I know it’s easy to burn the midnight oil these days with all the distractions in your daily life. I know personally I am always fighting myself staying up way too late. I spend a lot of time on here, on the internet in general, listening to music, or cooking late.
In addition to all these things I am trying to fit in time for the gym. I know that when I come back from the gym I for some reason become a crazy person that no longer needs sleep. So the gym in the afternoons, while this is really the only time I can make it having other obligations in the morning hours, can be really to my detriment.
I know also how tough it can be to put down the social media and Netflix before bed, but believe me, it contributes to healthy sleep habits.
How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?
This has been quite the studied topic over the years, and while it varies for every individual, there are general rules to sleeping enough. As children we needed more sleep, the general suggestion is 8-10 hours for children and teens, and this is understandable as their minds are still developing at a rate much faster than ours.
Have you ever been grinding away during exams and suddenly realized that your body is both physically and mentally tired? Well that’s the effects of using your brain all day long. With kids attending school and absorbing astronomical amounts of information these days we can easily see where they would need a bit more sleep. Their studies on top of competitive athletics generally lead to quite the tired kid.
I know those days are over for us and we have moved on to being adults who can conquer anything in our path and sleep is for the week and blah blah blah. Not true. We need our sleep just as much as children. While we don’t need the same quantity of sleep we do need the same quality.
The newest general consensus that I have found from doctors, neuroscientists, and nutritionists is that we generally need between 7-9 hours every night to function on all cylinders during the day.
Getting the appropriate amount of sleep is important because it directly contributes to your quality of life. This can be in the form of emotional balance, immune system strength, creativity, overall brain health, and even heart health. Not to mention you look better when you get the right amount of sleep.
When you are asleep is also the time your brain uses to tell your body to make repairs, generate new growth in places necessary and help you recover from the day before. In addition your organs function better when you sleep since you are at rest. This removes toxins from the body, hence the reason you are always told to get plenty of rest when you are sick.
While you may think getting 5-6 hours is perfectly fine because you don’t feel physically tired, you may not notice that your cognitive ability is not as great as it could be if you had gotten a full 7-9 hours that night. In addition, you are probably faking yourself out by supplementing your tiredness with caffeine every day. This ultimately leads to your 2:30-3:00pm crash.
The Effects Of Blue Light On Your Ability To Sleep
With the increase in the use of technology over the past decade or so, we have seen a lot of problems with people falling asleep naturally. This is because science has determined that since blue light is of such a short wavelength, it consists of minimal natural light. Since the frequency of the light is so high it directly disrupts your bodies ability to produce melatonin.
Melatonin is that good stuff that knocks you out at night. When you are unable to produce the appropriate amount, you cannot go to sleep. If you do manage to get to sleep it generally takes people much longer to fall into a deep sleep cycle that they normally would have without influence from this blue light.
These reasons are the primary reasons I shut down my computer at night, and try not to look at it after a particular time. In addition, I try my best to avoid my iPhone before I hit the hay also.
Usually when you interrupt your sleep cycle with blue light frequencies you can adjust your bodies naturally programmed clock. You trick yourself into thinking you don’t need to produce melatonin until later hours, but yet you are still waking up at 5:30-6:00am to start your day. You can see how staying up until 12:00-1:00am could put you into the category of too little sleep from the section above.
Meditation Helps Me Out
No, I’m not a full on hippy (there’s nothing wrong with it if you are). I just enjoy this process as it helps me wind down.
I wouldn’t say I go through the full on meditation process either (at least some specific definitions of it). If you have ever jumped on Calm.com before bed, I think you will agree with what I have to say about guided, or personal meditation and how it can help you sleep more efficiently.
About 30 minutes to an hour before bed I put away all electronic devices. I will even go as far as putting my phone in negative mode after the hours of 8pm sometimes in order to reduce the quantity of blue light I take in throughout the course of the evening.
Next I go through my whole nightly routine. I generally get everything ready to go for the gym the next day, finish off my before bed shake, and scrub my teeth.
Now I usually like to find somewhere to chill out for a minute. Usually this is right before bed, and I give myself about 5-10 minutes. Even if you just sit on your bed and prop your pillow against the head board it works.
Close your eyes and start counting backwards from 10, slowly, and breathe with each count. If you do this repeatedly and then focus all your energy on relaxation and clearing your mind you will start to feel much heavier. This is usually a good thing because it means you aren’t tensing up anymore.
Your shoulders will generally relax (I carry all my stress here) and your mind will slow down. Since my mind runs 90mph most of the time I can definitely tell the difference. Also, your heart rate will gradually slow because of the controlled breathing.
When you start to get comfortable you will feel so much more relaxed, and generally you will be ready to fall asleep. If you slip right under your covers after this brief meditation session you will probably fall right to sleep.
I know that this works for me. All the thoughts from the day and what I need to do next day get put on the back burner. My sleep cycle has become so much more stable because of this and I feel way more refreshed the next day when I wake up. I also have a pretty solid about the snooze button that I have been trying to implement, more on that one later.
I know that this technique might not be for everyone, but it leads to a healthier sleep cycle for me. Also brief disclaimer, I am not responsible if you forget to set your alarm on your phone. Do this before you put it down for the night so you don’t have to worry about it and check your phone again!
Also, if you use airplane mode or put your phone on Do Not Disturb it helps tremendously with not waking you up or disturbing your sleep cycle in the middle of the night. So I would encourage you to add this to your routine.
If you aren’t sure of how to start or you don’t trust your own ability to relax, head over to Calm (it’s free) and go through one of their 10 minute guided meditation sessions. This can be sort of counterintuitive since you will probably use your computer or smart phone, but pop in some headphones and give it a shot. It’s still better than trolling Instagram until 34 seconds before you go into “I want to sleep now” mode.
If you tried it and you dig it, leave me a comment and let me know! If you have any other suggestions for getting to sleep please share those as well.
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