If you could do just one thing to increase your brain power, build muscle, lose fat, look better, and live longer – would you do it?
The answer is probably yes, so here is some good news: all you have to do is a little sleep hacking and sleep well.
Sleep is like a battery charger for the brain. It repairs damage, stores memories, and categorizes thoughts. Insomnia and interrupted sleep damage your brain, especially the amygdala which regulates the emotional response.
There are millions of reasons to improve the quality of sleep and really effective ways on ‘how-to’ do that. Beata Justkowiak has created a guide to how you can get better sleeping habits for LiveMore – a free self-development app providing content from experts worldwide to help you take control of your life! Here is a sneak peek!
1 – Boost your sleep motivation
We all know some of the benefits of sleep. Medicine and science have been lecturing us about why it’s as important as water and oxygen. And yet many – even the healthiest, fittest and most stress-resilient among us – still ignore the many documented risks. Here are more than five reasons to get at least 7 to 8 hours a night.
Exercise – Write on a piece of paper the answers to the following questions:
- How would you rate your sleep as it is now, on a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 is ‘really bad’, 5 is ‘okay’ and 10 is ‘really good’? Give it a number.
- What are 4 the most important benefits of sleep for you? List here:
Now imagine you have to give up and cross off 2 of them. Think about the ones you are okay to get rid off, not which you want to keep. The importance here is to eliminate the two benefits that are less important for you here. Write them down here:
I cross off from my list 1. ____ and 2. ____
And I will keep 1. ____ and 2. ____
This exercise is called ‘prioritising down to top’, which is one of the most effective ways of prioritizing as it requires your full attention and leaves no room for wishful thinking. By focusing on items to eliminate and crossing off from your list, you automatically create your very own definition to each item. In this way, you are adding personal motivation into why the top two items are so important and you are increasing chances of making sure it will happen in your daily routine.
2 – Are you sleeping with your enemy?
Sleeping is just not good for you. You eat more, you remember less, you get sick more often. You make regrettable decisions, you look bad and you feel overwhelmed. Lack of sleep and poor sleep can also lead to high blood pressure, skipping workouts, irritability, lower stress tolerance and poor decision making.
One of the big enemies when it comes to sleep, are our screens. Our phones, tablets, Kindles and computers have become such a huge part of our daily lives that it’s often hard to put them down – especially at bedtime.
These statistics, compiled by Online Psychology Degree, are absolutely mind-blowing:
- 1 in 3 smartphone users would rather give up sex than their phones
- 95% of people said that they regularly: browse the web, text or watch TV before trying to sleep
- 90% of 18-29-year-olds say they sleep with their phone in or right next to the bed
- 1 in 2 days, if they wake in the night for no reason, they will check their phone right away.
No wonder the majority of people struggle with good quality rest at night.
I know that keeping your phone on your nightstand may not seem like a big deal, but.. technology affects sleep in more ways than you realize.
A few facts about digital devices to provoke you to redesign your tech habits before bedtime:
- Screens emit blue wavelengths of light that confuse your body’s internal clock, causing you to lose restful sleep. The blue light emitted by screens restrains the production of melatonin – the hormone responsible for controlling your sleep and wake cycle or in other words, circadian rhythm. Once melatonin is reduced it’s much harder to fell and stay asleep.
- Devices keep your brain in ’alert-mode’
It may seem harmless to surf the web, scroll through Instagram but if you’re seeing something exciting or reading a negative text message, both experiences can make it hard to cool down emotional arousal and relax. After spending an entire day surrounded by technology, your mind needs time to unwind more than ever.
Challenge your habit tonight:
- Set up at what time you will go to bed, for example, 10.30 pm
- Find an old-school clock with an alarm or ask someone to wake you up at a certain time.
- Give yourself at least 30 minutes of gadget-free transition time before sleeping, so from 10 pm, no screen.
- Leave your phone in the kitchen, the latest by 10 pm (why kitchen? Because you will go there in the morning and it’s far enough for you not to take the phone at night)
- Notice how you will feel in the morning.
This exercise will help you see how strong tech habits are especially before bedtime. You will experience natural resistance toward challenging the habit, and by overcoming it you will take the very first step in being OPEN to improve your sleep pattern.
3 – Track your sleep
How quickly you get to sleep and how long you stay asleep is an indicator of brain health. So, how’s your sleep?
To improve your sleep, it helps to know where you are now. Technology or journaling can help you track and dial in your personal sleep routine.
Small constructive actions taken on a daily or routine basis can quickly give you a sense of accomplishment and forward momentum. To trigger the change and improvement, you need to bring daily attention to what you want to improve.
Sufficient sleep is important for your health, well-being and happiness. When you sleep better, you feel better. The Sleep Habits log will help you track your sleep, allowing you to see the habits and trends are helping you sleep or that can be improved.
4 – Optimize your bedroom environment
Your bedroom is your sanctuary from the stresses of the day. Use your senses to create the best environment for sleep.
The common belief is that the bedroom environment and its setup are key factors in getting a good night’s sleep and I could not agree more. There are a lot of factors that effects our mood, sleep perceptions and preparation. These factors include temperature, noise, external lights and furniture arrangement. Let’s dig deeper into what will work best for you and your sleep.
Your bedroom is your sanctuary from the stresses of the day. Use your senses to create the best environment for sleep. Browse through the Pinterest for ideas and save everything that catches your eye. It can be as small as fresh flowers and candle in the room or as big as completely new set up including furniture, plants, light and even colour of the wall.
Numerous studies point out that external noise, often from traffic, can cause poor sleep and long-term health issues. To optimize your bedroom environment, try to minimize external noise, light and artificial lights from devices like alarm clocks.
Make sure your bedroom is a quiet, relaxing, clean and enjoyable place.
Notice if and how effecting for you are the aspects below:
- Comfortable mattress
- Comfortable pillows
- Nice looking and comfortable feel of sheets and bedding
- Quiet, dark room
- Cool room temperature
- Fresh air, free of allergens
- Clean bedroom
5 – Invest in good Food & Movement
Eating the right things at the right times helps your daily effectiveness and smoothest your sleep so you can slip easily into a restorative state at night. On the flip side, the wrong foods, missing nutrients, or even a late meal can throw off your entire night. Here’s what to pay attention to, to ensure the best sleep.
There is a powerful connection between what you eat and how you sleep. Your brain uses a lot of energy while you are sleeping for critical resting, healing, and repairing functions. It helps to fuel your brain optimally so it can get its job done (and yes we want it to work well). There are few rules to keep in mind when improving the quality of sleep.
- Eat well and healthy balanced meals.
- Remember to drink coffee only before 2 pm or less than 8 hours before bedtime.
- Don’t consume excessive alcohol.
- Try drinking a smoothie or have a light snack.
- Don’t eat bigger meals late in the evening
Late-night eating may negatively impact both sleep quality and the natural release of HGH and melatonin. That said, the quality and type of your late-night snack may play a role as well.
- Don’t exercise 2 hours before bedtime (and try restorative yoga or stretching in the evening instead of boot camp workout).
You may not want to do everything all at once the first time because you won’t know which part worked best; isolate them and try them out one by one. We’re all a little different, so a personalized bedtime plan makes sense.
Make sure to check out LiveMore for this and other amazing content from experts worldwide to help you take control of your life!
6 – Clear Your Mind
A relaxing, routine activity right before bedtime conducted away from bright lights helps separate your sleep time from activities that can cause excitement, stress or anxiety. These can make it more difficult to fall asleep, get sound and deep sleep or remain asleep.
Being able to clear the mind from stress, piled up tasks and problems to solve is the most important activity from your ‘to-do’ list when it comes to improving the quality of sleep.
Many people find a pre-sleep routine very helpful in relaxing both body and mind before sleep. There are many tools and techniques you can try out to observe what will work best for you. Sometimes something as simple as few deeps breaths in bed will be enough and other days you may want to do a little bit more. Try to apply lavender essential oil on your pillow, stretch before going to bed, a shower using calming warm and sleep scent such as vanilla or ‘cotton’ and finish the routine with good guided meditation as one of the relaxation techniques.
Relaxation techniques before bed have been shown to improve sleep quality and are another common technique used to treat insomnia. Other strategies include listening to relaxing music, reading a book, taking a hot bath, meditating, deep breathing and visualization.
There might be days when you feel physically tired but your mind is still occupied with tones of thoughts. The best way to calm down the chaotic and never-ending stream of thoughts and emotions is to acknowledge them by noticing them and writing them down as a way of processing it. Try out different methods to find what works best for you.
Remember to follow these additional TIPS if you have difficulty sleeping:
- Turn off electronics and rotate your clock away from you (don’t watch the clock or check your phone if you can’t sleep).
- Try not to worry if you can’t fall asleep, and remind yourself that your body will eventually take over and help you sleep.
- If you are awake for more than 20 minutes in bed, move to a different part of the house (one without bright lights). Do something relaxing for a while, until you begin to feel tired and come back to bed.
Here are some links for you to try:
Video 1 – Two Minute Meditation
Copyrights: The School of Life
Video 2 – How to Process Your Emotions
Copyrights: The School of Life
Video 3 – Beginner’s Guide to Breathwork
Copyrights: The Holistic Psychologist
Insight Timer – Free Meditation – try Deep Sleep Guided Meditation with Kenneth Soares
Copyright 2019 Insight Network Inc.
Lumosity – brain games
Copyright © 2019 Lumos Labs, Inc.
This exercise includes a few parts as it helps you to test different relaxation techniques:
Part 1 – Play – if you are not feeling too tired to fall asleep immediately then play Lumosity, the brain games. Their free trial will help you to bring attention inwards engaging your cognitive processes and memory. A short mind workout will be a good base for relaxation techniques before bedtime.
Part 2 – Process – Make yourself a tea and watch Video 2 to process the emotions you had throughout the day.
Part 3 – Calm – It’s time to calm the body and mind. Start it by watching Video 3 about breathwork, make sure it’s active watching which involves you practising as well. After the breathwork, you can choose to do Video 1 – Two Minute Meditation or Deep Sleep Guided Meditation before going to bed.
Active practice of relaxation techniques such as breathwork, meditation, self-care and emotion processing.