It’s actually one of the most important things you can do.
“Your future depends on your dreams, so go to sleep.” — Mesut Barazany
In my younger days, I seemed to think getting enough sleep was optional.
One of my first bosses told me that he didn’t care what I did the night before. As long as I was in the office the next morning ready to work, it didn’t really matter. I just couldn’t NOT show up to work.
This often encouraged me to live the mantra of “work hard/play hard” to the fullest and consistently burn the candles at both ends, as they say.
For this reason, I would often try to hit happy hours early enough to be in the bed by 10 pm or 11 pm and then wake up at 5 am every morning to make it to work by 7 am. Due to a number of different reasons that we will discuss later in this article, this was a terrible decision for me.
As I matured and began to understand the importance of taking care of my body and mind in all facets as I aged, I recognized that I was doing myself a huge disservice by not getting enough sleep each night and that if I truly wanted to live the long productive life that I desired, it would have to become a priority for me.
Next to giving up alcohol, this was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for my mental and physical well-being. I would usually get only 5 hours of sleep each night, and would constantly be sleepy throughout the day.
For adults over the age of 18, it is recommended to get at least 7 hours of sleep per night, and I wasn’t even coming close to this because of a number of terrible habits.
While this amount may seem a bit challenging at an initial glance, there are a few things one can do to get this amount easily.
Make the room frigid
Keeping your room cold is a must as it relates to getting a good night’s rest. The reason for this relates to the fact that your body naturally drops its temperature 1 to 2 degrees Fahrenheit when you go to sleep as a way to conserve energy.
When you make the room colder, it actually cools down your body faster, which in turn helps you to get into a deep state of sleep faster. Another benefit of a colder room is that it helps your body produce melatonin which is a natural sleep stimulant.
The ideal temperature for your bedroom will be anywhere from 60 to 68 degrees to create this stimulation and increase your chances of getting a good night’s sleep.
Make it really dark
Some people have a desire to sleep with some type of light on or even (ugh) the television on. This is terrible for your ability to get sound sleep.
Making it pitch black dark in your room is needed to get your brain in the mode that it is time for bed. In our primitive days, as the sun went down and there were no lights to illuminate our place of rest, this was our body’s indicator that it was time to go to rest and recharge for the next day.
Now, with all the different lights that we have in our lives, any amount of light that prevents our rooms from being pitch black hurts our body’s natural ability to produce the melatonin mentioned above to go to sleep.
Therefore, to mitigate this, it is a must that we have either some type of blackout curtains or an eye mask to ensure that we have a pitch-black room. Also, it is recommended that we remove or neutralize (cover) any light from electronic devices as well, as the smallest amount of visible light can make a difference and throw off our sleep ability.
Keep the alcohol to a minimum…if at all
Drinking seems to be a great remedy as it relates to going to sleep, but it is not the best sleep aid when it relates to staying asleep.
Alcohol has the ability to put your body in deep, dreamless sleep as you “pass out” from the alcohol, but it doesn’t allow your body to get the quality REM sleep that it needs to help your body and mind recover.
This is part of the reason that you may feel that you go to bed early enough to get your usual 7 or 8 hours of sleep but still wake up feeling groggy and unrested. Most people are likely to have to get up a few times in the middle of the night because they are dehydrated or thirsty and then experience the dreaded I-can’t-go-back-to-sleep-but-I-have-to-wake-up-in (insert how many hours) monster.
This is the phenomenon when individuals wake up in the middle of the night and cannot get back to sleep no matter how hard they try. This has to do with the liver still processing the alcohol consumed earlier and having to be very active to do so; thereby, making it more challenging for one to fall back to sleep.
Sometimes this may impair sleep for the rest of the night or at least cause the person to lose 1- 2 hours of rest trying to get back to sleep, which makes all the difference in the world as it relates to being able to function the next day.
Limiting your drinks to only 1 or 2 or not drinking at all before bed would be the best way to go to prevent this from happening.
Be wary of your sweet tooth
Ever since many of us were little kids, we all loved a little sweetness to finish off our meal.
Finish all of your vegetables? Get some ice cream or a cookie of some kind.
It seems to just be the natural order of things, as dessert typically comes at the end of the meal and is seen as a reward for eating healthy or “just because.” And while there is nothing wrong with a very small portion of something sweet to satisfy our sugar monster, we must be very careful of when we do this before going to bed, as well as how much.
Sugar is one of the most addictive substances ever.
It negatively affects our brains in a number of ways, but one of the most damaging is that it creates a need for itself and makes it very difficult to stay within a small amount once we start.
This is one of the reasons that when you eat sugar, you may find it very difficult to control the amount or stop because our body doesn’t register satiety quite in the same way due to sugar’s effects on our dopamine levels.
In regards to sleep, when we eat a large amount of sugar close to bedtime, we are adding a large amount of something that our body typically uses for fuel. This, in turn, raises our blood sugar level and cranks up our pancreas to release insulin to break down said sugar for use. All of this is like turning our house radio on when we are getting ready to bed.
You can possibly go to sleep with it on, but wouldn’t it be better if you never turned it on in the first place.
Your body becomes overstimulated because it has begun the process to break down the sugar internally, and this often results in you waking up 2–3 hours after going to bed feeling wide awake, something that does not make for a good night’s rest.
Be mindful of screen time
Lastly, screen time will absolutely destroy your ability to get a good night’s rest. It appears when your mom told you not to stay up late watching television, she was helping more than just to keep the electric bill down.
Simply put, our body is on a circadian rhythm that is related to sunlight that tells us when it’s time to be awake and darkness when it tells us that it is time to go to sleep.
When there is no sunlight present and our body gets a sense that it becomes night, it produces the chemical melatonin which is what makes us begin to feel sleepy and helps us ultimately sleep, as shared above.
When our body and mind are exposed to screen time at night, either from a computer, phone, or television, it thinks that it is being exposed to the sun because of the short-wavelength blue light that many of these emit.
This causes our brain to not fully shut down and delays the melatonin process, which in turn is why many people have issues initially falling asleep.
The other obvious part is that when our minds are actively engaged in a highly stimulating activity like playing a game or watching a show right before bed, it sometimes has trouble coming down from the adrenaline the activity provided.
It’s like playing a very active physical sport and then trying to just lay down and go to sleep immediately following. The body would be too worked up to do so. This is the same way the mind works when we try to go to sleep after one of the activities above.
So when should you officially stop being exposed to get the best sleep?
The recommended time frame is to try to limit your exposure to no more than 2 hours in the afternoon and for at least one hour before actually going to bed. This will be enough time for the body to recognize that it is indeed time to go to sleep and the melatonin creation process will begin to take place accordingly.
And while this means you probably shouldn’t be watching late-night episodes of The Witcher (great show BTW) right before you go to bed, your mind and body will thank you when you wake up feeling like a Witcher the next morning to tackle the day.