Time to go to Sleep……

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Sleep is a funny subject because people approach it with the best intentions. We know how important it is and how bad a lack of sleep can make us feel, yet it is very hard to change habits for the better.

I have written about sleep several times before here, and here…. This post though sets out to be a little bit different. While there is no scientific evidence to back it up I am a firm believer in the old adage -

“One hour of sleep before midnight is worth two after”

The problem is fewer and fewer people are getting to bed before midnight, when I tell most people that I am in bed at 10-11PM each night they look at me like I’m mad. Instead of going to bed at 10Pm and waking at 5-6AM most people will go to bed after midnight and wake up whenever they can (depending on work, commitments, light etc) this leads to 5-6 hours of suboptimal sleep.

I have a confession to make in that I am far from an optimal sleeper, although I go to bed early I will often wake up too early and struggle to get back to sleep. Yet I know that when I get in the hours before midnight I feel great the next day even if I get up really early, as oppose to nights I go out and sleep after midnight getting the exact same amount of sleep but feel crappy.

Most people will find that a chronic lack of good deep sleep will cause:

  • Irritability and Stubbornness - When running on a lack of sleep we can take the bad route in life instead of reconsidering the route, get easily annoyed by people and get stuck in a general bad mood rut. This has effects not only on our personal life but professional life.
  • Creativity and Inspiration - Plummet. For me this is the first thing that goes when I have very little sleep. Without sleep you will stop coming up with moments of wonder, inspiration and a general lust for life. Coming up with solutions to even trivial problems becomes a nightmare.
  • Mess With Body Function - A lot of people I know will get headaches, digestion trouble and low energy from a single nights bad sleep. Imagine what a build up of sub-optimal sleep is doing.

The problem is that the solution is not so easy. Regaining the ability to sleep deeply and soundly can be influenced by a variety of factors; General Stress, Adrenal/Thyroid Problems, Messed up Circadian Rhythm, the list could go on and on and the solution is highly individualised.

I have found a few things to really help on a basic level:

- Firstly avoid staring into the television late at night, this can seriously mess up your circadian rhythm as it your body will go from thinking its night time to thinking its day time all over again, the bright lights from the TV will disrupt melatonin production. I know this is not the most convenient thing but at least try to switch off the television 45 minutes before going to sleep.

- If you use a Computer at night install F.Lux this software is a piece of genius, changing the tone of your monitor at the appropriate time so that it is a less bright, more fire like orangey colour. This allows for the natural serotonin/melatonin cycle to take place and ease you into sleep.

During the day, computer screens look good—they’re designed to look like the sun. But, at 9PM, 10PM, or 3AM, you probably shouldn’t be looking at the sun.

- Read before bed. This alone can be a great way to calm down from the day and trigger sleep by tiring your eyes out. Something light and easy to read is best, you don’t want any heavy emotional novels at this time.

- Don’t listen to upbeat music. This should be an obvious one but many people I know have music blaring way into the evening, if you want to listen to music in the evening make it something mellow and relaxing that will calm you down.

- Avoid Stimulants Later in the Day. These are any type of stimulant (coffee, tea, green/white tea, guarana, yerba mate, ginseng) we often don’t realise what a disruptive effect these stimulants have until we stop having them.

- Try and Reset your schedule so you are in bed before midnight. Again this is not ideal for all of us and for some it is impossible, but if you can take advantage of the pre-midnight hours for sleep use them. This is usually a gradual shift and an easy way to do it is waking up earlier, or setting your alarm earlier each morning this should make you sleepy earlier.

These are the core basics and hopefully they will help get you on the right track in terms of sleep. The good thing is once you start cutting down on evening television, and brightly lit computer use you may find yourself getting sleepy earlier than normal. If you are already a pre-midnight sleeper then keep it up and rest assured there is nothing wrong with going to bed early, only benefits to reap.

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And also checkout my e-book ‘A Simple Guide to Eating Well‘. Thanks for reading.

Comments

  1. Elizabeth says

    Solid information. I have the going-to-bed-before-midnight down pretty good, but I need to work on watching less TV (well, Netflix, we don’t watch any actual television) before bed. Reading is a great suggestion–definitely puts me out every time.

    What I eat before bed affects my sleep more than anything. A high-protein dinner without enough carbs will make it hard for me to sleep.

    @ Elizabeth: For sure about the dinner, not getting a balance for the evening meal leads to a hard time falling asleep for me to. I am guilty of watching TV in bed also (should really move it out the bedroom) but I try to switch it off and read for a while before actually falling to sleep.

  2. Hugh says

    Great post! I completely agree with you that everyone knows how important sleep is, but few take a proactive approach to it. I consider myself a tough guy in most aspects of life ;-) but am miserable without my proper sleep. My personal proven tricks are: no TV in the bedroom (much to my wife’s chagrin), a cup of hot decaf green tea, and reading some fiction or something “light” before bed. Also, and something that you didn’t mention, is exercise. I’m in training for a marathon right now and am running about 45 miles per week; I’ve never slept better in my life. These 4 things enable me to fall asleep by 10:00 most nights.

    @ Hugh: Great suggestion with the hot tea at the bed side, I like a cup of Sleepytime tea to sip on while reading. The hot drinks help soothe and settle the stomach which have a great calming effect on the mind.

  3. Ray Dixon says

    I’ve been working on getting all the little lights out of my bedroom like telephones, street lights, audio/video components etc. My wife is too concerned, though. Two nights ago we were both awake at 4:00 in the morning and I complained to her it was so bright I could read a book. She didn’t believe me…maybe I was exaggerating a bit.

  4. Rafi @ Passionate Fitness says

    I didn’t realize when you get your sleep matters. Where did you see that Chris?

    I will say that as a night person who is training to become a day person, this is what I have found helps and what coincides with your list:

    A. No stimulants at night or 4 hours before bed time.

    B. Start relaxing and making preparations for bed an hour before. No computer or t.v. in that hour.

    C. Think about waking up in the morning (this usually makes me want to fall asleep to get max sleep).

    D. I actually found F.lux to be unhelpful, but I guess some people like it.

    E. Have something scheduled for the morning that you always do, that’s not connected to work. Since people here like fitness, then I’d say weight-lifting or running in the morning, for instance.

    If you really put a lot of effort into fixing your habits you will see a HUGE improvement of your standard of living. At least that’s what I found for myself.

    Cheers and great post.

    Rafi

    @ Rafi: it is an old saying, not sure where I got it just heard to around. Google it for more info/background. Thanks for the great comment and recommendations that have worked for you.

  5. Dave says

    Great set of tips. I’ve always been one to go to bed between 10 and 11. Life was certainly challenging for a few months after my first child was born, but now he sleeps, so I’m right back on my old 8 hour schedule.

  6. Snezana Jurosevic says

    Great post! Modern-day lifestyles cause us to forget the basics of living, and it’s important to be reminded of them from time to time. Thank you!!!

  7. Luke M-Davies says

    Work has just got a whole lot more stressful for me, meaning evenings at the office. Though I may get home late I ensure not to push back my 10.30ish pm normal bed time because I really do suffer when I put my body clock out of routine. I think those of us that train regularly are particularly sensitive to lack of sleep or change of routine.

    As I get older (mid twenties now) I feel I can get by on slightly less sleep than when I was a teenager. I do buy into the quality of pre-midnight sleep saying.

    I also avoid blackout blinds at all costs because I awake groggy if the natural light does not get to my body in the morning.

    I train most often in the morning (I explained the benefits here http://www.lmdfitness.com/training/when-to-exercise/) before work so I need to wake up fresh. I’m not sure if those that train at night can get by on going to bed later and waking later – would be interesting to hear about…

  8. Nico says

    First of all i find you blog really useful, simple to understand and really helpful. Second, being myself a personal trainer i found that i have great amount of information to take and learn from. Really thank you, and if you come to Tel Aviv, please feel free to stay in touch.

  9. Demond Thompson says

    Sleep?!? Who needs sleep? We all do and I like your ideas. I’m still working on getting the optimal amount of sleep considering I work til 10 most days and need to be up at 5am.

    It’s worth the change.

  10. Dennis Teel says

    not only do most people not go to bed before midnight,but i live in an apartment complex and am convinced that most 20 something year olds “hang out” or at least don’t get to bed until somewhere between 1 and 3am..i don’t understand how they accomplish this and it seems to be intentional as opposed to being a sleep ‘problem’ they’re having.i don’t understand this desire they have,which seems to be to hang out somewhere all night.very few the 20 somethings in this apartment complex are inside for the night before 11pm and most come home between 11pm-3am from “hanging out somewhere with friends.i wonder sometimes if this current 20 something generation will acquire serious sleep problems from this over time/. the reason i notice this is that i’ma day sleeper.i have a sleep disorder due to chronic anxieties and my body wants to be awake nights and sleep days(it’s been this way since i was in junior high school,i’m now 54 years old).i collect total disability because of the disorder./i agree that a person should turn off tv and pc at least an hour before sleep time.in fact i recommend relax or sleep music cd’s..often times this type of music is called “healing” music.i’ve downloaded quite a few from the music download site that i’m a member of. this type of music generally falls under the catagory of new age music/.it’s very effective in promoting relaxation and sleep/.

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