5 Steps to a Better Night’s Sleep

5 Steps to a Better Night’s Sleep

There are many benefits to a good night's sleep:

  • Improved Concentration: you're more alert
  • Greater Stick-to-it-ness: you're more likely to persevere and finish tasks rather than quitting prematurely
  • You're Skinnier: lack of sleep alters the balance of hormones that affect appetite and the way your body stores and processes carbs
  • Longer Life Expectancy: 1% to 4% of crashes are caused by sleepiness
  • People Like Being Around You: lack of sleep causes irritability, impatience, and moodiness

Too many nights of tossing and turning have started to take a toll on your body. Your days are long and your nights are…shorter.

Signs You're Not Getting Enough Sleep

The biggest culprits affecting the quality of your sleep include:

  • Stress
  • Drinking alcohol or drinks containing caffeine 4-6 hours before bedtime
  • Exercising close to bedtime
  • Not having a regular schedule (time you wake and go to bed)
  • Frequent travels across multiple time zones
  • Environmental factors such as too hot/cold, noisy, brightly lit, interruptions (phone, people, etc)

{Nerd Alert} Understanding REM & NREM Sleep Stages

The body cycles through two different types during sleep, Rapid Eye Movement (REM) and Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) sleep.

There are four different stages or NREM Sleep:

  • Stage 1 (Awake): you feel yourself falling asleep or jumping awake (falling off a cliff)
  • Stage 2 (Light Sleep): your heart rate slows and body temperature decreases as your body prepares to enter deep sleep
  • Stages 3 and 4 (Deep Sleep): you may feel disoriented for a few minutes if aroused during one of these stages

During REM Sleep, your eyes move rapidly in different directions and your heart rate and breathing speed up. The major voluntary muscle groups experience paralysis. This is the stage where intense dreaming occurs. This is also the stage where your brain is processing your day, making connections between events, inputs, feelings and memories.

5 Steps to a Better Night's Sleep

Step 01: Complete a Mini Brain Dump

Use a journal to record your list of worries, thoughts, and ideas that are on your mind. The physical act of writing them down will help to remove the situations from your mind so that they don't prevent you from falling or staying asleep.

Step 02: Establish Game Plan for Tomorrow

Set the tone for a successful tomorrow by writing down 3 things that you are going to accomplish. Record how much time you are going to focus on each task and what time you are going to focus on each task. You'll sleep better knowing you have a game plan for the next day and you are setting the intention that email, phone calls, and other people's priorities won't dictate your day.

Step 03: Read for Pleasure

To better prepare your body and mind for a night of rejuvenating sleep, read that trashy novel or magazine you've been wanting to read. Plan to read for at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Use a timer to track your time so that you don't get lost in your book and end up staying awake longer than you planned.

Step 04: Track Your Sleep

Earlier I explained the different sleep stages. On average, an entire sleep cycle takes about 90 minutes to complete, so your awake time should be set to be a multiple of 90 minutes. There is a cool website – http://sleepyti.me/ – where you can enter the time you want to wake up and it will give you four bedtime options (Note: the time the site gives you is the time you should be falling asleep, not the time you should go to bed. The average adult takes 14 minutes to fall asleep).

Alternatively, I've been using this free app on my smartphone called Sleep Time (iPhone app | Android app). You place your smartphone next to you in the bed and based on your body movements, it can tell which sleep stage you are in. It monitors your sleep stages and wakes you up during your lightest sleep cycle (so that you don't wake feeling groggy and disoriented). You can also set a wake up phase window (10, 20, or 30 minutes) so that if the app recognizes that you are about to enter a deeper sleep cycle and you are within the window of your alarm time, the alarm will go off, preventing you from entering that deeper sleep cycle and ensuring that you wake up feeling refreshed.

Step 05: Create a Sleep-Influencing Environment

Environmental factors may be out of your control but may affect the quality of your sleep. Here are a few ways that you can create a more sleep-influencing environment:

  • Wear and eye mask or install room-darkening shades to block out distracting lights
  • Cover any devices that have LCD displays, such as your alarm clock
  • Listen to sleep music using sleep phones or use a fan to block out external noises (people or things)
  • Use a ceiling or room fan to create a comfortable, cool sleeping environment (a fan is also a great source of white noise blocking out external noises)

Final Words

Proper sleep is one of your most precious commodities and you definitely want to make the most of it. What are some things you do to create an environment that positively affects the quality of your sleep?

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