Importance of a Good Sleep Routine and How to Go About it
Sleep:Don’t ignore it
A good night of restful sleep is so important. It is when the body goes into maintenance mode to repair and regenerate. It just isn’t healthy to sleep poorly and you will feel it in the morning. If it takes an hour to wake up or you just feel foggy in the morning, you’re doing something wrong. Your circadian rhythm and melatonin levels are definitely out of balance. Most people have difficulty falling asleep at night and have to force themselves to go to sleep. Tossing and turning with racing thoughts for an hour before finally falling asleep. The average person stays up way too late watching TV and searching the web on their smartphone. There are processes and natural cycles going on in your head that tell you when to be awake and when to be tired. I used to work a 3rd shift job that had me working 11 at night until 7 in the morning and trying to get good rest when the sun is up is impossible! Why is this? The mind is not used to all the visual stimulus we bombard it with every day. Fluorescent lighting and the rise of cell phones, tablets, computers, and television wreak havoc on our circadian rhythm. Everything is made to be bigger and brighter than the last model. Think about human existence and how our ancestors evolved. Our minds are not built to stare at computers and screens all day. Large amounts of blue wavelengths and black fonts on white backgrounds can cause headaches and permanent eye damage. I will introduce a few technology hacks and lifestyle hacks in this section, but we are going to focus mostly on how to have more productive sleep with the time you have and save the hacking details for later. Better sleep can have a huge impact on your biology and is essential for starting the day off right, building a routine, and having consistent energy levels.
During the Day
There are many simple changes you can make during the day to make sleep comes easier at night. The goal is to make it easier for your brain to relax and shut down once the sun sets. I prefer to always get my exercise in during the morning hours. Going to the gym at night can make it difficult to fall asleep. If you are unable to exercise in the morning, just use common sense and make sure you aren’t going for a jog an hour or two before you are planning on sleeping. Make sure to limit your caffeine after lunch. I love my coffee and it really gets me going in the morning, but if I drink a cup at 5pm, you can bet your ass I am going to be over stimulated later in the evening. The “10-3-2-1 Formula” is what I try to follow. Some of these can be hacked and I’ll talk about that in the next paragraph.
- NO caffeine 10 hours before bed
- NO food 3 hours before bed
- NO work 2 hours before bed
- NO screen time 1 hour before bed
Do not take naps! This shouldn’t be too hard. Your energy levels should be pretty steady during the day from the ketogenic diet and other changes you are implementing. Fight the urge to lay down until it’s time to go to bed. Some people like to nap out of boredom. They have nothing better to do, so couch time it is! This will only make it more difficult for you when you lay down to try and catch your full 8 hours.
I would like you to start thinking of sleep as a process and not just something you do at night. You should prepare for before simply hopping into bed. You hopefully listened when I told you to limit your caffeine intake during the second half of the day. That’s a start, but what else can we do? This only applies to nights where you are staying home. If you are heading out with some friends on a Friday night, that’s fine too. Go ahead and have some fun. I am not telling you to become a hermit!
After supper, begin to decompress for the day. The goal here is to start thinking about slowing the mind down. Some light chores are fine here and there, but save the bulk of it for the mornings or afternoons. If you have any work to finish up for the day or some emails to respond to, try wearing some blue blocking glasses. These are amber tinted sunglasses that help to block the blue light that is emitted from your computer screen. This is also a good hack for anybody who watches a lot of television in the evening. You will quickly notice that your mind will feel more relaxed when you wear these glasses. Most of the cheaper pairs online look like safety goggles, but who cares! Within the color spectrum, wavelengths in the blue light range are essential for waking us up in the morning. It sends a signal to the brain to lower the melatonin and raise cortisol levels. Red light is just the opposite and tends to be great at bedtime for relaxing the mind and it will send a signal to up the melatonin levels to prepare you for some restful sleep. If you must use you smartphone before going to bed, make sure you are using these glasses. Getting into this habit will do wonders for resetting your circadian rhythm and regulating your melatonin levels throughout the day. There are also a few software options for the computer, phone, and tablets that will help to filter blue light. My favorite is called “f.lux”. It is completely free and all you have to do is put in your zip code and it will activate an orange/amber colored filter when the sun goes down. You can adjust the settings, but I prefer to have a small tint on during the day and then max out the settings when the sun goes down. This is a great option for anyone who can’t stay away from the computer at night or works up until the point of going to bed. Phones and tablets also have their own apps that will limit blue light emitted from electronics before bed. The glasses can even be used for watching television before bed if that is a habit you aren’t willing to let go yet! After a few days of trying this out, you should notice your brain will feel much more relaxed in the evening and you will fall asleep faster.
Go to sleep earlier! Your friends will make fun of you for this one, but it’s essential. Since you want to be able to wake up earlier and get your day moving, it all starts with going to bed earlier. I normally take some GABA before I go to bed. You can find it at any grocery store or health supplement store. There are a few other supplements out there for sleep, but supplementing melatonin will only work for a few days before you build up a tolerance. The technology hacks have worked much better for me. The best way to fall asleep fast is to get your bedroom as dark as possible and turn off all the little LED lights that are on every electronic device we own. You will also want to keep your bedroom as quiet as possible. Some people prefer to have some sort of background noise and a small fan running is the best option. Try cooling down your room to around 66-68 degrees. You might need to add another blanket, but I find I sleep deeper and wake up less throughout the night when my bedroom is nice and cool. Try to ween yourself off of falling asleep with the television on, but it will take some time. I do have some nights where I will lay in bed and watch television for an hour or two. This is when the blue blocking glasses really come in handy and make sure to use them! Watching TV without them right before trying to sleep is a terrible idea. If you work a 3rd shift job, try to black out the windows with some black curtains. A small amount of sunlight is all it takes to mess with the sleep process.
The final step before going to bed is setting an alarm for the morning! The habit of waking up earlier is an important one. I like having some “me time” in the morning before officially starting my day. Most people will find that 7-8 hours is perfect. I like to fall asleep by 11pm at the latest, but even that is a little too late. Shoot for a 10pm bedtime. If you are doing any sort of shift work you will have to find what works for you. The same rule applies. If I am in bed around 10pm and decide to watch a little television, I will surely be asleep by 11pm. Use the sleep function if you still find it hard to break the TV habit and it will shut off on its own. The flashing lights from the screen can be blocked with a sleep mask. Find what works for you and take note of what you did the night before if you have
You should start to enjoy waking up in the morning. I used to hate the morning. The snooze button and I were the best of friends. When you have the motivation and the drive to get up and start your day, it becomes easier and easier. Waking up earlier than you are used to is important for a few reasons. If you find yourself having to rush to get ready for work, you’re doing it wrong. I get up between 6-7am every single day. Sometimes, this becomes 10am if I was out with some friends on the weekend. Just stop sleeping in! Don’t hit the snooze button. I have a couple handy little hacks that I use for waking up in the morning. As you know by now, blue light wake you up. For a few dollars on eBay, I was able to find a small LED bulb with a remote that is within reach when my alarm sounds. About 30 seconds of staring at a blue LED light is all it takes to get me out of bed. This doesn’t mean you have to shine it in your face. I just have it pointed at the ceiling. Whatever works for you is fine. If you get one that changes color, the red light comes in handy at night! Just make sure you don’t choose a compact fluorescent bulb that has been painted blue. I see these in a lot of stores and they won’t work. The next hack I use every morning is a sleep cycle app on my phone. There are a few good ones out there, but I prefer the original “Sleep Cycle” app that uses the microphone instead of most of the others that require you to keep the phone next to your pillow. It has a paid option, but the free version works perfectly fine. With this one, you can just plug the phone in and place it on the night stand next to your bed. First off, set a backup alarm. I have never had the app not work, but I still always set a manual alarm on my cell phone and another one on the other side of my room. Anything can happen and if your phone decides to turn off in the middle of the night, you’re screwed! This app works by listening to your movement from the moment you turn it on to the moment you wake up. It will plot a nice little graph in the morning to show you how you slept, but I don’t really trust that information at all. The most important part of the app is how it wakes you up. Just set the time you want to wake up and it will focus in on your movement under the covers during the 30 mins prior to when you want to get up. This means that if you set the alarm for 7am, it might sound at 6:43am! It will choose a time when you are moving or rolling over in bed. This is when you are in a really light sleep or already awake. I always seem to wake up right before my alarm goes off. This app just makes sure I don’t go back to sleep in a drowsy fog of bad decisions. You will feel more awake when you get up this way. If your alarm sounds while you’re in a deep sleep, it takes forever to wake up and the grogginess sets in. It might sound a little weird, but it makes a big difference in how I start my morning. You should wake more refreshed and the snooze button habits will subside. The moment when you get up will set the tone for the rest of the day. Do not hit snooze and even make your bed! It’s all about having an easily repeatable routine. Within a minute or two I am already in my kitchen making some coffee and watching the morning news.