodies during exercise, there are two other factors to consider. First, our muscles are tensing and relaxing during the chosen activity. This helps with stress reduction and overall sense of wellbeing.

Secondly, we tend to clear our minds of chatter while we workout, whether for the duration of the session or simply moments “here and there”. This allows for our mind to calm down, if only for a few moments. The effects can be dramatic both short-term and long-term (if exercise is a regular part of your life).

Action Step – If you don’t currently exercise…START. Find something that you enjoy. Jogging, group exercise classes, yoga, weight lifting, pilates, mountain biking, kayaking, tennis, volleyball, cliff diving, etc. Try one…try them all. The important thing is that you enjoy what you do.

There you have it…6 easy tips to help get the best night’s sleep possible. There are others that I’ll talk about in another article but this is a great starting point. Take some time to go through each of these and try out the “action steps”. I’m sure that you’ll be happy with the results!

If you need help identifying and working through the triggers that might be keeping you from your best sleep, check out my health coaching program and drop me a line.

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