There are very few things in life better than a consistent good night sleep.
Granted, I don’t have kids (that I know of).
I don’t have Scrooge McDuck money.
But, I’d like to think that of my accomplishments, achieving a good night sleep consistently is pretty high on my list.
The ultimate good night sleep cue for me, is if I wake up feeling like I went to bed 5 min before (while not actually going to bed 5 min before) feeling refreshed and being ready to go without caffeine.
With this post, I’m aiming to give you tips and tools to optimize your sleep so you wake up feeling like the Scrooge McDuck everyday.
Before we jump into how to optimize sleep, we need to know about sleep.
Sleep is broken up in to cycles that repeat over the course of the night. These cycles are then broken into stages. Each stage has it’s purpose and skipping or fast forwarding a stage (Foreshadowing. Wink, wink) can lead to a sleepy you the next day. Sleep is broken into Non-REM and REM sleep.
The first set of stages are known as non-Rapid Eye Movement (Non-REM). There are 4 Non-REM stages with creative names like Stage 1, Stage 2, Stage 3 and you guessed it, Stage 4.
Non-REM sleep takes up roughly 75% of your sleep in a night.
During the night, people usually experience 4-5 full cycles with the REM stages lengthening each time.
The flow of sleep goes like this:
Stage 1→ Stage 2 → Stage 3 →Stage 4 → REM → Stage 4 → Stage 3 etc. until you wake up.
Sleep helps by contributing to a healthy immune system, and can also balance our appetites by helping to regulate levels of the hormones ghrelin and leptin, which play a role in our feelings of hunger and fullness. So when we’re sleep deprived, we may feel the need to eat more, which can lead to weight gain.
This is when you body repairs itself and preps your brain of REM sleep later on. Here is a little on each stage:
- Between being awake and falling asleep
- Light sleep
Stage 2- Short Naps (20-45 mins) usually tap out after Stage 2.
- Onset of sleep
- Becoming disengaged from surroundings
- Breathing and heart rate are regular
- Body temperature drops
Stages 3 and 4- AKA the Gainz Stages
- Deepest and most restorative sleep
- Blood pressure drops
- Breathing becomes slower
- Muscles are relaxed
- Blood supply to muscles increases
- Tissue growth and repair occurs
- Energy is restored
- Hormones are released, such as: Growth hormone, essential for growth and development, including muscle development
REM is the stage where your brain repairs itself. During this stage, your brain downloads all the information obtained during the day and commits it to memories. This is why you dream during this phase.
During the research for this post, there was quiet a few helpful antidotes I found:
For the students out there:
- Since REM sleep is the stage where facts/processes are converted to memories it’s important to sleep a full night after learning something new. An uninterrupted sleep after learning something will allow for the most memory consolidation possible.
- REM sleep also helps creativity and problem solving. Need to be creative or solve the world’s problems the next day? Make sure to get your REM sleep.
For the gentlemen out there:
- Nighttime wood (nocturnal penile tumescence or NPT for you PC people) happens in REM sleep in rats and humans. This is helpful if you suffer from ED while awake. If a male has ED while awake, but has nighttime wood episodes during REM, it would suggest that the ED is from a psychological rather than a physiological cause. In this case fix your brain to fix your penis. In females, erection of the clitoris (nocturnal clitoral tumescence or NCT) causes enlargement, with vaginal blood flow. During a normal night of sleep the penis and clitoris may be erect for a total time of from one hour to as long as three and a half hours during REM. Which brings me to my point of needing a good night sleep.
Sleep is the reset button for your brain and body. Here are some tips to get you to sleep and ensure you are the Michael Jordan of sleep.
LIMIT CAFFEINE AND OTHER STIMULANTS
This is obvious but it needs to be said. Sure some people, including myself, can drink a large iced coffee and fall asleep within 10 min. While you may get to sleep you aren’t getting a restful sleep. Studies show that stage 1 through 4 are shortened when consuming caffeine as far as 6 hours prior to bedtime. Keep the caffeine for the morning and early afternoon.
Although alcohol does have sedative effects and allows you to fall asleep faster, your sleep is not restful.
The majority of studies, across alcohol dose, age, and gender, confirm an increase in stage 3 and 4 in the first half of the night but as the night progresses it becomes more easy to wake you. This contributes to a non restful sleep.
Despite smokers emphasizing cigarettes as a relaxation method, the nicotine is actually a stimulant. Much like coffee, nicotine causes a non restful sleep. Not to mention, during the night smokers develop withdrawal symptoms which also causes restless sleep.
KEEP IT DARK
Night lights, digital clocks and other stray forms of light entering your eyes can cause your body to think it’s daytime. This screws with your body rhythms. Keep the bedroom as dark as possible. Light canceling shades and remove/cover up all lights in the bedroom.
TURN PHONE TO “DO NOT DISTURB”
This feature allows for all calls/emails/text to go to your phone without lighting up like a Christmas tree. But “what if there is an emergency?” If the oft chance there is an emergency, if someone calls you twice in a row your phone will ring.
KEEP IT COOL
People tend to sleep the best between 60-75° F. Any higher or lower can cause restless sleep.
KEEP PETS AWAY
I love my dog but he sticks to you like a cheap polyester suit on a hot day. Anytime I move, he moves. Dogs also have a higher body temperature (101-102.5° F) which will elevate your temperature. Keep your pets off the bed. They will still love you.
SLOW DOWN BEFORE BED
Going from 100 mph to sleep is very hard to do. Allow your brain to relax a little by decompressing with reading, TV or some other meditative practice. Too much mental stimulation makes it hard to fall asleep.
You should associate your bed with two things: Sleep and sex. There is a place in the house for everything else.
GO TO BED WHEN TIRED
Only go to bed when you are tired. Otherwise you just toss and turn.
DON’T STARE AT THE CLOCK
Staring at the clock will not help you sleep. All it does is create stress because you can’t sleep. Another reason to block out the clocks.
KEEP A SCHEDULE
Try to keep a constant sleep schedule during the week and on the weekends. Shifting your sleep schedule even 2 hours can have the same effects as jet lag without the uncomfortable flight.
I love a good nap just as much as the next guy. Keep the nap for early in the day if at all. Napping later in the day makes it harder to sleep at night.
Eating too much or eating spicy food close to bedtime can lea to acid reflux or just being generally uncomfortable.
Surprise, surprise. The more energy you expend the more you need to recoup. Plus, sleep is where you make gainz.
TAKE A SNIFF
Certain smells, like lavender and chamomile activate the alpha wave activity in the back of your brain, which leads to relaxation and helps you sleep more soundly. This works when ingested, through tea for example, too
Research hints that magnesium plays a key role in our ability to sleep through the night. Foods rich in magnesium or a ZMA (Zinc Monomethionine Aspartate, Magnesium Aspartate and Vitamin B6) supplement before bed.
This helps relax the mind, while the rise and fall of body temperature induces sleepiness. Baths works too.
DON’T TOSS AND TURN
If you’ve been lying in bed awake for more than 20 minutes, get out of bed and try a relaxing activity like reading or listening to mellow music. Thinking about not sleeping will bring on even more anxiousness, it’s a vicious cycle.
TRY PROGRESSIVE MUSCLE RELAXATION
Starting with the feet, tense the muscles. Hold for a count of five and then relax. Do this for every muscle group in the body, working up from the feet to the top of the head.
DRINK SOMETHING WARM
Caffeine free drinks that is. Tea, warm milk, hot chocolate all have a calming effect which turns into a sleepy effect.
I recently introduced blacking out all the lights in my room and it has been a game changer for me. Do you have anything that has been a game changer for you? Let me know, comment below.
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