Wouldn’t you know, one of my favorite things -SLEEP - landed me my first mention in Inc! Read more, here.
Seriously, though. I am obsessed with sleep. Not just the AMOUNT I get, but the quality I get. I absolutely thrive as a human when I get sufficient, high-quality sleep. And the more I read about it and experiment with ways to hack my sleep, the better it gets. And the better I get -as a human, as a productive, happy human.
I want you to get good, quality, sleep too. Because too many of us are running around under-rested and frankly, grumpy. Sleep is FREE and it’s easier than you might think to hack it into being really GOOD sleep. Don’t you want more bang for your buck at night? If your life is truly so over-scheduled and hectic that you cannot add more hours to your rest, wouldn’t you at least love to know that the hours you do get, are the absolute best they can be? Of course you do. Everyone feels better with good rest. I want you to feel better. So humor me and start doing these things. Like - tonight.
WHAT KIND OF SLEEPER ARE YOU?
Listen, we aren’t all cut out to be a “morning person.” I am a morning person, but more like 7am morning, not 4:30am morning. I tend to want to strategize and have some deep thoughts, and I’ve found my peak exercise window is about 10am-2pm. Working out first thing in the morning actually makes me feel kind of nauseous... Ok -so what kind of morning person/sleep/circadian person am I? I am a BEAR.
This seems like an obvious place to start but frankly, it’s the only one that matters. You have to decide that your sleep is worth your effort, and you have to decide to make it a priority. Only you can exercise discipline and willpower, to put away work, shut off the TV, put down that good book, and put yourself to bed at a decent time at night. My running coach Thomas Stott, is a business owner, athlete, husband, and dad. The evenings are when he can be productive with his clients and on his work, once the kids are in bed. But the athlete in him knows better - he knows he needs to shut it down and get to sleep. HOW does he stay committed to this?
Let’s start with an easy one. Your sleeping environment needs to be dark. REALLY dark. And free of screens, blue lights, blinking lights, and CELL-PHONE free as well. That’s right - plug that bad boy in somewhere else, perhaps in an adjoining bathroom (what I do) or a hallway or outside the room like in your kitchen. If you have other gadgets in the room, like a TV (gross, get that thing out of there), or alarm clocks with lights or even a new smoke detector with a small green indicator light —we need to cover those little sleep-disturbing lights up. Read “We Don’t Need More Sleep. We Just Need More More Darkness” HERE.
Next - how about those windows? I recently switched to black out drapes in my bedroom on ALL windows and oh my gosh what a difference. It can be broad daylight outside and I absolutely cannot tell. (Aside: I also just painted my bedroom walls a nice dark brown color to assist in bringing down the overall vibe from bright and sunny to serious-about-sleeping). The absence of any lights makes the room a total slumber chamber. It almost seems like now that it’s nice and dark, it got quieter too. Like there’s weighty-ness to it. It’s wonderful. I can feel a difference when I crawl into bed. It’s like my mind says, “this room is serious about sleeping.” I also started sleeping with the bedroom doors closed to block out ambient light from the hallway as well as household noises.
I generally love to be warm. As warm as I can be. I don’t like being cold. Unless it’s time for sleep. Then, it’s time to be cold. A cooler sleeping environment, combined with warm, weighty covers, makes for the most splendid slumbering. Yes I fell for the gravity blanket craze but you don’t even need that - just a nice heavy comforter and a nice cold room. Sleep in light, loose clothing. “Body temperature has also been linked to the amount of deep sleep an individual gets during the night, with cooler body temperatures leading to more deep sleep,” says the Huffington Post. Read more about choosing the best sleeping temps, here.
That’s right - elevate the head of your bed so your head rests higher than your feet. What?! Yep. I’ve been doing this and I love it. Ok but why?
“Inclined sleeping helps improve glymphatic drainage. Lying horizontally for 7-8 hours a night distributes cerebrospinal fluid more or less evenly across your brain, because you’re perfectly flat. That even distribution of fluid increases intracranial pressure (pressure inside your skull), decreasing your brain’s ability to clear cellular waste and recover while you sleep. Raising your bed height a few inches tips gravity in your favor, restoring your body’s natural orientation and promoting glymphatic drainage.” -Read more about this recommendation from Dave Asprey on his website HERE or in his awesome book, Game Changers.
NO SCREEN TIME BEFORE BED.
One of my hard-core rules is “no screen time after 9.” NO iphone in my face, no computer time, and so on. Anything that emits blue light at my eyeballs is off limits. I try to use my blue-blocking True Dark glasses if I’m on the computer prior to 9 to start to wind down my blue light exposure (blue light stops melatonin production which is bad before bed as we want melatonin production to help us fall asleep!) … then as I switch to reading a printed (not kindle or similar) book before bed, I transition to the red lenses for reading and those suckers prime me for easily falling asleep when it’s time to call it a day.
Make a rule for yourself that your screen time ends at a hard-stop time, ideally an hour before bedtime. Blue Light Has A Dark Side.
And people - get those TVs out of your bedroom. Bedrooms are for 2 things - sleep and you-know-what. It is not a living room, it’s not a place for a TV, and you don’t need that sleep-killing device in there messing you up. Get it gone.
DITCH THE WINE
“After a short time ― about two hours, depending on your metabolism ― your body will start trying to wash out the alcohol, which it views as a toxin, Carter says. This process is accomplished by pulling water from cells and flushing out the toxin through the kidneys and bladder (which is why you have to get up and pee so often),” says the Huffington Post HERE. Not only that, alcohol blocks your REM Sleep, decreases release of HGH, disrupts your sleep rhythms, and more. (Read HERE). So while that drink may help you fall asleep, it’s going to hijack the remainder of the night and deprive you of good sound sleep. (And let’s not forget all of those empty calories dumped into your gut right before laying down for the night)…
STOP CAFFEINE INTAKE MIDDAY AND STOP EATING SEVERAL HOURS BEFORE BEDTIME
So -caffeine kills good sleep. It has its place in your morning routine, but by midday, we need to knock that off. My hard rule is one cup of Bulletproof coffee in the morning and maybe on some days, one other caffeine source like a green tea or matcha latte and that is it. I absolutely will not drink caffeine after 1pm because I know how much it hijacks my sleep.
For so many reasons, don’t eat right up until you go to sleep. Stop eating at dinner time or shortly thereafter. If you must eat, avoid carbs and especially high glycemic index carbs or sugary foods. Curb your evening appetite with sleepytime tea, or hot water with lemon.
Ok you’ve handled the basics. Now it’s time to get precision. Here is where you go from JV to Varsity… we turn to tech to give us more information so we can hack our sleep even more. I personally own/use the Garmin Fenix5 watch because it does all of my sporty-things, like swim/bike/run/steps/HRV/GPS and HR PLUS it includes sleep tracking. When my watch syncs with the Garmin connect app, I can see my sleep - light sleep, deep sleep, and movement. On most nights, the deep sleep is surprisingly sparse compared to the light sleep. And then I can use this data in conjunction with my stress that day, my training and activities, my nutrition, and my sleep environment (ie was I in a hotel or at home), and start to connect the dots.
I’ve recently decided to take my sleep investigation a step further and made the leap in purchasing an OURA ring. No, it’s not a new form of contraceptive as it sounds. It’s a ring (gorgeous, btw) intended to be worn all day and night, which offers even MORE sleep data and tracking. Check out the data above from a recent night’s sleep … nor surprise, the data jived with how I felt. I don’t do well on 5 hours of sleep. As I tune more and more into this data, I start to compare it to how I feel and so far it’s been spot on. I’ve never analyzed RHR (resting heart rate) or HRV (HR variability) during sleep but it’s fascinating stuff.
SUPPLEMENTS & OTHER HACKS
What are some other varsity-level hacks you can add if you’ve perfected the steps above? Well, many people like to supplement with melatonin before bed to help them fall asleep. One tip here is that we have a hard time falling asleep if we’re wired (duh), so avoid working out with intensity close to bedtime, avoid emails that make you angry, stressful or violent movies or games or books, and anything else that gets your heart racing in a not-good-way.
I’ve been doing 5-10 minutes of pre-bedtime meditation and HOLY MOLY is this a game changer. I use an app called Aaptiv for this (not just for meditation but also for treadmill and strength and yoga workouts too). Someone guides me through a meditation in as little as 5 minute or longer if I want and wow- I can feel my stress drop and my mind calm down.
Another supplement mentioned by Dave Asprey and many high performers, is RESCUE SLEEP. I haven’t tried it myself but I’m a big fan of anything that doesn’t require a prescription and is made from all natural ingredients. If you try it, post a comment below and lmk how you like it!
MAKE YOUR RULES AND STICK TO THEM
People who say, “there’s plenty of time to sleep when we’re dead,” are fooling themselves. None of us thrive without enough good sleep. The quickest way to improve our moods, our health, our productivity, and our overall mental wellbeing, is to get enough good deep rest. Some of us need more than others, and it’s up to us to experiment to find out how much we really need to be our best. (On your next vacation make note of when you fall asleep and wake up when you don’t have to set daily alarms). Test out whether you do well with a quick 20-30 minute nap midday on some days.
Once you know what works for you - you’ve dissected the data you’ve collected, you’ve made notes regarding your sleeping surroundings and routines and habits, then it’s time to make some rules and to stick to them. No screen time after 9 is a good one to start. How about no eating after 7pm? How about no caffeine after 1pm every day? That’s a good one! Also - all cell phones are plugged in somewhere OTHER than the bedroom. The TV doesn’t belong in the bedroom. Thermostat kicks down to 60 or 62 after 8pm … these are a few ideas. Make your list, and get your significant other and family on board. Everyone thrives with good sleep, and better sleep makes for a happier relationship and happier family.
Still not convinced?
How about this headline
It may feel like time spent sleeping is a “waste” of time but truthfully, there is NOT one other singular better investment you can make in yourself. Do it.
—> Check out our SLEEP RULES Worksheet below. Print yours off, hang it on your fridge, get your family members to sign it.