Being Thoughtful About Sleep (05.13.18)

I have to admit, I was a terrible sleeper, didn’t believe in it and broke about every rule to get a good night’s sleep a person could make. Over the last year plus I have read a book, listened to several podcasts and videos on sleep and have made great improvements. I am still not consistent with all the useful habits but I am much better than I was and when I do the the right things I find myself more rested and in overall better health. In today’s blog I will share some of the things I have found helpful and a page I created with resources you may want to dive into on your own a bit further including a sleep assessment.

There are several important components to getting a good night’s sleep and they can be divided into three categories: prior to sleep, during sleep and when awakening.

Prior to sleep

I didn’t realize how much preparation we should be doing to set ourselves up for success. Here are a few significant tips I found helpful:

  • Shutdown the mind at least 30 minutes prior to going to sleep. What I learned was this means anything causing the brain to really work. Avoid:
    • Intense TV show or the news
    • Stressful conversation with a friend, coworker or family member
    • Email – you never know what type of thing you may open that really causes some brain power
    • Phone surfing – again you never know what could cause you to dig in deep
  • Do some mindless activities during the last 30 minutes like getting things ready for the next day – work clothes, workout clothes, food, etc.
  • Get the room as dark as you can
    • I installed black out curtains
    • Shut the door if light is coming from outside the bedroom
    • Turn off devices
    • Wear eye masks – I haven’t tried this but I may soon give it a try
    • I use a black screen white noise via YouTube (i.e. rain, thunder, surf noises)

During Sleep

  • Nick Littlehales, author of the book, Sleep: The Myth of 8 Hours, The Power of Naps…and The New Plan to Recharge Your Body and Mind, discusses a few concepts I have found working for me:
    • R90 concept – we go through stages of sleep to complete a cycle in 90 minute increments. He believes we should sleep in 90 minute cycles, thus increments we should be sleeping in should be 6, 7.5, or 9 hours – but don’t sleep 8 or 8.5….that breaks a cycle.
    • He is a big proponent of waking up at the same time each day so on a weekly basis identify the earliest you would be waking up and that should be the time each day even if you have the opportunity to sleep in. He would rather have you take a nap and he is a big proponent in napping overall anyway. I have found this technique successful vs. when I vary my wake up times.
    • He is a sleep coach and consultant for some of the most notable athletic teams and athletes in the world. What I like about Nick is he is realistic. He knows life happens so he states guidelines, emphasizes the big picture and not to get hung up on the day to day issues when life happens.
    • Here is some Nick math and guidelines I found work for me:
      • Identify the number of cycles you need in a week based on how you know your body….start with what you think on a daily basis, either 6, 7.5 or 9 hours of sleep and most likely 7.5 or 9 hours
        • 7.5 hours per night = 5 – 90 minute cycles in a night; 9 hours per night = 6 – 90 minute cycles in a night
        • Multiply the number of cycles x 7 to get your weekly total; For me that’s 35 cycles in a week
      • If you cannot make your daily cycle it’s ok but do what you can to not make it three nights in a row
      • A nap of any length counts as a cycle but try not to go over 90 minutes (this tip I have heard from multiple resources); after 90 minutes you will be groggy and not feel refreshed. This could be less time for some as well. For me it’s probably more like 45 minutes and I’m usually fantastic with about a 15 minute nap.
      • For me 35 cycles is the optimal for a week but that would be considering I am successful every day so I have been targeting 32. I should probably be striving for 33 or 34. I’ll try that this week…

When Awakening

Probably the biggest tip here is to not reach for the stressful triggers for the first 90 minutes. This can be work email, personal email that may be stressful, social media, news, etc. Use this time to set your intention for the day, introduce daylight, have breakfast, exercise, make your lunch, meditate, etc. Also avoid using the snooze function…wow that is still a challenge for me.

I have found doing the proper shutdown at night and opening they day as suggested has made a significant difference in stress levels and quality of sleep. Like anything, it’s about consistency and setting yourself up for success. Create your environment and intention and give it a go.

For resources on sleep that have helped educate me, click on the link here to take you to my Sleep page.

– Add Health to Your Life


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