Sleep is one of the most important things you’ll do for your long term health.
This is fact.
Yet we often take sleep for granted.
But getting a regular good night’s sleep is one of – if not, ‘the’ – most important health habit you can make.
Sleep rejuvenates you.
It cleans all the dead cells out of your body, including cancerous cells.
It improves memory function in your brain to make you smarter.
It also helps with hormone production ensuring you have enough natural testosterone in your body.
Long term sleep deprivation causes a reversal of all of the above and also causes your body to become insulin resistant which is associated with premature ageing.
Assuming you get enough of the stuff, you spend around a third of your life asleep.
This means even if you live until you’re 90-years-old, thirty of those years will be spent asleep which means you only really ‘live’ (in the truest sense) for sixty years.
“I’ll just sleep less and have a longer life awake”, you say.
Unfortunately, life doesn’t work like that.
Neither does, “I’ll catch up on my sleep later in the week.”
Your body can’t catch up on a sleep deficit.
For every action, there is a reaction. And your body’s reaction to long-term sleep deprivation means a shorter life.
Sleep is not an elixir to good health but it’s the closest thing to one.
Sleep is more important than nutrition or exercise.
You can go without eating for months and you can go without exercise for years but you can’t go without sleep for even days.
“Sleep when you’re dead” you’ll hear people say rationalising their all-night partying or non-stop working.
Firstly, you’ll look like crap, you can’t think straight and you’re speeding up your journey to the grave. Well done, sleep warrior.
There are countless articles online detailing how to get a good night’s sleep. Many of which are just regurgitated from one blogger or journalist to the next.
The only way to truly no how to get a good night’s sleep is to become your own lab rat and see what works best for you.
The following methods are how I ensure I get a good night’s sleep each night.
I don’t follow each religiously. Life gets in the way sometimes.
But when I implement at least some of them I tend to wake up feeling fresh and my mind kicks into action.
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 bed at around 11pm each night is the optimal time for my circadian rhythm.
I’ll wake around 6am feeling rested and ready to get out of bed.
We all differ in how much sleep we need but the general consensus is you need no more or less of six to eight hours. I’m at the seven hour mark.
Sleeping and waking at the same time each day gives your body clock a routine it can follow.
Ask a shift worker how bad their sleep patterns are understand why a routine is important. I’ve worked shifts before and the sleep quality isn’t great, especially working nights.
Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day will get your into a routine where it will go through the sleep cycle process more effectively.
2. Exercise regularly
Exercising first thing in the morning sets the tone for the day.
You get the blood flowing and you feel more productive from the outset.
For me, nothing sets the tone more positively than after an early morning run. The endorphin rush and the clear mind afterwards is a form of natural therapy.
Countless 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 regular each day. All which help me sleep better.
That’s how I do it but find what works best for you and get into the habit doing it.
3. No caffeine after 2pm
On a morning, don’t eat and instead just drink coffee, water and the occasional tea.
My daily coffee intake is usually two or three cups per day but once 2pm rolls by, I stay clear of caffeine to give me a nine hour buffer to clear it out my system.
It’s usually around this time I stop intermittent fasting and begin eating for the day.
We all 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 more in the middle and need to ween myself of it before the day ends to ensure it doesn’t disrupt my sleep.
Some people give up caffeine for a month or so but I’m not prepared to go through that cold turkey state right now.
4. Read in bed
Reading before bed makes me drowsy as my eyelids begin to fight a losing battle to stay open.
I read it from my smartphone not a book which people advise against but I’ve never felt the screen light keeps me awake.
Today’s iPhones have the ‘Night Shift’ feature to block the blue light emitted from screens which promotes wakefulness.
I usually need at least 30 – 45 minutes in bed to wind down and reading helps me do this.
I’ve never found working from a computer or reading from a smartphone before bed interferes with my sleep.
Blue screens affecting sleep are a fallacy in my experience but for others it seems to be real. We’re all different.
Reading gets my brain in a calming state before sleeping.
5. Wear a sleeping mask
Sleeping in a room that is pitch black is ideal though easier said than done.
Black out blinds help but only so much as the light still tends to glimmer through.
Plus, most bedrooms these days have electricity points and TV on-standby lights. Summer mornings tend to wake people earlier than normal too.
The best alternative is a sleep mask which are in my experience the best kind of light blocker there is.
The sleeping mask I use is this one which lasts for about three or months until it needs replacing after they begin to get a little ravaged and don’t fit as well.
Yeah you look a little nerdy wearing it but that is a small price to pay for extra sleep quality.
6. Use silicone earplugs
Like the sleep mask, one of the best sleep aids I’ve discovered are silicone earplugs.
These things are game-changers and have given me on average at least one hour extra of sleep a night.
I first came across them during my first floating experience as they’re provided before getting in the float tank to stop the salty water from getting in the ears.
In the past I would try to use foam earplugs but always found them useless. They don’t block out sound and by the morning they’d be scattered across the bed and floor.
Silicon earplugs block out most noises because they mould to the shape of the inside of your ear.
They helped me get a good rest when I was travelling and in London they block out the the big city noise including the horrendous screams of the urban foxes at night.
If you can sleep through noise, fine, but if you’re like me get these silicone earplugs from Amazon.
I use Mack’s Snoozers silicone earplugs and thoroughly recommend them.
7. Wake up naturally
Or, in other words, don’t use an alarm clock.
Alarm clocks wake you up when you’re in deep sleep making you feel tired and irritable throughout the day.
When you wake up naturally you’re in the lightest part of the sleep cycle and it signals 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 for some reason it’s like my body knows when to wake up.
An alarm clock is a clash between the actual sleep your body needs vs the time it tells you to wake up. There’s a lot of sleep conflict in this clash and over the long term .
That’s it in a nutshell. No lotions, no medication, tablets or potions. I’ve tried a lot of supplements and they make little difference.
Sure, you can get prescription type sleep aids but I like to do everything naturally until I’m to
Getting a good night’s sleep is about 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.