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The following information will teach strategies to help optimize sleep. In my opinion, sleep is the best starting point for improving your health. When you prioritize sleep you will see improvements in your energy, workouts, and attitude. Quality sleep will also allow you to have more self-control throughout the day to fulfill your health habits. Below I will describe some techniques to help optimize your sleep.
- 7 Hours Minimum: According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine “Adults should sleep 7 or more hours per night on a regular basis to promote optimal health.” The sleep literature continually points towards 7 hours of sleep as the MINIMUM amount of sleep recommended. Find what works best for you and your schedule while fulfilling your 7 hours of minimum hours of sleep a night. This is the Number 1 Health Habit.
- Keep it Consistent: Stick to a bedtime and a wake time that works for you, this can help you optimize your sleep. It is also important to have a similar sleep schedule on the weekend when possible. Contrary to popular belief you can’t make up for a lack of sleep in one night, it takes consistent sleep to see positive changes. Getting into a routine will allow you to reclaim your body’s circadian rhythm. The Circadian rhythm is your biological clock and dictates hormonal procedures amongst other things. Your body’s clock system sends loads of information to your brain and body informing you when to wake up and sleep. The primary trigger for the circadian rhythm is light and dark, for this reason, it is important to expose yourself to light early in the morning (another amazing Health Habit).
- Prioritize 10pm- 2 am. This time period is when your body produces the most sleep hormones for maximum recovery. Your body produces the most amount of recovery and sleep hormones during this time of the day. Your body and brain use sleep as a time to recover and flush out the build-up of toxins (Glymphatic System). If possible, try to be sleeping by 10 or 11.
- Avoid Blue Light 1 hour before bed. This technique is particularly important for today’s day and age. A techno curfew means no TV, no phones, no computers, and one hour before your intended time of sleep. Creating this Health Habit is hard at first, but when you get used to it, blue light late at night will feel evil. The blue light on your phone/device is similar to that of sunlight. This can delay your body’s secretion of melatonin. In addition, our phones are stimulating, especially social media. Create a curfew and stick to it, you will find yourself falling asleep faster and having more deep sleep. Turn your phone off or put it in airplane mode. I recommend leaving all your devices on your desk away from your bed- or getting an old-fashioned alarm clock. Don’t let your devices control you, control your devices.
- Breathe and Meditate Alternatives to device usage leading up to sleep are foam rolling, deep diaphragmatic breathing, and meditation. The best way to calm your mind and body is to signal that it is time to relax. I will have posts on breathing, and meditation. This will allow you to signal to your mind and body that it is time to sleep. Meditation has so many benefits like increasing mental clarity, reducing stress, and can help self-healing. I typically do a little bit of stretching, foam rolling, and breathing every night before bed- all three tell your body it is time to relax.
- Caffeine Curfew, caffeine can have an effect on your body for up to 9.5 hours. For this reason, I recommend people have their caffeine in the morning or at least 8 hours before their intended sleep time. If your bedtime is 11 pm then attempt to have no caffeine after 2 pm. This Health Habit will allow you to fall asleep more quickly and enjoy deeper sleep.
- Blackout shades. Blackout your entire room, don’t let there be a single light. This was the easiest and most effective step I took to improve my sleep. Simply covering your eyes isn’t enough, this is because your skin has light receptors. Having light in your room when you are trying to sleep can screw up your circadian rhythm and confuse your body.
- Room temperature 60-67 degrees. This is the optimal temperature for sleeping and causes the least amount of disturbances. A cold room will help signal to your body that it is time to go to sleep. Temperature changes signal to our brain and body that it is time for bed. This is due to our circadian rhythm being sensitive to temperature. Another technique to help your body cool is to take a shower before going to bed. When you get out of a hot shower your body will start to naturally cool down signaling to your brain that it is time to sleep.
Benefits (Getting elite sleep)
- Quicker Reaction time
- Increase in athletic performance
- Increased ability to focus
- Cognitive function improves
Negatives (If getting crappy sleep)
Resources, and links used
Sleep Smarter, Shawn Stevenson. https://sleepsmarterbook.com/ (The most important book I have read in my life… no lie)
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK223808/ (Caffeine Study)
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3119836/ (Stanford Men’s basketball sleep results)
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6267703/ (Current review of the amount of sleep literature)
https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side (Blue light article)
https://www.nigms.nih.gov/education/fact-sheets/Pages/circadian-rhythms.aspx (Circadian Rhythms)