It’s just self-help gurus that crap on about its mystical power, I thought. Then my wife and I had a baby. My daughter hasn’t slept at night since she was born on 11/11/22.
Now all the fuss about sleep makes sense to me.
I’ve researched the sleep habits of high performers backed by science, so you don’t have to. Here they are.
Sleep is the interest on the life we’ve been loaned — Ryan Holiday
The risks of sleeping less than 7 hours a night
Some hustle culture bros brag about their lack of sleep like it’s a medal of honor earned in World War 2 for saving 200 civilians from a burning building. Stupid.
Science shows these are the risks you face if you sleep less than 7 hours:
- Heart attack
- Memory loss
- High blood pressure
- Higher chances of a car accident
Habit #1 — Master circadian rhythm
The sun helps your body know what time it is. Many of us wake up in the morning and then stay inside for hours — or even the whole day.
This messes up our body clock.
Get in the sun for 15 mins right after waking up. Or go for a morning walk.
The other trick to circadian rhythm is to wake up and go to bed at the same time every day. This creates a pattern in your brain that makes it easier to fall asleep and get a great night’s rest.
Habit #2 — Gym after work is a nightmare
For years I went to the gym at night with my best mate because it was the only time he could train.
I could never sleep and didn’t know why.
Turns out right before bed our body helps us prepare for sleep by lowering our temperature, and slowing our heart rate and brain waves. Exercise undoes these three things.
Takeaway: The best time to exercise is in the morning.
Habit #3 — Pay attention to temperature
When you have a kid you’re obsessed with dressing your bubs in the right outfit so they’re not too hot or cold — otherwise they scream!
As adults we don’t pay the same attention to our temperature in bed.
Room temperature for sleep is best between 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit (aka 15.6 to 19.4 degrees Celsius).
Habit #4 — The form of light killing your dreams
The lightbulb was thought to be one of the greatest inventions. The problem is artificial light messes with our sleep.
We weren’t born to be under bright lights at 3 am while taking a piss.
Even worse is blue light. The #1 source is your phone or computer. At least one hour before bed you shouldn’t be looking at a screen.
What I try to do is write my thoughts down for the day before sleep so they don’t follow me to bed and keep me awake at night. My brain just loves to solve the day’s problems when I should be asleep.
Takeaway: Blue light off. Write to take a brain dump before bed.
Habit #5 — Relaxation instead of analytical problem-solving
Sometimes my wife brings me a huge problem before bed.
“Honey, can you take a look at this spreadsheet and tell me if you agree with this holiday budget?”
My brain wants to melt down. The problem with analytical problem-solving is it creates open loops that stay open well past midnight. These tasks are best done during the work day.
Before bedtime is best for relaxation as an extension of the sleep you’re about to have.
Habit #6 — Meditation amplifies sleep
There’s a lot of hype around meditation.
If you cut through the noise there are some powerful benefits for sleep. When you meditate for 10 minutes during the day it helps reduce anxiety/stress, lower heart rate, and decrease blood pressure.
All these things are fantastic for a good night’s sleep.
Habit #7 — Learn from this game-changing sleep experiment
A young couple decided to improve their sleep with data.
They used an app to track different factors that affect their sleep. The results show many actionable takeaways you can apply to your life.
They both found food right before bed screwed up their sleep. It’s why I’ve stopped all those late-night snacks. I can confirm it works.
One important thing to keep in mind with sleep
All of this sounds nice.
The one problem with tracking sleep and obsessing over it is it can have the opposite effect. 70 years ago a badass named Dale Carnegie wrote “How To Stop Worrying And Start Living.”
Sleep gets a cheeky mention.
Dale says stop worrying about sleep!
Yep, that’s right. Some nights you won’t get as much sleep. Other nights you’ll get more than enough. If you don’t always get a good night’s sleep it’s not going to ruin your day.
Maybe every now and then you want to go to a nightclub and party the night away. That’s okay.
The aim of sleep is to be good at it most of the time, not to obsess over it and stress yourself out, thus decreasing sleep further.
The last thing I’ll say is if you want to sleep easier try to play pink noise. It’s done wonders for me.