Getting Great Sleep: Three Quick Wins
Let’s talk sleep.
If you feel rested, it’s going to be a lot easier to get up in the morning, and you’re also going to perform better during the day. Which means you can do more in less time, but you can also do better. Not only your morning, but your whole day depends on the sleep you get.
Sleep isn’t just a waste of time. It’s the opportunity for your body to repair, your brain to clear of toxins, and your mind to make sense of information and store it in your memory. Sleep is essential to a quality life (and to quality work).
There are two elements to a good night’s sleep: quality and quantity.
Let’s start with quantity. Most people need 7-8 hours of sleep a night, minimum. I know you’re thinking, “I’m not like most people,” but that’s exactly what most people think. Here’s the conundrum: the more intense your day is, the more sleep you’ll need. If your day requires a lot of cognitive and physical power, then you will need more time to recover.
When you start to cut down on sleep, you enter the sleepless cycle where the more tired you are, the poorer your performance will be. The poorer you perform, the longer it will take you to get stuff done. The more time you need to work, the less time you’ll have to sleep. And so on. Make sure you always get enough sleep or your early alarm clocks will be pointless.
There’s also a quality element to sleep, which a lot of people ignore. Sleep is mainly composed of three phases:
• Light sleep represents around 50% of your sleep time, and it’s when your body starts repairing and your memory is organized and backed up for long-term recall.
It’s a lot easier to wake up in this stage, as there is a lot of movement involved and the body is still actively perceiving external stimuli.
• Deep sleep makes up about 25% of your sleep. In this phase, your body recovers from physical fatigue.
• REM sleep composes about 25% of your night, and it’s here that you recover from psychological fatigue and stress.
These keep alternating through the night in cycles of around 1.5–2 hours.
You see, there’s a lot more to sleep than just being unconscious. If you’re sleeping enough hours (or even more) and still feeling groggy, chances are your sleep phases are off.
Here are some quick wins:
• Introduce a caffeine curfew. It can take up to 14 hours for your body to get rid of caffeine and between 6-8 hours to get rid of half of the ingested dose. So stop having anything caffeinated at least 6 hours before bed. Sleep beats caffeine.
• Don’t use screens at least half an hour before going to bed. The blue light emitted by screens stops your brain from producing melatonin, a hormone regulating your sleep phases. If you really can’t do without, use blue light-blocking glasses or a software like F.lux or Night Shift mode.
• Check your magnesium levels. In the US, nearly 70% of the population is deficient in magnesium, a mineral that lowers adrenaline levels and regulates muscle relaxation and energy production. This usually has a big impact on your ability to fall asleep and the quality of your sleep.
In short, to make sure you feel great and ready to tackle the day, always make sure you get enough sleep and enough quality sleep.
In tomorrow’s lesson, we will turn your alarm clock from an enemy into a friend.
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