The world of today is all about productivity and speed. Everything has to be done quickly, and because there are only so much hours in the day, the first thing we sacrifice is often the same: Sleep.
This article will describe some key things you can implement in your life to improve the quality of your sleep and improve your nights. I shouldn't have to say that quality sleep is absolutely crucial. The average sleeping hours has seriously decreased over the years. And some people might even convince you that there is nothing wrong with a regular 5 hours sleep. You might even that to make it in the world. Sleep, for some, has become the enemy to productivity. Bullshit. Science says otherwise.
When you are sleep deprived, not only are you slower and less creative, you are also less efficient and accomplish less.
A 1997 study about surgeons found out that sleep-deprived surgeons made about 20% more errors and took about 14% longer than when rested. Sleep deprivation reduces the brain's glucose content. Grey matter uses glucose as a fuel. The decrease in glucose is even more important is parts of the brain involved in problem-solving and high-level thinking.
Skipping one night of sleep makes us as insulin resistant as a T2 diabetic. A drop in this hormone leads to weight gains, signs of aging and a decreased sexual drive.
So, we can't achieve peak performance without a good quality sleep. That just can't happen. Whatever good you think you are in a sleep-deprived state, that's nothing compared to how good you could be while being well-rested.
Why is sleep so important? Partly because being awake is catabolic, and sleep is anabolic.
- Catabolism: Molecules combine with oxygen, causing them to break down.
- Anabolism: The opposite of catabolism. It constructs molecules from smaller units.
When we sleep, our bodies are repairing themselves. You are litteraly building yourself up. Your body fights signs of aging and reinforce your immune and muscular system.
So, let's see how you can improve your sleep, feel better and increase your performances.
Light is good, light is bad. To understand the effect of light on our sleep, we first need to talk about melatonin.
Melatonin is an hormone that regulates the internal body clock that tells us when to sleep. It has powerful rejuvenation and antioxydant properties. The production is heavily affected by light. Sun goes down, melatonin goes up, you feel sleepy.
You should try to maximise your light exposure during the day. People actually produce more melatonin in the evenings by being exposed to the bright lights in the morning.
Another thing you need to work on in your screen time. You probably have heard about the effect of blue light produced by screens. These blue lights actually inhibits the release of melatonin. So, 1 hours before bedtime, forget your screens.
Finally, sleep in a pitch-black room. Light is also absorbed by our skin and dark night rays also affect the production of melatonin.
Your circadian rhythm
I've mentioned your internal body clock, also called your circadian rhythm. It is important that you respect your internal clock by going to bed within 30 minutes of the same time every night. This will cause you to fall asleep and wake up a lot easier.
A lot of people go for the cut down on weekdays, catch up on weekends strategy. The truth is that completely destroys your circadian rhythm. Your body has no clue tomorrow is Sunday and it's ok to release melatonin later because we want to stay up late. It can't adapt that fast!
Early to bed, early to rise!
Then, you should go to bed and wake up early. A study makes the case for early mornings by finding out that students identified as morning students had higher academic grades than night owls. Why would that be?
We, humans, are diurnal animals. We are active during the day. We were hunter-gatherers, programmed to go to sleep at sundown because waking up at noon was not a great plan for surviving predators. For thousands of years, we have lived this way. We haven't had time to override the default settings of our species concerning our sleep.
The second reason why going to bed early is important is to take advantage of the magic sleep window between 10PM and 2AM. This is when our bodies reach their peak production of melatonin and human growth hormone. This means your sleep will be deeper and more rejuvenating during that time!
Few things about your lifestyle.
First, your consumption of caffeine. You might know that caffeine affects your sleep, but you might not know why:
Coffee is very similar on the molecular level to adenosine. Adenosine is produced by our brain while we are awake. When it hits a certain point, we feel sleepy. Because caffeine is so close to adenosine, it goes in the receptors where the adenosine is supposed to go. The adenosine can't get into those receptors, so you don't feel tired.
As a general rule, avoid caffeine after 4PM.
Exercising is another great way to improve your sleep. When you exercise, you create micro-tears in your muscle tissue. Those micro-tears needs to be repaired by your body. This induces the release of hormones like testosterone and human growth hormone. The repair work your body is doing creates a deeper, more restorative sleep.
Another cool thing you can do is use magnesium in cream form. Magnesium balances blood sugar levels, calms the nervous system and relaxes muscles. All of those things will lead to a higher quality sleep.
Note: Avoid oral supplements because most benefits will be lost during digestion.
Finally, having a meditation routine will help you sleep better. Meditation has been proven to release feel good endorphins. It's also linked to lower stress levels.
The last part will be dedicated to your sleep Temple. To make sure you have quality sleep, a place dedicated to that activity will dramatically improve your nights.
Clean, fresh air
A bedroom with a clean and fresh air is a bedroom where quality sleep happens. Why?
In the air, there are ions, atoms with electric charges. Ions with a negative electrical charge are good because they oxidize mold, parasites and toxic chemical gases. But, over time, the air become stale as the oxygen content decreases and ions lose their negative charge.
Plants are excellent natural air filters! Plants takes carbon dioxyde and release oxygen, recharging the ions negative charges.
There are two great houseplants that you can put in your bedroom to help with that:
- The English Ivy: Found by NASA to be the best air-filtering houseplant (Hell Yeah!), pumping out oxygen and absorbing formaldehyde, a harmful neurotoxin unfortunately too common in industrialized countries.
- The Mother-in-law's tongue: Needs minimal water and light to flourish. Perfect for dark bedrooms 😉 Most badass thing? Converts carbon dioxyde into oxygen at NIGHT, most plants do this during the day.
Finally, do not take work into the bedroom. This will create a spike in your cortisol level, an hormone associated with stress and wakefulness. It will also make your brain associate your bedroom with work and activity, when you want it to be associated with sleep.
It makes me sad, and a little bit angry, when I hear people advocating 4 hours night sleep, or presenting sleep deprivation has a must-do to be successful. Sacrificing you sleep is the first thing we will do to gain time, because it's the easiest thing to sacrifice. We think it only affects us. The reality is that it takes a toll on many things, including our relationships and our work.
Do yourself a favour, take care of yourself, take care of your sleep. It's not easy, but the rewards are worth it! So tonight, start simple and declare your bedroom a no-screen zone and bring a good old paper book 😉
Have fun ❤