How did you sleep last night?
It’s not a question you’re typically asked when you walk into work in the morning. We hear “How’s it going?” or “How’re you doing?” but very few people meet by the coffee machine to discuss how well they slept.
That’s really a shame because so many people have such poor sleep habits.
Not just the amount of sleep we get but the quality of that sleep has a huge effect on how productive and focused we can be the following day.
And because It isn’t something we focus our conversation on (we don’t ask ask each other about it or compare ourselves against it), we put little attention toward bettering this necessary routine that takes up such a huge part of our daily lives.
I think we should change the conversation.
People who have great sleep patterns, who feel really rested in the morning and energized to tackle the day, should have complete bragging rights. We should herald them in our media. We should cast them among the popular kids and envy them enough to strive to be like them.
Why don’t we celebrate our sleep more? I think that goes back to childhood.
The Childhood Sleep Story
As a general rule, small children have a bedtime and parents have to enforce it.
Only some kid going for child of the year went to bed willingly before age 13. We all remember the games we would play to push the limits.
I was a particularly terrible sleeper as a child and would come up with dramatic stories about what was going to happen as soon as I fell asleep (anything from a hurricane to an alligator was going to knock down my bedroom door). Bedtime was torture.
(Sidenote: This is one of the scariest thing for me about my potential future children. They may have the same terrible sleep anxiety I had and I’ll have to deal with it. Karma. Gets you every time).
But seriously, as nice as our parents tried to make bedtime, it was never something we grew up looking forward to. They may have read us a book, sang us a song, and checked underneath the bed & in the closet.
Yet when my parents left my room, I could never shake the feeling that I was missing out.
I think that this feeling sticks with us through to adulthood.
The Adulthood Sleep Story (A Continuation of Childhood)
As I started my career and made my own path in the world, I got rid of the irrational fears I had that kept me from resting easy at night.
I still, however, don’t want to go to bed.
So many people stay up late watching television to have it lull them to sleep. Or they’ll stay on their computers until their eyes can’t keep open anymore. Or they’ll get into bed but still flip through their phones, unable to turn off their minds and disconnect.
I know I’ve been guilty of all of the above.
We still have that feeling that when we do go to sleep, we’ll be missing out.
We hear the advice that we need to get on a sleep schedule, that it will be beneficial for us long term.
We also hear that we should have a morning routine (probably including a good breakfast and exercise before work).
We keep holding onto this dream that somehow we’re going to wake up at 5:30am to get all of our morning routine in which might include a quick breakfast, checking email, getting the kids off to school, and preparing for appointments, but we won’t go to bed before midnight because we’re afraid of missing out.
It’s a scary world where folks are walking around looking like zombies because of too little sleep.
There are 2 things that I want to encourage here:
We should go to bed earlier
I’m not saying we should go to bed at 9:30. I’m saying get at least 6 hours of sleep but make sure that those 6 hours of sleep are quality.
4 Tips for a Quality Night's Rest
What’s the secret to quality sleep?
It’s different for everybody, but there are a few things we can do that will make our sleep cycles more beneficial for our wake cycles.
1. Reduce the Amount of Light in Your Room & Light Exposure Before Bed
How much light is there in your room when you go to sleep? I’m sure for most of us we cut off all the lights in the house, but there may be light slipping in from the windows that’s disrupting your sleep. Gone are the days where the VCR would flash 12:00AM all night & day, but the electronics in your room may be emitting light, too.
You’ll still be able to fall asleep and stay asleep, but it’s unlikely that your body will rest as deeply as it would if there were less light.
Research has shown that artificial light during the evening suppresses our melatonin production, which regulates our sleep & wake cycles.
If you use your phone as your alarm clock, turn it on on airplane mode so you don’t get alerts during the evening, illuminating the room for a few seconds.
Move all other electronics out of the room if possible.
Buy blackout curtains to keep street lights from wandering through the shades.
Don’t watch television or use a computer/tablet/smartphone within 45 minutes of bedtime.
Taking measures to reduce your light exposure before bed directly affects how productive you’ll be the next day & has huge long term health benefits.
2. Turn the Temperature Down at Bedtime
While I’ve not lived in a world without air conditioning, I’m still very wary of AC. When it comes to readying your room for sleeping, however, it sure does come in handy.
The National Sleep Foundation states that reducing the temperature when we’re about to go to sleep helps with a good night’s rest because it mimics our body’s internal temperature regulation when we go to sleep.
You room should be between 54-75 degrees Fahrenheit for the most restful sleep. Hotter temperatures lead to lighter sleeping and more time awake.
3. Turn Up That White Noise...But Not Too Loud
Having a constant, restful, peaceful sound on will help you fall asleep more easily, and once you fall asleep it will help keep you asleep.
You may choose to go out and get a white noise machine or you may just turn on some $10 fans from Wal-Mart. Either way, you are helping your body to desire rest when it hears soothing sounds.
That desire is something that, as discussed above, doesn’t necessarily come naturally.
Using some white noise to build up desire. You may just trick yourself into bed well before midnight.
4. Exercise or Expend Energy During the Day to Make Sleeping Worth It
We sleep better when we’re tired.
It sounds obvious, but the modern world presents many “conveniences” (like transportation and the desk job) that can make it so we could go the whole day without using much of the energy we’ve stored up from the food we eat or the rest we take.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, Sleepy-head.
As mentioned in quality tip #2, our internal body temperature dips at night as our body enters deep sleep. When we exercise, our internal body temperature can rise as much as 2 degrees but then starts falling as we return to our resting heart rates.
If we time exercise correctly, we can capitalize on how our bodies temperature is already going down and use that to rock us to sleep.
Pretty neat, huh?
Incorporating any of these 4 tips into your wake-sleep cycle will absolutely result in better quality sleep and a more energized (& thus productive) day so that you can be better prepared for meeting with clients, booked appointments, meetings, and the other day-to-day things that we take part in.
What is your sleep routine? Have you struggled with getting into one or have you already figured out what works best for you? Any advice you’d want to share with people struggling to get a routine down? Let us know in the comments below!