Sleep is one of our most basic and important human needs. Sleep allows our body to recover, repair and regenerate. Sleep has a connection to all aspects of your health including physical, mental and emotional.
Sleep is shown to have a significant impact on:
- Physical performance - affecting training and productivity
- Cognitive performance - affecting attention, decision making and memory
- Stress and irritability - affecting motivation and relationship
- Fatigue and Restfulness - affecting recovery and energy levels
Without sufficient quantity and/or quality sleep, especially with sleep deprivation in persistent or chronic cases, one can experience numerous detrimental effects which impart a significant burden on your health, goals, and your definition of success and/or happiness.
1. Develop a routine
Work with your nature and stick to regular wake times. Your body has an internal clock which allows it to know when it’s time to rest and when it’s time to wake up and face the day. Even if you can’t get to bed on time, you should get up and seek bright light at approximately the same wake time whenever possible, including weekends. Compensating sleep can perpetuate a vicious cycle and research suggests it does no good for your brain.
2. Control bedroom activity
Limit or completely avoid performing work-related or stress-inducing activities in your sleep environment, especially while in bed. Once it’s time to unwind for sleep, let yourself unplug your mind from work and responsibilities. Reserve your bedroom space specifically for rest, relaxation and enjoyment. Creating this association will make it much easier to fall asleep.
3. Reduce screen time before bed
Screen emit light that signals the brain it’s daytime and suppresses the release of the sleep-promoting hormone: melatonin. This enhances alertness, shifts your circadian rhythm and makes it more difficult to fall asleep. Eliminate or strictly limit the use of electronic devices before sleep, especially after lights out. When using your phone, turn the brightness down as much as possible. If you are having difficulty falling asleep, resist the urge or habit to scroll through your phone.
4. Optimize lighting
Dim, warm lighting is suggested one hour before sleeping. Red light has a very low-energy wavelength, which is best for relaxation before bed. Try to avoid intense white and blue light, which have very high-energy wavelengths. Once lights are out, it is recommended to keep your bedroomas dark as you’re comfortable with. Try using heavy curtains or an eye mask.
5. Prepare for Sleep
Thinking about sleep for an hour or so before bed is important to prepare your body for sleep. Incorporating a relaxing activity can become a great practice to unwind before bed. Some suggestions include: doing some light reading, use essential oils as relaxing aromatherapy, take a warm bath, do some gentle stretching, perform deep breathing or mindfulness practice, the list goes on… find something that works for you!
6. Maintain a clean bedroom
Reduce the senseof clutter and chaos by cleaning and organizing your bedroom. A neat and tidy sleeping space promotes a sense of calmness and can help to reduce stress and irritability. When your mind is pleasantly at ease, it is much easier to drift off to sleep.
7. Reduce unwanted noise
Take control of auditory stimuli in your sleep environment. Remove any distracting or irritating such as ticking clocks, cell phone notifications. If sudden or uncontrollable noises wake you or keep you from falling asleep, consider drowning out unwanted noises using earplugs or creating white noise with a fan. Relaxing sleep soundtracks, such as gentle waves crashing or forest sounds may also help to lull you off to sleep.
8. Be comfortable
Consider the number of hours you spend in bed and the importance of good sleep quality. If you find your sleeping situation uncomfortable and it’s in yolur ability to improve it, do so. It is a very worthwhile investment. When choosing a mattress, do your research. Comfort is paramount but, keepin mind firmness is critical to support good spinal posture. Pillows should also be adequate to support the curvature of your neck and width of your shoulders. Adjust bedding and sleep clothing to regulate an optimal temperature.
9. Nap strategically
When done correctly, a midday snooze can optimize alertness, productivity, creativity, and reduce stress. To avoid waking up feeling groggy, it is recommended to nap for 30mins or less, before your body shifts into phases of deep sleep. It is ideal to nap when you have a natural biological dip, typically around 2 pm. Napping after 4 pm is never recommended and although napping is effective for some, it’s certainly not for everyone. People that have great difficulty falling asleep at night should avoid naps altogether.
Consistent and timely physical activity is a key ingredient to slipping into a restful and restorative sleep. Our body can often feel restless without some form of exercise, so do something to move your bodyevery day(e.g., stretching, light jog, low-intensity strengthening circuit).
11. Nutrition and hydration habits
Your diet has a big impact on quality, restorative sleep. Digestive issues can have systemic effects, which cause discomfort and negatively affect sleep. Proper nutrition and hydration habits are essential to promoting good sleep and reducing muscle tension and fatigue. It’s also important to recognize and avoid substances such as caffeine or alcohol if they negatively impact your sleep.
12. Form a positive and balanced connection with sleep
Staying up through the wee hours of the night and then trying to function at a high level the next day is a recipe for burnout. Don’t resent the need for sleep, instead, value it as an important key to optimal health and performance. On the flip side, don’t obsess over sleep. Worrying about drifting off to sleep causes anxiety, creating a vicious cycle which keeps you wide awake. If you do happen to have one night of bad sleep, it happens. Get up and do something relaxing until you feel tired. Addressing anxiety in your everyday life can also help to promote a good mindset for sleep.
Figueiro M, Bierman A, Plitnick B, Rea M. Preliminary evidence that both blue and red light can induce alertness at night. BMC Neuroscience 2009;10(1):105.
Paula Alhola and Päivi Polo-Kantola. Sleep deprivation: Impact on cognitive performance. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2007 Oct; 3(5): 553–567.