When was the last time you thought about the quality of your sleep? Given that it is one of the most important factors that can greatly impact our health, happiness, productivity, and quality of relationships, it seems like it would be pivotal to invest our time to be super sleepers.
The National Sleep Foundation and the Center for Disease Control recommend 7–9 hours. Because every person is different, how much sleep you need depends on your genetics and how you are spending your waking hours. Some people may believe they fall into the category of needing only a few hours of sleep, but their underslept brain may be tricking them. Arianna Huffington, Author of the Sleep Revolution notes, “Unless you have a genetic mutation and can function on three to four hours of sleep which is 1.5% of the population, the rest of us needs to 8–9 hours to have fully restorative sleep.”
If you are not sure how many hours you need to feel refreshed, you can run an experiment over a holiday or long weekend to find out. Allow yourself to wake up whenever you want without setting an alarm. Needless to say, if you are backed up on sleep, the first night of doing this will not tell you much because you will be making up for lost sleep. But after one to two nights, you will start noticing how many hours you are getting when you wake up naturally.
Why Are We Sleep Deprived? Here Are Some Common Culprits:
1. Incompatible Work Schedules. Your work schedule may not be conducive to your natural tendencies. You may be a night owl who can do your best work in the evenings but those creative insights sparked at midnight will take a toll on your job when you have to report to the office at 9:00 am or even earlier.
2. Technology Disruptions. Researchers have known for years that the blue-ish light that smartphone screens emit can make it harder to fall asleep. A new study from Deloitte found that one-third of adults check their phones if they wake up in the middle of the night, as do nearly half of those under the age of 35. This smartphone addiction is impacting our ability to fall asleep and to remain so.
3. Coffee Consumption. Caffeine is a stimulant that raises alertness and blocks our bodies from getting tired. What most people may not realize is that coffee has a half-life of 5–6 hours, meaning that if you drink a cup of coffee at 6 pm, 50% of that caffeine will still be in your system at 11 pm. So while your body may be tired later in the day, your mind is still racing, preventing you from winding down.
Now that we laid out key sleep disruptors, let’s turn our attention to tips for getting the best sleep of your life:
1. Minimize Technology. Minimize technology use about an hour before bed, if you must consume, read a book. To avoid distractions, use the iPhone bedtime app or an equivalent. By setting an alarm for when you want to fall asleep, the “do not disturb” function switches on, and your phone will not continuously lure you with dings and vibrations.
2. Control the Temperature. Being a little chilly will help you fall asleep more easily. The ideal temperature is around 68 degrees but adjust according to personal preference.
3. Control the Light. Light tells our brain it is time to wake up so keeping them dimmed leading up to bedtime can help. When you are ready to sleep, make your room as dark as possible. You can even cover up any blinking lights from your laptop, cable box, or tv with stickers called light dims.
4. Be Consistent with your Sleep Routine. A mistake that a lot of us make is that we stay up late on Friday and Saturday, and sleep later the following mornings. That leads to a phenomenon that psychologists call “social jet lag” because it’s what happens when our social life throws off our bodily rhythms. Sleeping in on the weekends after a late night with friends or binge-watching TV is what causes Sunday night insomnia. Going to bed and waking up roughly the same time will prime your body for nighty rest.
5. Create a Sleep Runway. If you are aiming to sleep at 10:00 pm, you should create a sleep runway of at least 10–20 minutes, depending on how long it takes you to fall asleep after you close your eyes. Most people falsely assume that if they are in bed at 10 and up at 6, they have met their quota, but being in bed is not the same as being asleep.
Sleep deprivation is a pervasive problem and if left unaddressed, it can have devastating consequences. Creating the ideal conditions can help you get the best sleep of your life and have you perform at your best in all areas of your life.
Quote of the day: “Tired minds don’t plan well. Sleep first, plan later.” -Walter Reisch
Q: When you are having trouble sleeping, what is usually the main reason? What trick do you use to help you fall asleep?