Last month I wrote about how I have come to realize that getting good, quality sleep is the most important thing you can do for your physical and mental health. Shockingly, according to the latest scientific research, ⅔ of adults in developed nations do not get the recommended 8 hours of sleep a night.
I track my sleep with an alarm/phone app called “Sleep Cycle.” I highly recommend this app. I average about 6.5 hours of sleep a night, which isn’t nearly enough. I still don’t do a great job of getting enough sleep but I am working hard to get better sleep..
Part of my effort to get better sleep involves studying the science behind sleep and how to maximize your chance to get a great night’s sleep more often. Here’s what the latest science says on getting a great night’s sleep:
1. Have a consistent sleep schedule.
If you can only do one thing, try to go to bed and wake up around the same time every day, including weekends.
2. Limit all light an hour before bed, not just ‘blue” light, although blue light is the worst.
Even a little bit of light delays the release of nighttime melatonin. So at least an hour before bed, turn off the lights, get away from your screens, and make your room as dark as possible. I’ve also started wearing a sleep mask, and it has made a huge difference. Especially when my wife gets up before me and turns on all the lights in the bedroom opens all the shades on the windows.
3. Cooler is better
Your body wants to lower it core temperature when you go to sleep. A drop in temperature usually accompanies a setting sun. Right before you sleep, your body is trying to get rid of all the excess heat, which is why you sometimes see people sticking their arms and legs out of their blankets when they sleep. The best temperature for most people for sleep is around 65 degrees fahrenheit.
4. No caffeine, no booze, and no sleeping pills
You need to stop drinking caffeine by 2:00 in the afternoon or so because the caffeine stays in your body for at least 7 hours. If you drink coffee at dinner, for instance, you’ll still have 50% of the caffeine in your system at 2 or 3 a.m. Booze may help you fall asleep, but when you’re asleep after drinking booze right before bed, it’s “fake sleep,” meaning you aren’t getting real, restful sleep. Same with sleeping pills: They help people fall asleep, but they don’t actually provide real and restful sleep.
5. If you want to sleep more, sleep less
If you are having trouble sleeping 8 hours and only sleeping 6 hours, then restrict your sleep the next night to five hours. You’ll be exhausted the next day, but you’ll crash that night. Then the next night, sleep five hours and 15 minutes, and so on, until you get to the sleep number you need (almost all adults need 7-9 hours of sleep, and there are almost no exceptions to this rule).
Okay, all this talk about sleep is making me tired. Time to go turn down the AC in my bedroom, open a book, and get some shuteye!