You probably aren’t getting enough sleep, or getting enough good sleep.
I know I wasn’t — and still struggle at times to get enough. In my twenties and early thirties, I bragged about sleeping only 5 hours a night and about the times I’d abuse my body with things like 76 hours without sleep or only 12 hours in a week.
In his eye-opening TED Talk, neuroscientist Russell Foster debunks some common myths about sleep and calls us to take sleep seriously as a society.
“This isn’t some sort of crystal-waving nonsense,” he says. “This is a pragmatic response to good health. If you have good sleep, it increases your concentration, attention, decision-making, creativity, social skills, health.”
As the research mounts on the critical affect sleep-deprivation has on our health and cognitive ability, particularly as we age, we should make time to get enough restful sleep. A recent study by the New York University of Medicine concluded that getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night, combined with 30-60 minutes of exercise 3-6 times a week, significantly reduced the risk of stroke.
I’ll post more on this topic but for now, check out Russel Foster’s TED presentation and some simple actions you can take to help you make better decisions and live better.
Quick Tips For A Good Night’s Sleep
Create a Bedtime Routine.
This includes setting a regular bedtime and specific steps you take shortly before you go to sleep. Your routine could be as simple as washing your face, brushing your teeth, locking up, and changing into your pajamas. You want to establish triggers to your brain that it’s time to go to sleep.
Avoid Eating Late.
Ideally, we should stop eating at least three hours before bedtime. If you do get hungry just before bed, choose something light and sleep-inducing. For example, a banana is a good source of B6 which helps the body produce the sleep-aid serotonin.
Make Certain You Are Tired.
Obviously, if we aren’t tired, we will have trouble falling asleep. We all know we should exercise each day, but it doesn’t have to be full-out gym marathon. A brief, brisk 15-30 minute walk will help us sleep — and help our overall fitness and mental acuity. Just be certain to exercise earlier in the evening. Late-night exercise may tire out our bodies but it stimulates our brains.
Turn That Light Out!
Light, especially blue light from our electronic devices, signal daytime to our brains. Try to turn off your electronics at least one hour (preferably 3 hours) before going to bed. If you are an avid ebook reader, get an e-reader that offers a nighttime mode which cuts the blue light emitted or get special amber glasses that do the same thing.
Also, kill the light seeping into your bedroom. Try blackout curtains on your windows and cover the light from chargers, powerstrips, nightlights, and other low but surprisingly disturbing ambient lights. Or use a sleep mask.
To get a good night’s rest, we need to wind down and calm our mind. I do a 10-20 minutes mindfulness meditation followed by 10-15 minutes of casual reading each night as part of my bedtime routine. You may want to read a book, listen to some soothing music, write in a journal, or review your Priority Planning list and make a new one for tomorrow. Consider skipping the late-night news or anything else that might raise your blood pressure or get your mind racing.
Create a Restful Environment.
Check out your bedroom. Does it need decluttering? Is your mattress comfortable? Do you need to evict the pets thundering through? Would a white noise generator cover the sound of those noisy neighbors? Is it where you sleep or has it become your alternative office space? Make certain your bedroom is a peaceful, comfortable place that signals bedtime to your brain.
Yes, I’m one to talk. I’m writing this sitting on my bed right now, but I make absolutely certain I only work after my bed is made and on top of the covers. Once I snuggle down under the covers, my brain knows it’s time for sleep.