There's nothing quite like getting a good nights sleep. Waking up refreshed, energized, and ready to take on the world is the ideal feeling that we all would love to have.
The challenge is that in our modern society, millions of people are chronically sleep deprived and suffering the deleterious effects of having low quality sleep.
Sleep deprivation effects are not pretty either. Try immune system failure, diabetes, cancer, obesity, depression, and memory loss just to name a few.
Most people don't realize that their continuous sleep problems are also a catalyst for the diseases and appearance issues they're dealing with.
Studies have shown that just one night of being sleep deprived can make you as insulin resistant as a type-2 diabetic. This translates directly to aging faster and storing more body fat than you want to (please say it ain't so!)
Now stretch that out over weeks, months, and years then you can start to see why lack of sleep can be such a huge problem.
A study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal showed that sleep deprivation is directly related to an inability to lose weight. Test subjects were put on the same exercise and diet program, but those who were in the sleep deprivation group (less than 6 hours per night) consistently lost less weight and body fat than the control group who slept for 8+ hours a night.
There are several other studies showing sleep deprivation encouraging cancer, Alzheimer's, and depression. But what I want to focus on for you today is what you can do to radically improve your sleep starting TONIGHT, and avoid these chronic issues in the first place. Sound good?
A pioneer, and leading authority on sleep research, Dr. William Dement said, “You're not healthy, unless your sleep is healthy.”
Nothing could be more true, and these 21 tips are going to help you get great sleep for many years to come.
1. Know the value of sleep. This one is a little unordinary, but it's probably the most important. Many people are negligent about getting enough sleep because they truly don't understand the benefits they're getting from it.
So what is sleep? And why is it important?
Well, defining sleep is a lot like trying to define life. No one completely understands it, and if you try to explain it you're more likely to sound like Forrest Gump than a world-renown scholar (Life is like a box of chocolates… Sleep is like pretending to be dead).
Sleep is (actually) defined as a natural periodic state of rest for the mind and body, in which the eyes usually close and consciousness is completely or partially lost, so that there is a decrease in bodily movement and responsiveness to external stimuli.
That sounds a little weird, but the most important takeaway is that it's a natural periodic state of rest for the mind and body. If you're not doing it, then you're being completely unnatural. And nobody likes unnatural people 🙂
What's more important is knowing the big prizes that sleep gives you. Generally, being awake is catabolic (breaks you down) and sleep is anabolic (builds you up). Sleep is actually an elevated anabolic state, heightening the growth and rejuvenation of the immune, skeletal, and muscular systems. Basically, sleep rebuilds you and keeps you youthful.
High quality sleep fortifies your immune system, balances your hormones, boosts your metabolism, increases physical energy, and improves the function of your brain. With all the essential benefits that sleep is giving you, you will never, I repeat NEVER, have the body and life you want without giving your body the right amount of sleep.
2. Get more sunlight during the day. One of the most vital things that induces great sleep is your body's natural secretion of a hormone called melatonin. Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland in your brain and sends a signal to regulate the sleep-wake cycle in your body.
The production and secretion of melatonin is powerfully affected by light exposure. Sunlight provides the natural spectrum of light that we need to help coordinate the cycle of melatonin production. Get more light during the day, less light at night, and you're on your way to having a magic sleep formula.
3. Avoid the screen. This is likely the #1 thing you can do to improve your sleep quality immediately. The artificial “blue” light emitted by electronic screens trigger your body to produce more daytime hormones (like cortisol) and disorient your body's natural preparation for sleep.
Computers, iPads, televisions, smartphones, etc are kicking out a sleep-sucking blue spectrum of light that can give you major sleep problems. Have you ever driven down your neighborhood street at night and seen that majestic blue light beaming out of people's windows? You're either like: a. I wonder what they're watching? or b. I wonder if they're getting abducted by aliens?
If you want to give your body the deep sleep it needs, make it a mandate to turn off all screens a full hour before bedtime. If you ignore this and continue to have problems sleeping, I promise you Jimmy Kimmel is not going to pay your hospital bills.
4. Use a blue light blocker. Extenuating circumstances come up, and you may need to be on the computer later than you want. This is where cool advancements in technology can come in to help smooth things out. On my Mac I have a free application called f.lux that automatically eliminates all of the problematic blue light from my computer screen at a certain time each day (you can get similar things for your smartphone too).
Again, the best solution is to shut down the technology at least an hour before bed if you're serious about getting great sleep. But this is a tool you can use that can definitely help you out along the way.
5. Have a caffeine curfew. Caffeine is a powerful nervous system stimulant. If your nervous system is lit up, you can forget about getting high quality sleep. Set an unbreakable curfew stop time to make sure that your body has time to remove it from your system. For most people, it's generally going to be before 4 p.m. But if you're really sensitive to caffeine, then you might want to make your curfew even earlier, or possibly avoid caffeine altogether.
6. Be cool. I remember that during ridiculously hot summers, my parents wouldn't turn the air conditioner up to “save” on the utility bill. Well, I can tell you that I sweated off a lot of pounds those summers tossing and turning in my bed upstairs (oh, and heat rises by the way) trying to sleep through the heat.
Something called thermoregulation strongly influences your body's sleep cycles. When it's time for your body to rest, there is an automatic drop in your core body temperature to help initiate sleep. If the temperature in your environment stays too high, then it can be a bit of a physiological challenge for your body to get into the ideal state for restful sleep. Studies have found that the ideal room temperature for sleep is around 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything above 75 or below 54 will likely cause some difficulty sleeping.
7. Get to bed at the right time. This is key! You can literally get amplified benefits of sleep by sleeping at the right hours. It's been shown that humans get the most significant hormonal secretions and recovery by sleeping during the hours of 10 pm and 2 am. This is what I call “Money Time”.
You get the most rejuvenating effects during this time, and any sleep that you get in addition is a bonus. This is based on the seemingly lost realization that we humans are a part of nature, and when the lights go out on the planet, that's a que from the universe that it's time for us to turn down too.
Today, however, we can trump nature and light up our house like a Las Vegas stripper sign. We can be up until 3 a.m. doing the laptop lap dance, and not even think twice about it.
NEWS FLASH: That is abnormal. We are literally designed to go to sleep when it gets dark, so if you've made a habit of ignoring this innate law, it's time to take action to readjust.
8. Use high quality magnesium. Magnesium is a bonafide anti-stress mineral. It helps optimize circulation and blood pressure, balance blood sugar, relax tense muscles, reduce pain, and calm the nervous system. Yet, because it has so many functions, it tends to get depleted from our bodies rather fast.
Magnesium deficiency is likely the #1 mineral deficiency in our world today. And getting your magnesium levels up can almost instantly reduce your body's stress load and improve the quality of your sleep.
Because a large percentage of magnesium is lost in the digestive process, the ideal form of magnesium is transdermal from supercritical extracts. You can find more info on right here: Benefits of Magnesium
Quality is everything, and taking too much of a low-budget internal magnesium supplement can have you sprinting to the bathroom like Usain Bolt. If you want to get the insider info on how to get your magnesium levels up, make sure to check out this post.
9. Get it blacked out. It's a well established fact that we sleep better in a dark environment (just check out this EPIC book Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival). But yet, so many people aren't taking full advantage of this.
Having light sources of any type in your bedroom can disrupt your sleep patterns. And even using an eye mask is not going to be 100% effective for most people.
Did you know that your skin actually has receptors that can pick up light? If there's light in your bedroom, your body is picking it up and sending messages to your brain and organs that can interfere with your sleep. The best solution is: Black it out!
Get some of the now popular “blackout” curtains that are available from most retailers. And get any other sources of non-stop light out of your room too. Do this one thing tonight, and I promise you that you'll thank me for it tomorrow. Sleep experts suggest that your room be so dark that you can't see your hand in front of your face. I grew up with freakin' night lights, so this was a really big step for me.
Personally, this is the one thing that INSTANTLY had a beneficial impact on my sleep. I blacked out my bedroom and have been getting the best sleep of my life ever since.
10. Create a sleep sanctuary. If getting rejuvenating sleep is a high priority for you, then you need to take some essential actions to treat it as such. The bedroom should be for two things primarily… 1. Sleep and 2. We'll get to in just a moment 😉
Stop making your bedroom the entertainment hub of your house. And NEVER bring work to bed with you.
Humans are creatures of habit AND habitat. My 1-year old son knows that when we go into his bedroom at night, good sleep is about to go down. He actually gets upset if he can't get into his bed to sleep right away. Crazy, right?
If you create the environment where miscellaneous activities can take place in your sleep area, you are not creating a neuro-association that it's time to sleep when you go in here. You may think that you are a big “grown-up” adult, but we are all just super size babies with the same basic programming.
Make your bedroom a sacred place where peace, calm, and relaxation are overflowing. When you walk into a sleep sanctuary it'll be easy to peacefully drift off to your dreams.
11. Have a big “O”. This is the other primary thing that the bedroom should be used for (as if you didn't know). Having an orgasm is like a full-on sedative for most people. There's a rush of relaxing hormones and endorphines when you release, and it's just the thing to set you up for a great nights sleep.
Keep in mind, you don't need anyone else to do this (so single people, don't be worried). But if you've got a lover in your life, don't hold back because the effects can really benefit the both of you.
If you happen to have a partner who is not as passionate about this as you are, just tell them that they're helping your health by doing it (and if they don't believe you, just send them this article).
12. Train hard (but smart). I had a client a few years back that moved here from France to go to college. He came to work with me in the gym and had some very specific physical goals that he wanted to achieve. After doing an analysis, I found out that he's had a sleeping disorder for about 8 years. He typically didn't sleep more than 4 hours a night, and he was diagnosed with clinical insomnia.
I can tell you, it was written all over his face and body. I said to him, I can kick your ass all day in the gym, but you'll never get the body you want until you get this sleep component in order. He was reluctant to want to focus on it because it's been so difficult with him in the past, but he agreed to try a few of my suggestions, and the rest, as the French say, was “historie”.
Instead of the long-duration cardio he used to do, I BANNED him from cardio temporarily. We focused on heavy, superset-style strength training. His workouts were short, but intense, and within days everything changed.
He came in to see me about a week after he started training with me and said, “I don't know what you did, but I slept like a ba-be.” (remember, it was a French accent).
I made sure that he didn't train after 5 p.m. anymore, helped him reset his circadian rhythms with a few other tactics, and his life was changed forever.
13. Get your “friends” out of your room. Have you heard of EMFs before? This means Electromagnetic Fields or Electromagnetic Noise. Numerous studies have confirmed that the EMFs coming from our everyday electronic devices can cause disruption of communication between the cells in our body.
This means you can have everything from hormonal problems to cancer showing up by being exposed to these things too long. And even knowing this, so many people whine and moan when they find out they need to get these devices out of their bedroom to protect themselves.
People hang on to their phones and electronic devices like they are their best friend in the world. They act like they're going to fallout and die if they don't have their cell phone within texting distance.
Trust me, you'll live… and if you don't pay attention to this, all the rest of your years are not going to be very fun. Get the electronics OUT of your room! If sleep is important to you, then you'll do this. If being healthy and not having a chronic disease is important to you, then you'll do this. Television, laptops, cell phones, all of these things are kicking out radiation that is disrupting your sleep. Have your entertainment in the entertainment area of your home. Keep your bedroom reserved for sleep and sex.
Really… people still watch T.V. in their bed…? Really!!! Come on people, that's sleep suicide, and a guarantee that you're going to have reality T.V. stars giving you bad dreams.
14. Have a high protein, low carb snack close to bed time. If you want to get truly restful sleep, one of the worst things you can do is eat right before bed. Give your body a solid 90 minutes (more is better) before heading off to bed after eating. This is ESPECIALLY true if you're eating carbs because the inherent blood sugar spike will cause a sharp drop in blood sugar later… and if you happen to be asleep when this hypoglycemia hits, it will likely wake you up and give you difficulties falling back asleep.
If you feel you need to have something shortly before bed (again, at least 90 minutes) then go with a high protein food. The amino acids in the protein food (like tryptophan) can actually aid in getting a more beneficial sleep.
15. No glove, no love (for your feet) – Even though the room temperature would ideally be cooler to induce great sleep, some people can trigger sleeplessness because their extremities are too cold. This is because blood flow is the primary method of distributing heat throughout the body. If your hands and feet are too cold, it could be a sign of poor circulation. The solution: wear a pair of warm sock to bed (aka foot gloves or foot mittens). I personally prefer to be barefoot, but I'm naturally a more warm body person. Test it out and see if it works for you.
16. You booze, you lose – Did you know that you actually get smarter while you sleep? One of the most valuable, and overlooked aspects of sleep is a process called memory processing. This is basically where short-term memories and experiences get converted into long-term memories.
Memory processing is predominantly affected by different stages of REM sleep. Studies have proven the good news about drinking alcohol late in the evening is that you do, indeed, fall asleep faster. But the bad news is that REM sleep is significantly disrupted by alcohol being in your system. You won't be able to fall into deeper levels of sleep, and your brain and body won't be able to fully rejuvenate. This is why people generally don't feel that great after waking up from an alcohol-laced sleep.
You already know this to be true… that's why the word hangover has become so popular in our vocabulary today. And of course, you've seen the movie The Hangover, right? That's just an extreme case of waking up, not knowing what happened the night before (because you screwed up your memory processing), and possibly having a new tattoo on your face.
If you want to be a champ at this rejuvenating sleep thing, consider having a booze curfew so that your body can have a couple hours to get it out of your system.
17. Calm inner-chatter. There is a great quote that says, “My bed is a magical place where I suddenly remember everything I was supposed to do.”
People hop into bed, and then proceed to think about the when, where, who, why, what, and hows of their life… all while they're supposed to be sleeping. If this sounds familiar to you, then you have a serious issue with something we call “inner chatter”. But don't worry, there is a cure 😉
What I'm going to share with you is not just a tool to help you improve your sleep, it's a powerful tool to help transform your life. The inner chatter that you experience is a result of the stress and (untamed) busyness of the day. Now more than ever with the constant flow of information coming at you, it's important to have a practice to help you (eliminate) that stress. That important practice is meditation.
Meditation is like a tonic. A tonic is something that you can use everyday, and the results continue to get better and better. The more you meditate, the more calm and presence you'll have in your day-to-day life.
Now when I say more, I'm talking about frequency, and not a specific time requirement. Once you find the right meditation for yourself, you can almost instantly feel a sense of calm and presence by doing your practice throughout the day.
I started off meditating for 30 to 45 minutes every morning for 3 years. Today, I do more “mini-meditations”, often 5 minutes or less, and I feel the same focus and peace that I felt all those years when meditating for a half hour or more. How? Because the effects are cumulative, and the neuro-association my brain and body have made to closing my eyes and focusing on my breath, instantly puts me in that calm space.
Numerous studies show that meditation increases “feel-good” hormones and endorphins, lowers stress hormones like cortisol, and even reduces inflammation in our body. Now, you can buy stuff that can give you similar experiences, but it'll probably cost you a lot of money (and you might get arrested too).
If you don't have any good sources for meditation techniques, just ask me. I'll be more than happy to point you in the right direction. Here's a couple of meditations you can try before bed: Better sleep through meditation
18. Supplementation… fine, here you go. Ideally, you need to address the lifestyle issues first that are actually causing the sleep problem. If you just jump to taking drugs or supplements then you'll just be treating a symptom and increase the likelihood that you'll develop a dependency on something that can harm you long term.
I'm going to share with you just 3 of the more gentle to moderate natural sleep aids. Focus on the lifestyle stuff first, and if you want you can respectfully add these things in too. 1. Chamomile: an excellent tea to have before bed, shown to calm the muscles and nervous system. 2. Kava Kava: the national drink of Fiji, has sedative properties and is commonly used to treat sleeplessness and fatigue. 3. Valarian: moderate sedative – indicated for individuals that have a difficult time falling asleep, and also promotes uninterrupted sleep.
You will notice that I didn't include melatonin. This has become a very popular supplement as of late with all of our societies sleeping issues. Many experts agree that melatonin supplementation can be very effective for SOME people. But it can potentially down-regulated the ability of your body to produce its own melatonin. This is an actual hormone supplement, so unless you want to chance creating a dependency on this, I'd say avoid it and try other things first.
19. Mr. & Mrs Smith Glasses. O.K. so you want to stay up and go on wild adventures on Youtube (the other day I started off researching rehab exercises for knees and eventually ended up watching bloopers of the t.v. show The Office. You know how YouTube can be 😉 Or maybe you want to take this sleep mastery to the extreme? Well, I've already given you a resource for eliminating the “blue light” from your computer screen, but what about the rest of the house?
If you're a fanatic about this stuff, and don't mind looking like someone from the future, then you can rock some of these glasses that block blue light and give everything a much safer, softer, yellow tint. They are similar to the glasses that Brad and Angelina wear in the movie Mr. and Mrs. Smith during an epic fight scene. If you get the cheap ones, then you won't look that cool… but hey, this is for science not social points. Although if someone comes into your house and sees you wearing them you'll totally look like a badass (a little weird, but still a badass).
20. Be early to rise – Ironically, one of the best things you can do to improve your sleep is to get up early. This goes back to the fact that humans have had certain patterns of sleep and wakefulness that we've only (within the last hundred years) found a way to override.
By waking up early you start the process of helping your endocrine system link up with the diurnal patterns of the earth. Get up when the sun rises. You might start off having a challenging time, but after less than a couple of weeks, your body will adapt to that pattern and have you feeling more rested and refreshed when you wake up. You can get out of the old pattern of being up at night “tired and wired” by being early to rise and having a natural release of cortisol and going to bed earlier and taking advantage of the natural release of melatonin (that we talked about above). A quote from one of my son's favorite books… the epic masterpiece, Winnie the Pooh: “For early to bed, and early to rise will make a bear happy, and healthy besides.”
21. Get grounded – Since the beginning of time humans have had more of a constant interaction with the earth, and only recently have we found ourselves more an more “disconnected” from it. New discoveries have shown that the earth itself is overflowing with free electrons (energy) that actually get transmitted to us when we come in contact with it. There are numerous studies showing radical reductions in inflammation and pain by getting people in contact with the earth's magnetic surface.
Sounds pretty far-fetched, huh? Well, I wouldn't have believed it if the data wasn't so thick. For a comprehensive understanding you can check out this book Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever?. I even did a short video on it a few years back. Have you ever noticed that when you go to the beach or to the lake you end up sleeping like a baby that night? Many people don't even make it off the beach before they end up knocked out in a deep sleep. What the heck is going on?
Well, it appears that the earth's electromagnetic surface has the ability to “sync” with your bodies internal clock. I really started to understand this when I realized that our bodies are actually running on electromagnetic energy (that's why heart monitors in the hospital beep… it's because of our electric output) Bottom line is, when it comes improving your sleep, getting your body in contact with the earth's electromagnetic field might just be the thing that changes the game for you.
Now, I'm not talking about camping outside like canteen boy (old Adam Sandler character; look him up) but instead using cool technology that brings the benefits of the earth's energy into our home. I've been using an Earthing Mat under my desk and sleeping on Earthing Sheets for about 4 years. And I'll tell you what, when ever I travel, I bring my Earthing Sheets with me and I always get a great nights sleep just like I'm at home.
If you enjoyed these tips, make sure to pick up the bestselling book Sleep Smarter for more.
I really hope that you got a lot of value out of these tips. And the action step for you is to just pick 1 or 2 of the tips above and apply them for the next 2 weeks. Notice if you feel more refreshed, better energy through the day, less pain (if you have any), and if you generally just feel better. If it works for you, then I'd love to hear about it.
Please make sure to share this with the people you care about. And as always, if you've got something to add to the conversation, then leave it in the comment section below!