I remember times in my life when sleep was one of my least important priorities. That what I considered as life these times was more important.
Sleep was a necessity – but fortunately with age comes responsibility.
Nothing is as important as sleep for us humans – without it, we go insane really really quickly.
Even food and movement isn’t as important as sleep is for every living creature.
Nearly everyone had times when he struggled with insomnia or just had a hard time trying to fall asleep. With this post, I want to share with you my best tips on sleep hygiene that try to fix this important issue.
Let’s dive right into this relaxing topic!
If your sleep isn’t important for you, much other stuff seems more important than actually sleeping.
So do yourself a favor and have this talk with yourself: Is sleep and therefore my well-being a priority of mine?
Sleep can enhance nearly everything in your life – from creativity to better physical performance and it can even reduce psychological issues.
If you don’t sleep well, you live below your potential. That’s a real problem, man!
I am always amazed by how many people get along with distorted sleep patterns and inadequate sleep, without the thought of trying to fix it. It is as it is. Fixing is hard work, most of the time against your old habits, but a rewarding one.
Proper sleep hygiene: The 4 biggest disturbers
Different sleeping and waking times
This one is probably the single most important issue why people run into sleep problems.
The waking-up-early-to-work-hard and partying-till-sunlight-lifestyle, or even the catching-up-on-your-sleep-mindset, wreaks havoc on your body.
First, in terms of sleep, your body acts somewhat like a clock. He needs the same reference points every day to function properly. If you push through that – he’ll be confused at least and unproductive for sure.
Second, you can’t catch up with lost sleep. Your body doesn’t function like a bank account.
Originally blue light told our brains: “Hey man, suns up, let’s not be that lazy, get up and survive this day!”
But thanks to Thomas Edison and every other genius, who enabled us to have artificial light, that mechanism is a bit outdated.
Many light sources, computer screens, and even small LEDs have a broad spectrum of blue light. Despite the fact that it is quite stressful for our eyeballs, blue light stops the production of your most important sleep hormone – melatonin.
No evening routine – wind down pre-bed
A planned evening routine sets you up for good sleep. That’s why it is so important. It transitions you smoothly into your deep and well-earned slumber.
An evening routine hasn’t got to be like astrophysics (or worse, two-dimensional mathematics).
Just give yourself some time to wind down and do what’s relaxing to you:
- For some, it could be meditating or some soft mobility work.
- Others like reading, writing into your journal, or reviewing the day.
- Some, take hot baths or showers.
- While others prepare their stuff for the following day.
But – do yourself a favor and limit external input. Don’t watch TV1, don’t drink and smoke, don’t get into heaty discussions with your better half. Don’t think about too heavy topics and try to get your head clear.
The two main drugs to name here are caffeine and alcohol. 2
Caffeine seems to be clear. It messes with your internal sleeping mechanisms and tells the body that it isn’t sleepy (even if in fact, it is!). That said – you will encounter a hard time trying to fall asleep.
Alcohol is a whole nother story. At first sight, alcohol seems to make sleepy and help you fall asleep better. But this is a diabolic illusion. Alcohol numbs you. The brainwaves look different than without alcohol. Alcohol inhibits in fact REM-Sleep.
But without diving too deep into sleep mechanics – don’t drink to sleep better! The sleep scientist Matthew Walker writes in his book – if you have to drink you should do that in the morning.
Maybe this is not socially tolerable…
Sleep hygiene – take care of these 5 points and you should be good
As previously mentioned – this it the big one. The big domino, that can start the process to crush your sleep issues.
In this particular case, our modern lifestyle works against our biology. This problem arose 100 years ago with the advent of artificial lighting. Beforehand it wasn’t a big issue.
But the good news is that you are in full control of this point! 3
If you don’t want to listen to any other point, think about this one carefully!
Limit drugs, especially Caffeine
I would avoid caffeine 8 hours pre-bed, because caffeine has a half-time of around 6-7h.
That means if you take 200 mg at 14:00 pre-workout there is still around 100 mg of caffeine in your blood at 20:00. And 200 mg isn’t that much to take. It equals a cup of coffee.
You have to find your sweet spot here! For some it may be even earlier, others are fine with a cup of tea for tea time. Caffeine is very individual.
Another drug you should think about is your alcohol consumption. I don’t want to talk anyone out of anything here – that’s your business. But on the other hand – I want the best possible health for you!
Alcohol is known for many harming effects. If you don’t drink regularly, you should be fine. But if you enjoy a beer here and there or a glass of wine to dinner, you should ask yourself if it is really necessary to drink.
What is the benefit it is offering you, regarding the countless negatives?
So take the information and get to your very own decision.
Have a relaxing evening routine
I wrote an entire post about the benefits of an evening routine and how to build your own! You can read it here.
To sum it up – your evening routine should calm you down and bring your focus to you. For that, you can use different tools. It could be reading, journaling, meditating, or something totally different.
Take yourself some time to wind down. Let it be 30 minutes to 1 hour.
The most important point is to limit external inputs.
You should avoid the News, Social Media, TV, heavy arguments, hard thinking, strenuous tasks, and upturning movements. There may be a place for every one of these things – but not before sleeping.
Block Blue light 2h before bedtime
I would advise everyone to avoid computer screens, TVs and mobiles at least 1h before bedtime. Even better would be 2h.
I am most guilty of that, too. I often work late in the evening on my blog. If you can’t get around that use a blue-light-filtering-app or even glasses*.
Try to dim your lights and use candles instead. Plus, candles make a great chilly atmosphere. Who doesn’t like candlelight?
Sleep in a cold and pitch-black room
This one is a game-changer, too. I can’t understand how people find to sleep in a 25 °C warm room.
Interestingly, your body reacts strongly to cooling temperatures as an indicator to go to sleep.
I would advise anyone to open the windows wide before going to sleep and leave them open. At least a bit.
Plus, you should sleep in total darkness. Science found that even a f*cking small TV LED can reduce your melatonin output significantly. Shocking, isn’t it?
So do yourself a favor and take a look around your bedroom. Try everything to create a dark, cave-like environment. Throw out everything with an LED or cover the lights with some duct tape6
But nothing comes for free – this technological progress created a few, before unknown problems, too.
And one big issue is sleep. As we’ve gone through – getting some good sleep is really easy, when you know your body a bit and respect its biology.
But some habits of our modern society stand strongly against this. I hope you are now well-informed and can make the right decision for yourself when it comes to sleep. That was my goal – hey.
Think about it a second: You and your body are in this together. So why don’t take care of one another and be understanding?
This act of self-caring can go a long way.
If you want to dive deeper into the topic of sleep I would suggest that you read my article about it. Or if you are really serious you should read Matthew Walkers Book Why we Sleep*. It is an eye-opening book that I would consider a must-read for anyone who is sleeping.
That said – have a nice evening and sleep well,
Queries and further reading:
- Why we Sleep* by Matthew Walker. A great book that anyone that sleeps should read! It’s easy to read, full of mind-blowing facts, and lays out how important great sleep on a daily basis really is.
- This article by the Sleepfoundation covers the basics of sleep hygiene and what to avoid if you don’t want to lie wide awake in your bed.
- This one by the NIH covers important topics about sleep, too.
- Blue light I look at you!
- But if you are into methamphetamine – maybe, just maybe, consider not smoking it pre-bed, too. Could mess with your sleep, buddy.
- Except you are a shift-worker – than you are screwed. I know what I’m talking about after 5 years in a hospital. 😀
- I prefer to call ‘duck tape’ – like ducks. Yes, you’ve read it right. But can I write duck tape as a blogger, fully aware that it is wrong? Decisions, man. Blogging is strenuous work. I always wonder how I stay sane – or am I?!4
A few words to round everything up
Our modern lifestyle solved a myriad of problems and gave us humans so much more life quality. A Refrigerator is a nice thing, isn’t it?