First of all, I need to make you aware that I’m not a sleep therapist or a doctor. I am simply sharing information and lessons that I’ve learned from books which have helped me improve the quality of my own sleep.
If you’ve been having a continuous struggle with your sleep, then I highly recommend you seek the advice of a doctor or qualified professional.
With that little disclaimer out of the way, let’s get into my post!
“Sleep” by Nick Littlehales
The lessons that I am about to share with you have come from the book “Sleep” by Nick Littlehales.
The author is a sleep sports specialist, working with numerous top-level athletes to ensure they get proper rest so that they can perform at their best.
After reading this book, I put a couple of the lessons it contains into practice. Those lessons made a huge difference in the quality of my sleep, and I wanted to share them with you.
So, here we go!
Why is sleep so important?
Good sleeping habits can:
- Improve your mood
- Increase motivation
- Increase productivity
- Increase memory
- Increase energy levels
- Increase alertness
- Increase performance
Regardless of whether you’re a top athlete or if you simply want to increase your overall performance in your work, getting good quality sleep is crucial.
Poor sleeping habits have been linked to a decline in all the positives listed above, plus:
- Heart disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
As entrepreneurs, we can all be guilty of burning the candle at both ends, thinking that we’re getting lots done when in reality, we’re not doing ourselves any good at all.
So, to help you get a good night’s sleep, I’m going to break this post down into four areas:
- Sleep cycles
- Going to sleep
- Waking up
First of all, make sure that you use your bedroom for sleep only.
Your bedroom is not an extension of your living room or your office. You shouldn’t be watching TV, playing on your phone, eating, or working from your bedroom. You should be going to sleep only.
Rather than a ‘bedroom’ think of it as your ‘rest and relaxation room.’
Ideally, the temperature in your bedroom should be between 16 o to 18o Celsius, which is a little cooler than the rest of your home.
Depending on the climate that you live in and how you heat/cool your home, this can be a problem. Especially if you are unable to set a different a temperature in each individual room. However, the closer you can get to this ideal, the better.
When you go to sleep, your bedroom should be in complete darkness – and I mean, ‘can’t see your hand in front of your face’ darkness!
So, no light from your phone, no standby light on your TV, and no glow from street lighting sneaking in around your curtains.
Remove all electronic devices and invest in a pair of good quality black-out blinds and/or curtains.
If you struggle to achieve complete darkness, or you stay away a lot, then the next best thing is a sleep mask.
Your bedroom should have a neutral, calm, and relaxing feel.
Use colors such as blues, browns, and creams and avoid bright colors, such as red, that will distract or stimulate your mind.
Bedding and clothing
Ensure that your bedding and nightwear are breathable.
Although silky or nylon fabrics can feel nice against the skin, they don’t breathe and can make you sweat, which will disrupt your sleep.
Make sure that the bed you are sleeping in is large enough. If there are two of you, the smallest size you should have is a King-sized bed, which is the equivalent of two single beds joined together.
And lastly, make sure that your mattress is comfortable. There is some personal preference here, but the author does give you some pointers in the book when mattress shopping.
2. Sleep cycles
This next bit of information I found to be the most useful and it has made a huge difference to my sleep.
Throughout the night we move in alternating cycles from deep sleep to light sleep, back to deep sleep, and then back to light sleep. And each one of those cycles takes about 90-minutes and to get a good night’s sleep, you need roughly five of those 90-minute cycles per night.
Here’s how to use that information.
If you wanted to get up at 6:00 am, you need to take that time and count back in five 90-minute cycles, which takes you back to 10:30 pm.
So, you need to go to bed at 10:00 pm, to make sure that you are asleep by 10:30 pm.
Then, having gone through the five sleep cycles, you should be in a period of light sleep when your alarm goes off at 6:00 am, rather than in a period of deep sleep.
If you wake up during light sleep, you’re more likely to feel refreshed than if you wake when you’re in deep sleep, which is when you are more likely to feel groggy.
You can use this method to make sure that you get a good night’s sleep and wake up feeling refreshed and ready to face your day.
If you’re late to bed and you miss your usual sleep time, you need to wait for 90 minutes to elapse before going to sleep. That will ensure that you wake up at the same time, again during a period of light sleep, feeling refreshed. To catch up on that missed sleep cycle, simply add an extra 90 minutes to your sleep later in the week.
Note that you must only add that 90 minutes on to the time you go to sleep, not to the time that you wake up.
3. Going to sleep routine
This is all about preparing your body and brain for sleep.
You need to be getting into bed about half an hour before your sleep time so that you are actually asleep by the appointed time.
90 minutes before you head off to bed, start winding down, and switching your brain off. Turn the lights down low, or switch to candles, turn off the TV and any other electronic device, and partake in soothing tasks such as yoga, stretching, or simply pottering around your house.
Also, be careful about what you eat or drink at night. You don’t want to eat or drink anything that’s going to keep you awake, such as a caffeine-laden cup of coffee! Everything you do much be geared towards rest.
Try to follow the same routine every night so that your brain and body know that sleep is coming.
4. Waking up routine
One of the first things that you need to do is to make sure you wake up at the same time every morning, even on weekends. This is vitally important to your routine.
As mentioned, your go-to-sleep time can vary, but your waking-up-time must remain fixed.
As soon as you wake up, try to get outside. This is good for two reasons;
- It gets your body moving
- It floods your body with natural light which sends signals to the brain that it’s a new day. (During the winter when natural light is scarce, the book’s author recommends that you use a lamp that gives off natural light)
In an ideal world, you and your partner will get up at the same time. If your partner has to get up earlier than you, this can disturb your sleep cycles and vice versa. So if possible, try to match each other’s waking up time.
Do you have to get up early to be successful?
Before wrapping up this post, I thought that I would share my thoughts on the whole ‘getting up early to be successful’ movement.
In my opinion, the time that you decided to set as your wake-up time is irrelevant to your success.
We all have 24 hours in a day and we all have to sleep roughly the same amount of hours. This means that we all have approximately the same number of daily productive hours, and it’s what you do with those hours that really makes the difference.
If you wake up at 6am, then you need to go to bed at 10pm. On the other hand, if you want to wake up at 9am, then you don’t have to go to bed until 1am. Both scenarios leave you with the same number of hours per day to execute.
So, you don’t have to get up early to be successful – you just have to make sure that you’re grinding when you are awake!
The tips and hacks I’ve included in this post and video are the ones that I personally found most helpful, but there’s a whole lot more in the book that you might find useful.
If you have any other sleep tips, I’d love to hear them! Please share them in the comments below.