Goodnight, Sleep Tight
A good night’s sleep. For many of us, it’s a kind of holy grail, a longed-for experience that seems out of reach more days than not. There’s just so much to do! Posting to the Gram, catching up on the latest episode, or habitually working late keep our brains stimulated and active long past the point when getting a good 8 hours is even possible. Just a side effect of modern life, right?
But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are a few small things we can do to create an environment where we could get adequate sleep more often than not:
1. Stop wasting time. How much of your evening routine is dominated by catching up on the news, posting on social media, or texting with friends? And how much of that could simply wait until the morning? I encourage you instead to set boundaries and eliminate non-urgent communication once the sun goes down. Some families set a “phones and computers away” policy that goes into effect at dinner time, which encourages real-time communication – once known as conversation – with the humans right in front of them.
2. Try blue light blockers. Most of you have seen me wearing these in our daily WOD videos. During the day, blue light (along with all the other colors) tells us it’s time to be awake, to exercise, to be productive, to work and to play! However, once the sun goes down, we’re still exposed to copious amounts of blue light – from our TV, our computers and phones, and our energy-saving LED lighting. This disrupts our circadian rhythms, which causes us to sleep poorly, which in turn causes a host of other health problems. Other colors of light don’t seem to affect melatonin production, but blue light certainly does. One option is to go dark when the sun does (or try candlelight) but since that’s probably not realistic, another option is to try blue blockers and see if it improves your sleep.
For a mere $35, these hip glasses strike the compromise many of us need; it allows us to continue looking at a screen in the evening while minimizing the negative effects those things have on quality deep sleep.
3. Work, eat and play every day. Physical and cognitive exertion improve sleep. Get moving. Work out, take a hike, play a sport, have sex. Be focused at work. As Mark Sisson says, “Testing the capacities of the entire organism makes the organism rest easy.” Take a page from that book and live it. And make sure you’re eating enough food. If you’re going to bed facing calorie restriction, it causes stress, which means you’re full of cortisol, which naturally disrupts your sleep.
4. Sleep in Total Darkness. It’s important for quality sleep and your body’s natural rhythms to sleep in a totally dark and cool room. Trust me! You’ll sleep better if you can block out all light peaking in from the windows and cover up any clocks or electronics that have a lit screen or indicator light. The less light the better!
5. When it’s time to wake up, just get up. Setting the alarm clock on snooze may seem like a good idea, but the effect is that is just breaks up your sleep. Set your alarm for the time you need to get up, and then…get up, get going, get in a good workout, eat some good food, be productive at work or at home, and when the day is done, spend quality time in the company of your family and friends, read a good book, and fall asleep, only to wake up refreshed and ready to take on another day!
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