It can take up to 14% longer to finish a task if you decide to power through your day with crappy sleep.
Your willpower will be shot and as you have probably experienced, you will burn out quickly without being able to produce your best work.
Poor sleep can turn you into an irritable crazed zombie but instead of wanting to devour brains you’ll reach for sugary treats and comfort food.
Insufficient sleep increases the amount of the hunger hormone grehlin and on top of this your brain loses 12-14% of glucose and therefore doesn’t have the fuel it needs to power itself effectively.
Basically, you will become the puppet to your cravings. No bueno.
It’s been shown that skimping on sleep can even lower your IQ making you as cognitively capable as someone that went binge drinking for a few nights and toked up on weed at the same time. Lay off the jose cuervos bro.
Receiving less than 5 hours of sleep just ONE TIME can make you as insulin resistant as a type 2 diabetic! That is crazy but absolutely true.
From essential hormone production to physical rejuvenation there is literally not one aspect of your health that sleep does not directly and measurably enhance for the better.
So here’s my essential cautionary sleep tips to reclaim what you lack when sleep is overruled in favor of late night binge eating, device addiction, or perhaps you just think you’re too cool for sleep. Yawn!
Tip 1 : Avoid The Light
Your phone, computer and TV emit a near invisible hue of a spectrum of light known as “blue light”.
If you were walking down a sidewalk and watching cars whiz by you, you’ll notice the eerie blue glow emanating from within that looks like the kind of light alien spaceships would beam down before abducting people.
This type of artificial “junk light” is hyper stimulating to the brain and impairs the production of the key sleep hormone melatonin.
Take into consideration that the sun’s primary wavelength of light is blue light and you’ll understand why you only need this during the day to keep your body primed and awake.
How does light throw your body off so easily? When light enters your eyes a protein in the ocular cells called melanopsin triggers the super-chiasmatic nucleus (SCN) (The bodies master clock) to start your internal circadian cycle that normally releases cortisol in the morning and melatonin at night.
But the blue light from your devices (at least 1,000 LUX) is enough to keep your SCN always thinking it’s daytime and stops you from releasing melatonin when you need it most.
Here are some tips to avoid blue light and prevent it from wrecking your sleep:
- Avoid walking into drugstores or supermarkets at night. That’s just as bad as someone shining a spotlight on your face.
- 1-2 hours before bed put your devices away and switch to reading a physical book, journaling, etc.
- Use a blue light filtering software on your computer to put a veil of “red light” over the screen which is essentially the color of faint candle glow. Red light is calming to the brain and nervous system. The best option is Iris which has color combinations that can be set so they automatically activate. Another option is Flux which is free but it’s debated whether flux actually blocks blue light.
- Get yourself a pair of blue light blockers. These funky looking amber tinted glasses will suppress and filter any incoming blue light if you want to stay up a bit longer on your devices. Great options are Swannies or Twilight.
Tip 2 : No More Binging
Consume your last major meal 2-3 hours before you hit the hay.
This gives your digestive system enough time to pass everything through..
Digestion is a VERY energy-intensive process and your gut has to work double-time to break all the fats, fiber and protein from the food you crammed down your mouth-hole into tiny pieces so it comes out smoothly on the other end.
Never lay down DIRECTLY after eating because it can cause acid reflux and it’s not the optimal position for your stomach to function properly for digestion.
Digestion itself is a parasympathetic process, so the body needs to be relaxed but some light yoga that turns on the core can speed up the process.
Because digestion is para-sympathetic managing your level of stress is muy importante! That’s where the most deficient mineral in the human body comes into play.
I’m talking about magnesium.
This is a wonder mineral that too many of us lack (at least 80% of the US population) but it does so much! Magnesium is involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body and it’s found in every tissue.
It can ease muscle tension and without it your cells can’t make adequate energy. It also keeps organs like your heart (the most magnesium dependent organ) working efficiently.
Here are some tips to achieve great sleep while still being able to eat at night:
- If you can avoid eating any enormous meals that are heavy with oils or meat. This can sit in your stomach like a rock and it takes many hours for your intestine to chop it up.
- Digestion starts in the mouth! Chew slowly with intention so you can savor every…last…piece.
- Munch on a handful of fiber filled foods. Fiber aids with digestion. Examples of fibery foods are almonds, oatmeal, carrots, celery.
- Eat foods rich in melatonin. Remember melatonin is your sleep hormone so why not eat something tasty while helping your body wind down? Tart cherries (unsweetened) are outstanding because they contain an Immense amount. Ginger root, pineapple, tomatoes, oranges, apples (lots of fiber in skin as well), walnuts and asparagus also have a little.
- Add in some magnesium to your diet through foods like Brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, spirulina, sesame seeds and especially green leafy veggies like Kale. Pili nuts are a tear shaped phillipino nut with over 85 milligrams of magnesium in a one-ounce serving.
- Applying magnesium topically to the skin via a cream or oil allows it to rapidly absorb into the body. A common way that works is soaking in a bathtub of magnesium salts (Epsom). There’s also companies like Magnesium Breakthrough that provide all 7 forms of magnesium in a single pill.
Tip 3 : Go Dark
Your room should be a sanctuary devoted to two things.
I’ll let you guess what they are.
Your sanctuary must be peaceful and welcoming.
Not a bunch of random items on shelves or a pile of dirty laundry covering the floor.
Above all though it should be devoid of any light once it comes time to close those peepers.
I mentioned the detrimental problems with blue light from your devices but you may not be taking into consideration the effect of the lights outside of your home.
Depending on where you live you could have street lamps shining their light into your room or the momentary passing of headlights if you live next to a road.
Most people don’t realize that your skin contains the same photo-receptors as the retina that picks up outside light, activating your SCN and signaling to the brain that it’s daytime when it’s clearly not.
This outside light will also impair your ability to enter deep REM which is the stage of sleep where dreams occur and your body rejuvenates and repairs itself. No gains from all that lifting if you can’t enter REM.
If you have some light still peaking through your curtains, follow these tips and you’ll be all set!
- Cover your windows with black trash bags or grab a set of blackout curtains. The downside of this is that some blackout curtains tend to be too short to fully block all light. But if you find some with the correct height and it works for you than go for it!
- Wear a sleep mask. For this to be effective you must be able to completely cover your eyes and the mask must be comfortable enough to not cause any pressure or tightness around your head. My recommendation is to purchase a Manta Sleep mask.
Manta have removable plush eye pads that can be endlessly moved around to your liking with a velcro like adhesion to the mask and an adjustable band at the back.
- The next option is to do what I did and pick up a tri-fold black poster board from Walmart (or your local arts and craft place)
Measure your window beforehand and then cut the poster board to fit your windows until all cracks where light can seep in is completely covered. (see image below)
To test if the above works wait until its dark, slide the boards into your windows, roll the curtains over top, close your curtains,turn off all the lights in your house and close your door. Wait a few seconds for your eyes to fully adjust to the darkness and notice if you see ANY light.
Tip 4 : Be Cool My Friend
Temperature plays a big part in the quality of your sleep. If it’s too hot under your sheets, you could overheat and subsequently toss and turn maniacally. Or when it’s just right, you will sleep like a bear.
In this respect think of Goldilocks. Not too hot, not too cold. Just right!
And what is the best temperature to improve your sleep quality?
61-68 degrees. Again not too cold.
Keep your socks on and don’t layer yourself too much as if you’re about to brave Narnia in your dreams. Taking a warm shower an hour before sleeping can help your body de-stress and through thermoregulation your body will calibrate your body temperature until it’s in the optimal range.
You can set your thermostat to this range and tweak it until it’s comfortable.
Tip 5 : Dump Your Brain
Rumination is the brains way of making sense of the days culmination of ideas,unchecked to-do’s and other random bits of information still clinging onto your attention.
Without extracting all of this out of our mind you’ll have a more difficult time falling asleep without the nagging guilt of what you could have finished or having important knowledge that could disappear within a few hours from your consciousness.
This has to do with The Zeigarnik effect,where your subconscious mind holds onto unfinished things until they are crossed off. Your brain is a computer so you must clear out the vast amount of data that’s sitting in your mental “recycle bin” taking up space.
The simple solution is to whip out a notepad and write down everything you can think of.
Important projects, grocery items to pick up from the store, plot concepts for your new epic fantasy novel,blog post titles. Whatever is streaming into your brain just get it out so you can organize, prioritize and deal with it tomorrow.
Tip 6 : Easy On The Brew
Caffeine can be revered as a gift of the gods when you had shitty sleep the night before. It’s perfect as a performance enhancer but most people abuse caffeine and drink it too late in the day or every day which is a BIG NO NO!
Caffeine has a half-life (half of it is still in your system after consumed) of around 6 hours. That means you should NEVER drink coffee, tea or other caffeinated beverages after 1 or 2 pm.
Here’s how it works to keep you up:
Adenosine is a hormone that gradually diminishes in the day to let your brain and body wind down when necessary. But caffeine is shaped similarly to adenosine so when it enters the brain it sits in the same spot and adenosine is kicked out.
That’s why you CRASH so HARD when caffeine wears off and adenosine takes its rightful place back. So use caffeine smartly and not to keep you up all night for that enormous project!
Every few days just skip caffeine altogether to limit the amount in your system and prevent caffeine dependence. It is a drug after all.
Tip 7 : Take a CRP
Charging through your day without taking a bit of time to recoup your energy and willpower is a recipe for disaster. You’ll end up nodding off while working on the most important activities, producing work with little to no value for the world.
A handful of the most prolific thinkers, inventors and creatives in history have deliberately taken small naps in the afternoon to recharge their creativity and critical thinking skills to come up with an answer to a pressing dilemma or product idea.
I’m talking about Edison, Aristotle, Einstein and even Salvador Dali.
You know, he’s the freaky dude that painted those odd melting clocks in the desert.
As Salvador drifted into a light sleep, he held a key in his right hand. On the ground below was an upside-down plate.
When he reached a sufficient level of doziness, the key would slip from Salvador’s grasp and fall onto the plate producing a clang loud enough to wake up the drowsy artist.
Edison’s nap-time routine comprised him propping his one hand on his elbow. Clenched lightly in his fist was a pair of ball-bearings that would fall to the floor immediately waking up the supremely sleepy inventor.
Edison HATED sleeping a long time and often proclaimed that sleep was completely unnecessary. Not an outstanding role model for caring about your health!
If a nap sounds boring, why not call it a Controlled Recovery Period (CRP)
This is a term that Nick Littlehales, a sleep coach and author of the aptly named book Sleep uses with the elite athletes he trains and optimizes for peak excellence on and off the field of play.
In early afternoon around 1-3 pm your sleep pressure is very high. This is the nudge that your body is giving you to take a breather and recover with a CRP.
If elite Navy SEALS, musicians and experts in their respective fields use naps to double their alertness and reaction time, well I think it makes sense for you to incorporate this into your schedule as well right!
Keep in mind:
- A nap/crp in the midday around lunch should never exceed 90 minutes because that will restart a whole new sleep cycle which I talk about in the next section.
You’ve probably felt the disorientating effects of waking out of a sleep cycle prematurely with all the grogginess, confusion and brain fog to go along with it.
This same response (aka sleep inertia) is felt when you hit the snooze button in the morning and wake up less than 90 minutes later partly in another sleep cycle.
- If you are experiencing sleep inertia splash some cold water on your face.
- Do not nap over 30 minutes past 5-7 pm because it will throw off your ability to get great sleep.
- Take a quick dose of caffeine (expresso shot or similar, just don’t sip) before 30 minute crp so it works when you wake up because caffeine takes 20 minutes to affect the body.
Nick also advises his athletic phenoms and everyday normal folk that they switch from thinking about sleep in terms of the typically recommended 8 hours and instead rest in consistent sleep cycles aiming for around 35 hours per week at the minimum.
Tip 8 : The Power Of Sleep Cycles
Every night you go through 4 stages of sleep.
After 90 minutes of passing through all of these stages you complete 1 full sleep cycle. Nick seems to have a name for everything as he calls sleep cycles R90 (recovery in 90 minutes)
Here’s each of the 4 stages in detail:
- Stage 1-NON REM (non rapid eye movement)
- This is when you are just drifting out of wakefulness.
- Stage 2-Light Sleep
- This stage is when memory consolidation occurs aka when your short-term memories from the day are stored in your long-term memory. It enhances your motor skills. Heart rate slows and body temp drops. You spend the longest time here.
- Stage 3- Deep Sleep
- We produce the slowest frequency brain waves known as Delta in this stage. There is also an increase in human growth hormone. This is crucial because hgh diminishes over time more and more as you age and it keeps your body youthful. You will reap the benefits of the muscular tearing from that intense workout in this stage.
- Stage 4-REM (rapid eye movement)- This is the stage of dreaming. Your eyes are fluttering like crazy underneath your closed lids. Every night you have dreams but I’m betting if I were to ask you what they involved you would have no clue or you may not think you had a dream at all.
Then the cycle repeats.
Nick suggests you figure out when you want to wake up and pick the length of your sleep apart until it’s divided into cycles.
However your wake time MUST stay the same every day so your circadian clock activates all the physiological processes mentioned above at the right time like clockwork, pun totally intended.
Here’s some examples of sleep cycle time-frames.
- Sleep by 9:30 wake up at 5 (7 ½ hrs/5 cycles)
- Sleep by 8 pm wake up at 5 (9 hrs/6 cycles)
Harnessing sleep cycles instead of just sleeping for a straight 8 hours is something many people aren’t accustomed to. Therefore, try this out now and then or just make it your go to sleep strategy.
Did you know that all that mind chatter and brain activity in the day uses a lot of cellular energy and actually leaves behind cellular residue (waste) and toxins that accumulates in your brain?
This residue can turn into the ghastly plaque that is associated with Alzheimers.
To wipe all the gunk away, your brain has its own cleaning system! It’s called the glymphatic system. When you are in deep sleep your brain cells actually shrink in size by 60% as a fluid is released that clears all that debris.
That’s what we call taking the trash out!
This cleansing is one of the reasons you feel so level-headed, restored and positive on the days when you get great quality sleep.
I also thought it was super interesting and worth mentioning that Swedish peak performance researcher K. Anders Ericsson spent some time studying musical prodigies and athletes across different domains and concluded that they could only sustain full deliberate concentration when practicing for 90 minutes.
Anything past that and they lose their focus.
Use this to your advantage.
- Work for 90 minutes.
- Practice and train a chosen skill for 90 minutes.
- Take a 90 minute break.
Tip 9 : Check Your Posture
Leave the contorting into a pretzel or military pose for your dog and having sex (respectively).
Think about the position you assume as you rest each night. Littlehales suggests we end the habit of laying on our back facing the ceiling as we sleep as that relaxes the throat too much causing a narrowing of airways which can lead to snoring or sleep apnea. This supine position also keeps the brain alert.
Face planting into your bed laying on your stomach isn’t very comfortable either and it twists your neck and spine into un-natural and straining positions leading to cervical problems and again making it hard to breathe.
In fact, this may surprise you but Littlehales wants everyone to sleep on their side in the fetal position just as you would when you were a baby hence the name. But which side you face matters.
Face the opposite of your dominant side. So if you’re primarily a right-handed person who writes and uses your right side then you would face your entire body in a fetal position to the left. And vice versa.
Don’t crunch up into a ball either. Just bend your knees slightly and rest your hands on the side next to your head palms on top of each other as in the picture below.There should be an evenly smooth straight postural line through the entire back side of your body from the neck down to your bottom.
So what happens if you sleep in this same position on your dominant side?
Well, we have to hearken back to your prehistoric ancestors.
If your tribe was on alert for predators and you were laying down on the grass in a fetal position on your dominant side facing the danger your non dominant arms and leg would cover the important organs like your heart and also your genitals.
This would make you extremely vulnerable to an attack especially if the danger came from behind because you aren’t able to defend yourself quickly with your nondominant side you aren’t used to using in the spare of the moment.
So in a nutshell overtime your brain has associated sleeping on your dominant side covering these sensitive parts of the body as a safe position to be in.
This makes sense because if you’re dreaming in DEEP sleep (where you are practically paralyzed) your body must be able to snap out of it and react quickly with the side its most familiar with.
Whew! That was a boatload of sleep enhancing tips.
I hope they help you be more alert and energized the next day with little to no brain fog and instead a clear, focused and positive mind!
Use the tips in this post to really conquer your day after receiving phenomenal sleep with what you learned!
Also : If you have a friend that is an insomniac share these tips with them!