Last week I published a text about the daily cycle. It didn´t have anything about sleeping which is at least as important as maximizing the effects of the peak hours and minimizing the effects of a daily slump. I will also explain in the end how I improved my sleep. It is based on my own experience and has some scientific facts, but don´t copy my habits. Instead, do it on your own, if you feel it is needed.
Most adults need from 7 to 10 hours of sleep
You can see many business leaders, presidents, politicians, and other famous people boast about their lack of sleep. Most of them lie to themselves. One percent of the people can live a full life with less sleep than six hours a day. Genetic mutation accomplishes this trait in the people. There are some deciding factors for the need of sleep. Maybe the most important one is your age. Children need more sleep than adults. Children need at least ten hours of sleep every day depending on their age. After becoming an adult the need to sleep is somewhere between seven and ten hours. Professional athletes and other people who exercise a lot must sleep about ten hours. It is normal for athletes to have a nap during the day. I assume that applies to people with lots of cognitive activity during the day too. These people probably need a little bit less sleep than athletes.
Sleep is the ultimate performance enhancer
Sleep is the ultimate performance enhancer. Sleep helps you to clear out toxins from your body. It solidifies your immune system. Your chances of getting diseases diminishes. It improves your memory utilization. It helps you to store your memories which improves your ability to learn. You can use your working memory better and it also strengthens your long term memory. It helps you to make better decisions. It improves your willpower and diminishes decision fatigue. You will also be more focused during the day. It even enhances your physical performance. Sleep deprivation has all the inverse effects compared to the enhancing effects.
How I improved my sleep
Couple of years ago I didn´t sleep that well. I couldn´t get sleep very fast after I went to bed. I could turn around in the bed for an hour or for many hours before I could sleep. I was tired for the whole day after this. Now I have less problems and I usually fall asleep fast after going to bed. It took a while before it got better. I did several things. First, I started to turn off my laptop before 10.00 pm. I think this was the best single thing I did to improve my sleep. I don´t have a smartphone, iPad, or similar equipment that emits the worst kind of light, blue light. Some scientists recommend not to use these things for about two hours before going to sleep. In my experience this works well. There is another reason to do this too. It reduces the need to think about all the tasks for the next day. It also reduces unwanted signals from the world. I used to think them so much that ”smoke came out of my head.” I couldn´t sleep because of this.
I also have a limit for getting caffeine during the day. The maximum amount of coffee to me is about half a liter, which is about one pound. I have to drink all the coffee before 01.00 pm. There is no exact science behind this. Scientists have different opinions about this. They say that caffeine stays in your body from five to ten hours after drinking. Some people don´t suffer from this at all. They can drink coffee whenever they want. Start experimenting in timing the caffeine intake if you think that this is one option for you to improve your sleep. Exercise during the day is recommendable, but I avoid heavy exercise if I have to wake up early in the morning. Staying outside for a while every day has helped me to sleep better. I have no idea if there is any science behind this phenomena but to me it is useful.
I also have about the same bed time routine every day. I think you have to design your own if you have trouble sleeping when you go to bed. First, use bed only for sleeping and having sex. Do not use it for anything else. Second, start going to bed in the same time every day. You can have one or two exceptions during the weekend. Your main sleeping hours need to be the same every day. Third, I also don´t have my laptop in that room. Put your smartphone, laptop, and iPad before you go to bed to another room if you have one. If you need to use an alarm of your smartdevice to wake you up in the morning, put it so far that you cannot start seeing the blue light after you go to bed. I doubt there is any science behind this, but I find it useful. Fourth, use black out shades in your bedroom when you are in bed. Fifth, change your bed sheets weekly. Sixth, don´t leave any unfinished tasks or business behind when you go to bed. For example, if you use to-do lists, finish them early. Seventh, I express gratitude for three things before I start sleeping. I am sure there is no science behind this, I just lie to myself that this helps. If you don´t believe in expressing gratitude, forget it.
Please be aware that these methods I used to improve my sleep might not work for you. These methods are not dangerous and probably need tinkering. Find out what is best for you. You can read more from sources like:
Why We Sleep, Matthew Walker
Sleep Revolution, Arianna Huffington
Until next week,