How To Get Better Sleep - Definitive Guide
Sleep is the number one overlooked piece of the health pie and we truly deserve to get better sleep.
We try to eat healthier, workout, and squeeze stress balls but learning how to get better sleep is usually ignored.
This guide is the same process I have used with my clients to get the best sleep of their life, lose weight, and wake up full of energy.
Here are the tools you need to get better sleep.
Chapter 1 – Why We Need Sleep
Chapter 2 – What’s More Important, Quality VS Quantity
Chapter 3 – Blue Light and Melatonin Effect Our Sleep
Chapter 4 – What Is Really Keeping You Awake?
Chapter 5 – New Routines To Sleep Better
Bonus: Sleep Cocktail Recipe
Why We Need Sleep
We need sleep to retain, restore, and heal.
If we can’t retain what we learn, did we actually learn anything? The short answer, yes and no.
Our brains improve our retention while asleep and does a memory filing process that is still not fully understood by neuroscientists.
Jim Kwik is a world expert in speed reading, memory improvement, and optimal brain performance. He has struggled with sleep for many years but he attributes much of his success to making sleep a priority and developing natural sleep hygiene.
Jim is a talented guy, he can recite 100 random numbers backwards, live on stage in front of hundreds of people. He doesn’t do this to show off. Instead he proves remarkable memory improvement is possible for anyone.
But if you want to improve your memory or just get a little ahead compared to your peers, getting better sleep is a mandatory element in learning and retaining what we learn.
Our body can’t fully restore on the go.
During the day our body accumulates toxins throughout our body, especially our brain. We need sleep to cleanse our bodies from the toxins and restore balance (homeostasis). We need to take note, neurological disorders can arise if these toxins persist in our brains.
You know those hunger pains and crazy bear growls that come from your stomach sometimes? That’s your body sending a signal to notify you it’s time to eat.
We have similar signals to remind us to go to bed but these signals don’t growl at us unfortunately.
Sleep is necessary for repairing tissues, growing muscle, and other bodily functions. Our body diverts many resources to heal our bodies when we sleep. This can not happen while we are awake.
These are a few of the reasons why we need sleep but scientists are still stumped on exactly, why we sleep. There are interesting sleep theories that scientists have discussed over the years to answer this question. Harvard’s Sleep Medicine Division has an article here with some of the theories.
What’s More Important, Quality Or Quantity?
It’s no secret that most of western culture struggles to get enough sleep. We hear that we need to sleep at least 8 hours every night.
Most of the sleep science world is in agreement that adults need somewhere between 7 and 9 hours of sleep to reap the physical and mental benefits.
It’s important to note that from time to time we hear about the outliers and we should never misinterpret them as the average.
President Trump reportedly sleeps less than four hours a night and other well known successful people like Tim Cook, Martha Stewart, and more have revealed the same. These individuals comprise somewhere between 1-5% of the population.
A study published in 2009 showed a gene mutation that could be responsible for the difference in sleep quantity for that small piece of the population. There are many strong correlations between people’s genotypes (genetic make-up of an organism) and the quantity of their sleep.
Maybe in the next five to ten years you’ll go to the doctor and buy a better gene mutation. This isn’t to far away from some of Kevin Kelly’s predictions.
Now that you know 95-99% of us don’t have a specific genetic difference that lets us sleep less, you probably need to be getting more sleep.
The Center of Disease Control (CDC) also makes it clear, “Good sleep quality is also essential. The signs of poor sleep quality include not feeling rested even after getting enough sleep, repeatedly waking up during the night, and experiencing symptoms of sleep disorders. Improving sleep quality may be helped by better sleep habits.”
Do not roll the dice with your health, get a quality and quantity night’s sleep. I know this isn’t always possible and for those situations, I have solutions.
Keep reading, let me show you.
Get The Benefits With Less Sleep
Sleep is no different than any other aspect of our health, the more focus you dedicate, the better off you will be.
However, it’s not always possible to get the full 7-9 hours of sleep. On the days we can’t get the quantity, we can mitigate the risk by tripling down on the quality of sleep we get.
The key to optimizing your quantity is through creating the proper sleep habits. These habits don’t have to consume you or take time out of your evening. In fact, I’m going to give you step by step instructions on which habits to build and tell you the sleep tips you need to throw out.
Blue Light and Melatonin Effect Our Sleep
Our bodies are connected to the earth and our internal clock (circadian rhythm) is disrupted by even the slightest amount of light.
This disruption is welcome when you’re waking up in the morning. The sun rises and elicits a hormonal response in our body to wake up. However, the sun isn’t the only light that can do this, blue light specifically is a “high energy” light.
Blue light is at the end of the light spectrum right next to ultra-violet light, aka the invisible light from the sun that you never want to stare at.
This guide isn’t going to describe the effect on our eyes but I wanted to be clear that their isn’t a major difference between the blue light from all of our devices and the actual sun itself.
When we stare in to our electronic device of choice (the sun on steroids) before we go to bed we are duplicating the sun rising. The sun rising in the morning is natural but when we duplicate this effect when we are supposed to be going to to bed, we are telling our body to stay awake. Not good!
Given the influence light has on us, we need to become masters of light exposure. If we can control our light exposure then we can influence our body’s sleep patterns and maximize the quality of sleep.
One way or another we want to let light in to your bedroom to evoke your wake cycle around the same time every morning. If you can let the sun wake you up when it rises, that’s the most natural way.
But this isn’t always possible depending on what time of year it is and what time you start your day. I usually wake up around 4:30-5:00am and the sun is not waiting to greet me. There is three particular tactics I use to illicit my wake cycle.
1) Wake Up Light
A wake up light is similar to a normal alarm clock except you set it to start waking you up 20-60minutes before you want to wake up. The alarm clock uses a light that simulates the sun rising, slowly getting brighter and brighter until it’s time to wake up.
In my opinion this is the next best way to wake up after the sun. Phillips has a pretty good monopoly on these alarm clocks but the Amazon Reviews are great. I haven’t tried any other brands. There are several older models that work pretty well from Philips, see those here and make the right choice for yourself.
2) Cold Water Immersion
Now if you really want to push yourself in the morning and accept a challenge, this is it. A cold water immersion is similar to a ring in the spring polar plunge except you’re doing it every morning. Who doesn’t feel more awake after that!?
Tony Robbins does at his home and plunges in to a 57-degree Fahrenheit cold pool of water every morning. I’ve never seen Tony lack any energy, have you? He has a good article on his website with all the benefits, here.
I don’t have a pool at my house yet but I do use the shower occasionally or at the very least I will douse my head in cold water under the sink.
Bonus Note: I challenge you to do this and post a video of it. Make sure you tag me and someone else to challenge them to do it!
3) Dance, Move, Sing
If cold water isn’t your thing and you still need an extra pep in your step, we still need to send a strong message to your body, rise and shine!
I also have a morning “get-down” which I should really call a get-up but lets continue. If you head to the bathroom first thing in the morning you can use this as your morning mosh pit/concert hall.
Start by pulling up a song that gets you empowered and excited about life in the morning. Many people suggest actually using this as an alarm sound, I disagree. This will actually associate your favorite song with a potential negative thought, “damn I have to wake up now”.
Wait until you’re up and moving before you turn that favorite song on.
Now the song is on, start by moving the body any which way you desire. I prefer using the wall and doing a 20-30 standing hip hinges. I tap the wall with my butt, squeeze my glutes, and do deep breaths at the same time.
After my first few reps of hip hinges it turns more in to a dance/exercise/american idol rapped in to one movement.
I HIGHLY recommend this. Let loose and be your crazy natural self. Start your morning off with energy and a passionate spirit.
You can add your partner or spouse in to the mix and really get the day started off right in connection with that person closest to you. If 100 people share this article I will post a video of us getting cray cray in the morning.
Melatonin might be an over the counter drug that you have taken to fall asleep in the past. It can work really well but it’s common for users to take too much and wake up groggy or have other negative side effects.
Melatonin is actually produced naturally by your body but because of our unnatural sleep habits and bedtime routines we have kept the body from producing enough melatonin by the time you are ready to fall asleep.
You can still read your kindle, play with your iphone, or watch TV but you need to protect yourself from melatonin suppressing blue light. We want your body to naturally produce this hormone in your body. Taking a pill to help you fall asleep won’t work forever and is not the fix to get better sleep.
Still Watch Your Shows and Text Kissy Emojis Late Night
I have two alternatives to taking your melatonin and signaling your body to produce melatonin without the pill.
My favorite sleep app for my computer is “f.lux”. F.lux blocks the blue light and other low light frequencies from disrupting your circadian rhythm.
It works in the background of your computer several hours leading up to bedtime. This way I can type awesome blog posts like this before I go to bed and not be worried about my sleep.
My second alternative almost ruined my engagement but somehow my fiancé still married me. I’m kidding my second favorite sleep habit didn’t scare her away but she does laugh pretty frequently about it and tell her friends.
I wear blue light (uv) blocking glasses 2-3 hours before bed. That’s right I wear some orange shades in my house for several hours before I go to bed. This is my favorite way to block the uv light out because I can go from device to device and not have any issues. Here is the link if you’re interested in trying them out yourself.
Some of my clients took the leap of faith and had their sleep transform overnight with these two simple changes!
In fast-paced modern society, many of us rely on synthetic ways to fall asleep and wake up. Finding natural ways to sleep better will allow you to enjoy the health benefits of sleep, make your workouts have a higher pay off, and stabilize your energy throughout the day.
For many of us, after a horse tranquilizer and a night cap you finally fall asleep. This is followed by a venti chocolate mocha-toka-latte to get your morning going. Then the cravings hit, you lose energy, your willpower has withered away, and now you make un-healthy snack choices for the rest of the day.
By the time your workday finishes you don’t have any energy for the gym let alone cooking a healthy meal at home. This fatigue has you pulling through the closest drive-thru on the way home. This routine is slowly deteriorating your health. How can you get better sleep like this?
Practice Natural Ways to Sleep Better
Developing an evening routine can be one of the most influential sleep hacks most people gloss over. In life we have plans, schedules, and routines. Why don’t we also be purposeful in how we get better sleep the natural way?
Practicing a routine can take some time and it’s not intended to bring more stress to your life. Try adding one to three practices to your evening routine before going to bed. Most people already have a routine but don’t really pay much attention to it. Do you brush your teeth? Do you fall asleep with your work clothes on or off? Those are routines. Now we can add to your already existing routine.
New Routines To Get Better Sleep
The clearing or dumping routine is one of my favorites. This can be accomplished by Meditating, praying, or doing yoga to clear your mind of all the days hustle and bustle. There are many different ways to mediate but just focusing on your breathing and becoming mindful of your thoughts is a great start. This has been a popular choice for people to relax before they fall asleep.
Before getting under the covers and closing your eyes you could also keep a journal about your day and answer questions to unwind. These questions can be “What am I grateful for?, What three things went great today?, What did I most enjoy about my day?”, etc.. There are also journals that you can buy like the very popular “5 Minute Journal” or my other favorite the “Panda Planner“.
Try getting creative with the habits you add in to your evening routine and have fun doing it! No more horse tranquilizers. It’s time you became mindful of your sleep. There are no more excuses, now you posses the tools to get better sleep naturally and boost fitness results to a whole new level.
Natural sleep means better quality of sleep, better quality means optimal rebuilding of the body, and this will not only boost weight loss or give you more energy but you will live a more fulfilled life.
Lift Life Fit Freaks!
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