Three years ago, I got my hands on a copy of “The Sleep Revolution”. Almost 10,000 hours of sleep later, it’s safe to say that it changed my life. Can you imagine going from 6 to 9 hours of sleep? I couldn’t either, but now I can. What helped me get there:
Moving from Belgium to California
Got trouble sleeping? Move across the world. Problem solved, right? In all seriousness, where you live can really affect your sleep. In my case, when I moved from Belgium to California, the quality of my sleep significantly improved because of two main reasons. First, the amount of daylight I was exposed to on a daily basis. In California, I find there to be a clear difference between night and day, the days are very bright, nights are dark. In Belgium, where it’s often overcast and dark, my brain had a harder time. I often felt sleepy throughout the day and suffered from insomnia at night. The week I moved, my sleep immediately improved. Second, aside from sun exposure, California also offered an increased exposure to … education. San Francisco and LA are often referred to as “health obsessed” and I’m not surprised due to the wealth of information you can get through apps, classes, and your co-workers. I learned about biohacking, nutrition, and of course sleep.
“The dumbest thing smart people do is sleep with their phone.” is a quote I recently saw Arianna post. And she’s spot on because it’s a habit I haven’t been able to kick, even though I know it’s bad. The idea of not having my phone close to me is stressful. But I’m taking baby steps, I don’t stare at my phone before going to bed, spend significantly less hours scrolling through Instagram, and don’t touch my phone throughout the night. I still haven’t purchased the widely known blue light blocking glasses, I’d like to do a bit more research.
The Basics of Meditation
I’m not a yogi or someone who regularly meditates. However, familiarizing myself with the basics of meditation was crucial to my sleep. After downloading an app called Headspace, I learned to be aware of racing thoughts and how to “let them float by but not engage”. The second I go to bed, my mind takes that as an opportunity to brainstorm the next “Netflix”, “Facebook”, or “Uber”. Business ideas, things I can’t forget to tell my mom, or what to eat for dinner tomorrow… anything comes up. I know I’m not the only one who experiences this. So now when I notice my thoughts are all over the place, I breathe in and breathe out, each time focusing on another body part. I’ll start with my forehead, work my way down my nose, chin, chest, all the way to my toes. It’s worked wonders and I usually fall asleep by the second round.
Choose your Dessert Wisely
I have such a sweet tooth. I’ll never skip dessert… even at home. But when I started taking note of which desserts caused trouble, I discovered that cutting out chocolate was key to quality sleep. The caffeine in chocolate makes me feel more wired than that of a cup of tea. Why? I couldn’t tell you. Also, anything I eat dinner after 8PM, I’m guaranteed a bad night of sleep. So that’s why I recommend leaving 3 hours between your meal and your bedtime.
A Fixed 9PM to 7AM Schedule
My favorite way to wind down is a mindless tv show, but like many others, I’m guilty of binge watching. “Just one more show” would turn into midnight real quick. By the time my head would hit the pillow, it often was 1AM. Now I commit to starting my night time routine at 9PM every night, so that I’m asleep by 10PM. When Netflix prompts me to start another episode, I look at the clock. If it’s past 8:30PM, I’m not allowed to get “sucked in”.
Your Grandma is Probably Right
My grandma used to keep her bedroom at a steady 60 degrees fahrenheit (or 15 degrees Celcius) so whenever I’d sleep over for the weekend, I’d be freezing… for the first 2 minutes. As a kid, I thought this was crazy, but as an adult I totally get it. My nightly ritual involves turning down the A/C to 65 degrees or opening all the windows. But that’s not all, then I also turn on another fan that blows directly on my body. It’s the only way I’m able to get deep sleep. As a matter of fact, when I’m too hot, I have nightmares. My boyfriend get them too. So we keep it at a cool 65 at all times.
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