Not only is it vital that we get the right quantity of sleep, but it’s also important to get the right quality. The following are some tips on how to maximize your adventures in the land of nod:
• Have Consistent Waking and Sleeping Times: Easier said than done, but it will have a tremendous effect on your quality of sleep if you do because you’ll be in tune with your circadian rhythms. Select a bedtime when you know you’ll be tired and that will allow you to get enough hours before you wake.
• Don’t Sleep in On Weekends: Again, tricky for many who lead busy weekday lives and want to let their hair down on weekends. This, unfortunately, has the knock-on effect of not allowing you to replenish your energy during your time off work, and so creates a cycle of being perpetually under-rested. Resist the Lizard’s comforting urge to stay in bed on the weekend and instead get up and make the most of your leisure time.
• Make Sure To Expand Your Energy: In our sedentary lifestyles, sitting 7.7 hours a day at a screen can be tiring to the mind and eyes, but not always to the body. Having excess physical energy can result in reduced sleep quality and insomnia. Avoid this by making sure you move around enough in the daytime. Whether this means making time for exercise or a brisk walk with the dog, being physically active keeps you more awake during the day and helps you to sleep at night.
• Take A Nap: Napping even has a scientific-sounding name to lend it more credibility, “polyphasic sleep.” According to historians, people used to nap all the time before the invention of the electric light, spending days in two separate segments divided by two periods of sleeping for four hours. They would go to sleep at night, wake in the middle of the night and stay awake for an hour or so before going back to sleep until the morning. Some well-known polyphasic sleepers include Nikola Tesla, Leonardo Da Vinci, Salvador Dali, Buckminster Fuller, Napoleon, Thomas Jefferson, and Thomas Edison. I cannot extol the virtues of a good power nap enough. A good nap will leave you feeling refreshed and ready to handle the rest of the day, without keeping you awake at bedtime. Just ten to twenty minutes is the perfect amount of time to nap to increase your energy and alertness.
• Do Not Consume “Stimulating” Foods Before Bed: Coffee, wine, fried food, spicy food, ice cream, yogurt, chocolate, any- thing with sugar in or a high salt content will keep your brain and stomach more awake than necessary for a good night sleep.
• Turn Off the Lights: Blue light from screens keeps the mind artificially stimulated. Avoid looking at a screen for a few hours before you go to bed. Instead, find more 3D-based ways to entertain yourself. The brain needs darkness to produce melatonin, and it also helps you fall asleep. When you go to bed, turn off all lights, make sure you have some useful blinds or curtains, and if you need light in the nighttime have a flashlight or bedside light you can navigate with that otherwise stays off.
• Create a Relaxing Bedtime Ritual: Make space and time for bedtime to be a relaxing event. Make your preparations for tomorrow and then wind down gently with a relaxing bath, a good book, and some soothing bedtime music.
• Meditation: Meditation has been known to improve the quality of sleep and provide some similar benefits. A study performed by Stanford Medical Center looked at the effect of a six-week mindfulness program on the quality of sleep in people suffering from insomnia. The time it took the subjects to get to sleep was cut in half after the program.
Published with permission from The Morning Mind: Use your Brain to Master Your Day and Supercharge Your Life by Dr. Rob Carter III, PhD, MPH, and Dr. Kirti Salwe Carter, MBBS, MPH.