When it comes to health and longevity getting a good night’s sleep is one of the most underrated things you can do.
You spend about a third of your life asleep. Being unconscious is a huge part of your total life.
Sleep cleans the brain by flushing out waste and improves memory function. It stimulates the body to produce hormones and to carry out other important rejuvenation tasks.
Quite simply, if there is an elixir to health then good sleep would be it.
“Sleep when you’re dead” you’ll hear people say rationalising their all-night partying or non-stop working. This is counterintuitive since a chronic lack of sleep causes premature ageing.
Insulin sensitivity is a key part of longevity. The less insulin your body needs to create the better. On the flipside, if you’re insulin resistant your body has to create a lot of it which increases ageing.
If you’re a no sleep warrior then you have problems since sleep deprivation increases insulin resistance.
A study by the University of Chicago found that if you deprive people of sleep to four hours a night over a couple of weeks their insulin sensitivity deteriorated by 50 percent. In a nutshell, you’re ageing yourself by not getting a good night’s sleep.
In a nutshell, you’re ageing yourself by not getting a good night’s sleep. Plus all the other negatives that come with lack of sleep like low mood, brain fog and just generally looking bad.
This is why it’s hugely important to get a good night’s sleep for longevity.
There are countless articles online detailing how to get a good night’s sleep. Most regurgitate one another and it’s doubtful they follow their own advice.
A lot of it is pseudoscience passed or around from one blogger to the next or their recommendations are just not workable.
We all differ in how much sleep we need. I get around seven hours per night. The general consensus is you need six to eight hours.
I usually wake up feeling fresh and my mind kicks into action. Very rarely do I fall back asleep. This could also be due to my active mind.
If you wake up feeling groggy and tired each morning you need to start changing up your routine.
This is how I do it.
1. Go to bed at the same time each night
Going to sleep at 10pm each time is the optimal time for my circadian rhythm. I’ll wake around 5am feeling good and ready to get out of bed. If I go to bed at midnight it’s likely that I’ll wake up at 5am feeling groggy and tired.
Sleeping and waking at the same time each day allows the body to get quality sleep. It sets a routine for both you and your body clock. Waking up at 5am feeling fresh also allows me to get a lot done before most people have woke up.
2. Exercise frequently
Exercising first thing in the morning sets the tone for the day. You get it out the way first thing feeling pumped. For me, nothing sets the tone more positively than after an early morning run. The endorphins have kicked in and my mind is clear.
Studies show doing physical exercise in the day helps you sleep better at night. From my own experience I find this to be the case. The main staple of my current exercise regime is weights, running and walking. All which help me sleep better.
3. Stop drinking caffeine from 2pm onwards
I drink mainly coffee, water and the occasional tea. I usually drink two to three cups of coffee a day but after 2pm I stick with water. That gives me eight hours to clear the caffeine out of my system.
People respond differently to caffeine depending on our genetics. Some get the jitters after one cup whereas others can happily chug down litres with little to no effect.
I’m pretty good on coffee. I don’t get jitters and I often wonder if it has any stimulant effect on me at all. That said, I don’t drink it after 2pm because by then I feel done with drinking for the day and so it doesn’t interfere with my sleep.
4. Read before I sleep
Controversially I read it from my smartphone. I usually need at least 15 minutes in bed to wind down so I usually read the news or RSS feeds until I am tired.
I’ve never found watching TV, working from a computer or reading on a smartphone to interfere with my sleep. Doing any before bedtime have not interfered with my sleep at all.
Blue screens affecting sleep are a fallacy in my experience but for others it seems to be real. Hey, we’re all different.
5. Use a sleeping mask to block out any light
Making a room completely pitch black is often difficult to do. Black out blinds are good but depending on where you live they’re not good enough.
A good sleeping mask will ensure that no light gets to your eyes even when they’re open. I’m currently using this sleeping mask which I bought on Amazon which is excellent.
6. Use silicone earplugs to block out noise
I used to use foam earplugs which are OK but they still let in a lot of sound. I’d wake up on a morning and both of them would be out of my ears making me wonder how long they stayed in for.
Moving to silicone earplugs six months ago has been a gaming changing experience. They take sound blocking to the next level.
I have urban foxes screaming outside my window some nights. If you’ve ever heard foxes screaming you’ll know it’s horrible. With the plugs in I can’t hear a thing.
Most mornings I wake up with both plugs still in my ears and in combination with the eye mask they help me get me an extra hour’s sleep per night. More in the light summer months.
I use Mack’s Snoozers silicone earplugs and thoroughly recommend them.
7. Don’t use an alarm clock
Alarm clocks can wake you up when you’re in deep sleep. Making you feel tired and irritable throughout the day.
Your body wakes you up when you’re in the lightest part of a sleep cycle and when you’ve had enough rest.
I’m lucky that even if I need to be somewhere at a certain time I’ll wake up with adequate time to get there. I still set the alarm but it’s like my body knows when to wake up.
In a nutshell that’s it. No lotions, no medication, tablets or potions. I’ve tried a lot of them and they make little difference.
It’s about applying common sense principles. Sleep at the same time each night, block out noise and light, wind down with reading and let your body wake up when it wants to.