By sleeping soundly, we can strengthen our bodies and minds, enhance our mental and physical health and get to our potential. To help you on your way, here are four keys to sleeping soundly.
Key #1: Save your caffeine for the morning
Caffeine promotes blood flow to the brain which increases memory and concentration. It encourages oxygen delivery to the body, making exercise feel easier, and acts as an antioxidant which heals damaged tissue. The problem is, while there are health benefits from tea and coffee, too much caffeine can promote anxiety and insomnia. So where is the line between improving performance and decreasing performance?
The general rule is that 200 mg of caffeine per day is safe for most people (equates to about 2 10-ounce coffees or 2 cups of black tea). Another rule to follow is if you want to sleep well at night, skip the caffeine 8 hours before you fall asleep. So if you want to go to bed at 10pm, don’t have caffeine after 2pm. And remember to watch out for other sneaky sources of caffeine. Decaf java can have up to 20 milligrams of caffeine in a cup, and tea, pop, chocolate, weight-loss products, pain relievers, energy drinks and even some cold and flu medications are all to be avoided for a good night’s sleep.
Key #2: Defend your last hour
Have you ever had an exhausting day, then in the hour before you’re going to bed you find your mind racing even though your body is tired? You’re not alone. Calming down in the hours before you want to fall asleep is crucial. A key habit is not to check your electronic devices within 1 hour of when you plan to go to sleep unless you absolutely have to.
Research by Mari Hysling from Centre for Child and Youth Mental Health and Child Welfare in Bergen Norway published a population-based study on 9846 adolescents and showed that there was a dose-response relationship between the amount of time that was spend using electronic devices during the day and sleep duration, time to fall asleep, and sleep efficiency. Basically, the more adolescents used their electronic devices during the day, the less they slept and the worse their sleep was.
Key #3: Your sleep cave should be dark
I want you to have a place in your home that is your place to rest and recover. Think of it as a peaceful place where you go to crash out after rocking the world all day. This will be your sleep cave – formerly known as your bedroom.
Melatonin (a hormone that helps regulate sleep) is produced by your pineal gland, which is located deep inside your brain and is very sensitive to light, including light from screens. Therefore, you have to ensure that you are in a dark space while you sleep. Really dark. Even the light from your alarm clock is enough to reduce your melatonin levels. Little things like covering up your alarm clock lights or getting dark curtains for your windows will help!
This also means getting rid of your screens if you have them in the bedroom. Television, tablets, mobile phones all compromise your ability to fall asleep. I realize this can be a huge change for you but having a massive light that flashes at you at 240 frames per second is a sure fire way to make sure you don't fall asleep.
Light Therapy Tip: Install f.lux on your computer to cut blue light emissions later in the day. If you have iOS then activate the night shift feature and if you use Android then try the Twilight app!
Key #4: Be cool
In the evening, increased melatonin levels cause the blood vessels in the skin to dilate, cooling the body by 0.3–0.4 degrees C. This cooling promotes drowsiness and helps us fall asleep. At night keep your room cool. A temperature of 19 degrees C should be cool and comfortable for you. If you are having a hard time falling asleep, have a warm bath followed by a cool shower to decrease your body temperature slightly, and then make sure your room is as dark as possible. This procedure mimics the effect of melatonin and will knock you out every time.
Today's POWER-UP: Read Fiction
Before you fall asleep at night, read books, preferably fiction. Reading is great for you. It calms the mind and activates parts of your brain that you will use to fall asleep and dream. Your reading should have a story – something that requires your imagination. When you're done a book, pass it on!