Back to Basics: Rule #3 Sleep
The clients who work with me want to look, feel and perform their best. Without good quality sleep it’s impossible to feel your best, perform your best and I don’t know about you but speaking from personal experience, I certainly don’t look my best after a night of poor sleep. ☺
Sleep may be the single most important aspect of creating a healthy lifestyle (it was REALLY tough not to make it Rule #1!) and in today’s society of go-go, burn the candle at both ends and “sleep when I die” mentality, we often fail to make sleep a priority.
I can’t tell you how many of the successful men and women that I work with are convinced they don’t need to sleep more than a couple hours per night to perform at the top of their game.
These are often the folks that have made an incredible living, provide for their family, have amazing, profitable companies and all the fun toys, vacations and Rockstar lifestyles they could wish for, but are unable to ENJOY the fruits of their labors. They often complain that they feel burned out, not present with loved ones, and lack the energy that’s necessary for creativity, exercise—and for enjoying what they’ve worked so hard to attain.
If you asked me, “what is the one thing I can do to improve performance, creativity, energy, focus and my overall health?” the answer is easy… make sleep a priority.
In this article, I’m going to share my favorite tools, tricks, habits, supplements and game changing technologies that I’ve found to up your sleep game so that you can create the best night of sleep for you.
The following article is part of 10-part series called Back to Basics designed to give folks who want to optimize their health, a starting point for creating radical change in their lives.
After all, if you don’t learn the basics and create a strong foundation, you’ll limit your potential and miss out on all the amazing benefits that are ahead of you.
Sleep Hygiene: Start with the Basics
“Sleep hygiene encompasses both environment and habits, and it can pave the way for higher-quality sleep and better overall health.” -Sleep Foundation
Below is a list of sleep hygiene must-do’s that need to be implemented before we introduce anything else. Often times, we can make a HUGE difference in our sleep quality by improving our sleep hygiene—and the cool thing is that while it requires a minimal financial investment, the payoff can be life changing!
Light: Sleeping in a pitch-black room is essential. Use black out curtains and duct tape to cover any lights in the bedroom or wear a sleep mask.
Temperature: Cool environments facilitate deeper levels of restorative sleep. Try turning down the a/c, open a window or try my new favorite, the Chilly Pad. The Chilly Pad is a pad that goes under the sheets that circulates cool water and keeps me cool all night long.
Air: Circulating air is great for sleep. Use a fan, HEPA filter and/or diffuse your favorite essential oil.
Sound: Use white, pink, or grey noise to filter out background sounds and/or earplugs in noisy environments like hotels and apartment buildings.
Smell: Essential oils like lavender and rose can help boost sleep and relaxation. I like to add a few drops to my pillow or use an essential oil diffuser while sleeping.
Timing: Wake and go to sleep at the same times to optimize the strength of your circadian rhythm.
Food and Alcohol: Avoid before bed. Ideally, no food 3 hours before bed and no alcohol 2 hours before bed.
Law of Association: Learn to associate bed with sleep and sexy time ONLY. If you fall asleep or have trouble waking and falling back to sleep, get up and engage in a relaxing technique until sleepy again. Ex. Yoga, reading, meditation, and watch TV with blue light blocking glasses
Naps: OK, couple of approaches to consider here, if you have trouble sleeping, avoid napping to build sleep pressure for the following night. After a poor night of sleep, or early travel, I do like two-to-three 20-min meditations spread out throughout the day to help recover from poor sleep, using my Nu Calm device or the Brain Tap app.
Circadian Rhythm: Light, Movement, and Food
Your circadian rhythm follows a 24-hour cycle that determines your sleep/wake cycles. Ideally, cortisol wakes you up in the morning and melatonin puts you to bed at night. When this 24-hr process is out of whack, sleep suffers.
The three cues or “zeitgebers” for circadian rhythm are:
- and food.
When I was healing from a TBI (traumatic brain injury) my circadian rhythm was all over the place. To get back on track, I combined all the cues:
- made it a priority to get morning sun (light) exposure by walking or doing yoga (movement) in the sun upon waking,
- ate my largest meal of the day at breakfast (food),
- wore blue-light-blocking sunglasses after sunset when watching TV or looking at screens,
- powered down my phone at least one hour before going to bed by putting my phone in airplane mode.
I recommend using this multi-pronged approach for anyone who’s sleep cycle is out of whack.
Blue Light at Night
When we are exposed to blue light after dark it sends a signal to our brains to stay awake when you’d rather be getting ready for bed. Studies show that just 1 hour of screen time after dark suppresses melatonin production by up to 30%. But don’t worry, you can still Netflix and chill without damaging your sleep with the quick adjustments below.
Blue light blockers and Screen Filters block the blue light emitted from computer screens, TV screens and cell phones so that you can enjoy technology without sacrificing your sleep.
- My favorite blue blocking glasses brands are RA Optics (but cheap construction glasses work, too!).
- For screen filters, install Iris on your laptop and enable night vision for iPhone users or night mode for Android users.
Electromagnetic Fields or EMF’s effects sleep too!
Just like blue light, EMF’s can block melatonin production. EMF’s are emitted from technology like cell phones, WIFI routers, smart meters, radio towers, computers, and smart/Bluetooth devices. By no means am I telling you to quit using these technologies—but, we can greatly improve our sleep quality by managing and mitigating them.
Here are my favorite tips…
- Turn phone on Airplane Mode before bed or place in another room. (Your alarm still works on airplane mode.)
- Unplug WIFI router at night or install a wireless remote to turn on the WIFI when you wake up and turn it off at bedtime.
- Install a Shield SmartMeter (or have it removed with a doctor’s note).
- Shoot for 20 minutes daily with your bare feet on the earth’s surface. This is called earthing or grounding. Connecting with the earth allows you to dump the negative charge that accumulates from spending time in environments with these technologies.
- Hire an EMF specialist or building biologist to survey your home and improve the amount of EMF inside your house. Often times, houses are wired incorrectly and this can be easily fixed by an expert. The bedroom is the most important room to mitigate EMF’s to improve sleep quality.
Getting a good night’s sleep is imperative to creating a healthy lifestyle, but in today’s society sleep is often overlooked and performance will suffer. The good news is that you can fix your sleep by making it priority. In Back to Basics: Sleep, Part 1, we’ve covered a TON of different tools and tactics that you can implement at home for little to no financial investment so that you can make sleep a priority and reap the many benefits of a good night’s sleep. In Part II, “Advanced Sleep Hacks, Tricks & Tips” I’ll share next-level steps and recommendations that my clients are using to improve their quality of life and performance.