Your quality of sleep is much more important than how much you sleep. In order to feel rested, achieving deep sleep matters more than the amount of time you spend in bed sleeping.
Your temperature is higher during the day, and if you exercise your peak temperature will increase above that. In order to get deep sleep your body needs to cool by a few degrees to get below it’s daytime temperatures.
Easy tip: During cold months you can help your body decrease it’s temperature by adjusting your thermostat. I set mine 2° lower two hours before bedtime (you can test temperatures between 65-70F or 18-21C). This gives your house enough time to cool naturally, and to start heating up by 2° half an hour before your wake up time.
In warmer months I sleep with a window slightly open to let the difference in temperature between night and day happen naturally.
Exposure to strong light
The serotonin hormone (the wake up hormone) is generated while getting strong light exposure. If you spend the whole day with the blinds down it will have a negative effect on your sleep. Embrace natural light, it can make a big difference.
Easy tip: If you don’t have enough natural light in your office, or if it’s cloudy, it helps to have a strong cold light nearby. I use a 2000 lumen cold light bulb behind my screens pointing at the wall behind them and turn it on whenever there’s no sun coming from my office window.
Related tip: When I have to wake up earlier than normal, I set a light alarm clock which gradually increases the amount of light half an hour before the alarm audibly goes off. I chose the Philips Wake-Up Light (there are many options available) because it had the biggest lumens output at the time I purchased it, 5 years ago.
Avoid exposure to strong lights or cold light in the evening
In the bedroom warm light bulbs are better than natural light bulbs.
Easy tip: If you’re using your computer after sunset you may not be able to fall asleep properly. Apps like f.lux and Twilight for Android, as well as the built-in functionality called “night shift” for Apple products, can help by removing blue colors from your screens. Cold blueish light can increase your levels of the serotonin hormone, which is associated with wakefulness. By changing your electronics to prevent interfering with melatonin production, which aids you in falling asleep, you should be able to go to bed easily and enjoy a good sleep.
Eating food that’s heavy to digest (high in fats or sugars) consumes a lot of energy and can make it harder to fall asleep and achieve deep sleep.
Easy tip: Have big meals at least 3-4h before bed time; something light like a salad 1h before bed is fine.
Staying properly hydrated is good for both your health and sleep. If you wake up very thirsty in the morning, that’s a sign that you went to bed with too little water from the previous day. This made you dehydrated during the night, and caused you to not feel as rested as you should have been.
Easy tip: Use an app to remind you to grab a glass of water every couple of hours. Drinking constantly throughout the day is better for your body compared to drinking large amounts once or twice a day.
- Avoid drinking alcohol in the evening. If you do go out for a couple of drinks with friends, drink a bottle of water every couple of drinks throughout the evening to counteract the dehydration caused by alcohol. You’ll avoid potential next day headaches as well.
- Stimulants like coffee are not completely out of your system for up to 16 hours after they are ingested, so try to replace an afternoon coffee with a cup of tea. Avoid stimulants completely if possible.
If you live in a noisy neighbourhood, use white noise to mask the sounds coming from the outside.
Easy tip: I live next to a fire station, therefore sirens are a common occurrence. I use an air purifier as a source of white noise (a vent can work just as well) in the bedroom, and it helps enough not to get sleep disrupted by a siren.
The bedroom is for sleep
Use your bed for sleeping only. Don’t make it a habit to work or watch television in bed; move those activities to other rooms in your house.
Easy tip: An ideal bedroom would only have an alarm clock and lamps available as electrical appliances. Charge your phone in a different room to avoid having a potential distraction near your bed.
If you’re tired mid-day, taking a short nap comes in handy. Keep the length under an hour to wake up feeling energised. Since it’s a short enough period you won’t arrive at the deep sleep stage.
Use a good mattress and pillows.
Easy tip: If your mattress feels too hard on your back and you have pain in the mornings, an inexpensive memory foam mattress topper will increase your comfort.
Avoid sleeping pills at all costs.
Try to maintain a consistent sleep schedule. This will allow your body to eventually wake up naturally at your regular morning time.