Every human spends a third of their life sleeping. That is to say, if we get to live 90 years, 30 of these, we will spend them sleeping. If so much time is spent on sleeping, why is it that we are not experts on this topic?
Personally, I never had any sleep problems for most of my life – except for a couple of breakups and important exams or presentations. Other than those exceptions, I always woke up energized and ready to devour the day.
One day, I decided to become a Digital Nomad and travel for a year through South America. The experience transformed my mind and changed my life forever. However, that adventure also affected my quality of sleep due to constantly changing climates, time zones and routines to name a few factors. After that year, the sound of the alarm every morning became a suffering for which the failed solution was to sleep “5 more minutes” since I felt exhausted. #nogood
Longing for the days of past glories is not part of my life strategy, for that reason I decided to improve the quality of my sleep, recovering my body and mental energy on each occasion, even in unstable contexts such as times of continuous travel and adventure. In a nutshell I decided to “Learn to Sleep Well”.
Dream 101: Why do we sleep?
In order to make improvements to a system, whatever it may be, it’s necessary to understand the fundamentals of its operation, which is why these two videos, Khan Academy and Russell Foster at TED, are the ones indicated to provide us with the basic knowledge about sleep and its purpose.
How to improve the quality of our sleep?
Note: I’m not a sleep doctor nor do I intend to play one in this article. If you have questions, your doctor or the experts cited in this post are the ones who can provide official answers.
If we can only take one piece of advice from this post, let it be this: Define and respect a specific time to wake up.
Why is this important? For years I tried to achieve the opposite, that is, define and respect a specific time to go to bed and sleep. Well… that strategy failed miserably every time #stupidObstinacy.
The human body is an organic machine and therefore we need to program it. Setting a time to wake up and mainly respecting it E-A-C-H-D-A-Y (regardless of what time we went to sleep), teaches our body who’S the boss.
Yes, I know. This strategy sounds counterintuitive (and is painful for the first 7 days). However, our body will adapt and night after night, tiredness will let us know when it’S the right time to go to sleep.
Result: our body will remember the designated time and will wake up naturally and with renewed energy!
In my case, 7am local time (depending on the country, weather and time zone I’m in) is the optimal time to wake up.
Just as we program our body to wake up at a certain time, the pre-sleep ritual tells the body that bedtime is coming and it had better be prepared. This is the ritual that works for me before bed:
- No – heavy food or alcohol a couple of hours before bed.
- No – TV or smartphone one hour before bed.
- Yes – Shower with hot water and pajamas one hour before. The purpose of this is to help the body lower its temperature.
- Yes – Read a book 30 minutes before.
- Yes – Just before closing your eyes, give thanks for 3 things that happened during the day.
- Optional – If I get the chance, I put the AC around 18°C or 19°C (66°F – 67°F).
In essence, White Noise helps to mask other sounds that exist in the environment, reducing the probability that they will wake us up.
These free apps create White Noise:
You say you don’t sleep with a smartphone next to you? (By the way, good idea!). The sound of a fan will provide the same effect as White Noise :).
I used to think that naps were for lazy people. How wrong I was!
Our body is governed by the Circadian Cycle. Knowing about this cycle and learning about Chronobiology allowed me to experiment with 20-25 minute naps. I discovered that this is my optimal nap time since if I extend it there is a risk that my body will go into Deep Sleep Phase – NREM 3. Waking up in that phase feels as much or worse than that boring chemistry class we all had .
A nap about 7 hours after waking up gives us energy for the second part of the day, not to mention that the memory consolidation process can help us process information and find solutions to problems we face. #TalkItWithThePillow. (More on topics of the subconscious and dreams in future posts 😉 )
Yes! Better sleep requires studying (I know: …nerd! 😛 ). To the point, these are the suggested books:
- D. Wiseman – Night School
- C. Idzikowski – You Can Sleep Well
- M. Breus – The Power of When
- W. Chris Winter – The Sleep Solution
Well, this is a summary of the techniques and tricks learned during June 2018 to improve the quality of sleep. Having a restful sleep even in unfavorable circumstances IS POSSIBLE
Good nightZzz and Keep on learning!