It’s obvious that sleep is more than necessary for overall health. We don’t need scientific evidence to show us this simple truth. Just recall a time you missed a good night’s sleep — how did you feel the next morning? My guess is, not the best. Most people have horrible sleep health; it’s time to change that.
How’s your sleep? This is a question I ask every client and any person who comes to me on the topic of health. There’s good reason for it – sleep is at the foundation of what I call the hierarchy of health.
Without good sleep, nutrition, exercise, and supplements serve little to no function. Sleep is the most effective way to improve your health, boost your metabolism and improve your immune function. Good sleep habits are a must for anyone interested in looking and feeling their best.
For whatever reason, though, many people are wasting their time falling asleep only to spend a few meager hours in a light sleep. Is this you? Can you recall the last time you went to bed, fell asleep quickly, slept deeply through the night and woke up feeling fantastic?
It’s funny, because as children we fought bedtimes and craved staying up late, whereas, now, as adults, the scenario I just described sounds like the real heaven – something that exists only in a fairy tale.
Humans have a tendency to resist things even if they are helpful. We fight bedtimes rather than embrace them with nightly rituals. This is the second challenge, if not the main one – many people feel sleep is a waste of time. Regardless of the fact that we all know a peaceful routine would improve the quality of our sleep and health, we still resist it.
However, I am here to help you effortlessly welcome deep REM sleep back into your life so you can experience a quality of life fit for a king. The good news is, you don’t have to sleep 12 hours a day to have optimal health. It’s been shown that quality of sleep matters more than the amount of sleep you get.
Like everything else, when done correctly, sleep doesn’t have to take up your entire life. Before we discuss the best ways to improve our sleep, it’s fundamentally more important to understand what we do that destroys it.
These are the top 5 things we do that destroy our sleep:
- Sleeping with too much light- Before electricity, people were simply entertained by Mother Nature. Though technology has its benefits, it doesn’t belong in the bedroom. Light interferes with our hormones such as melatonin, making us stressed-out insomniacs.
- Resisting a bedtime- This limiting belief that sleep is a waste of time must be destroyed immediately before you can allow yourself the luxury of deep beauty sleep. I find most adults’ relationships with sleep to be hilarious. As kids, we resisted naps because we were being forced to take them. Now, because we are too busy to nap, we crave them. When we have to do things, we are not free to do them. However, take a look around — no one is stopping us from enjoying the sweet rewards of a peaceful night’s sleep but our own minds.
- Keeping stimulated- As much as you might love your cup of Bulletproof Coffee in the a.m., do not drink it past 12 p.m. I hate to say this, but… you might want to stop eating other stimulating foods such as dark chocolate, green and black teas, and even garlic. These things raise our cortisol throughout the evening and night, which inhibits the release of melatonin – giving us that wired and tired feeling.
- Staying up later than the Sun- Again, we need to embrace a bedtime rather than fight it. If your sleep is lacking then you probably know by now that even if there is something more “fun” to do than sleep, you aren’t going to enjoy it when you’re half-awake the next day. I know this one just seems so much easier said than done. But I will be honest, your health will never reach its peak if you keep skimping on sleep. Deep sleep is the only time during which all of our youth and repair hormones are fully generated. It’s also what rejuvenates our immune system. Unless you’re a proper Zen Sage, then chances are you cannot get completely out of your head and into other dimensions of consciousness where you can place your body into a deep state of self-repair. I’m going out on a limb and assuming you’re not; until then, sleep is your best friend.
- Thinking about the next day. Planning is essential for fostering a life of luck. It’s true, we are either planning to fail or planning to succeed. However, bedtime is not the time or place for this. This only creates endless thinking that typically yields no actual useful results – especially considering your brain is only partially functioning because it’s bedtime. I’ll use this opportunity to recommend that you think less and do more. Just live, my friends, and enjoy the riches of the present; especially when the present is offering you a cozy bed! If you’re going to plan, then save it for the morning, when your brains are actually working to capacity.
5 Simple Sleep Hacks
If you’ve taken action to remove the aforementioned offenders of your sleep, then you will experience profound improvements. After that, you might want to consider a few simple tips to take your sleep from good to great. There is actually quite a bit you can do to easily improve your sleep.
I’ve put together the most basic yet most beneficial activities that will help you improve your quality of sleep so you can wake up renewed each day. Best of all, they’re free!
- Black out your bedroom. Make your room pitch-black, or as close to it as possible. Start by first shutting off everything that glows (alarm clocks, lamps, televisions, phones and any other electronics.) Next, cover your windows with dark curtains. If your bedroom doesn’t slightly creep you out, then you’re doing it wrong. I understand that this might not be the best interior decorating advice, but you’ll sleep so well you won’t even care. The reason to do this is that light is hormonal pollution. Blue light, especially from electronics, disrupts sleep hormones by throwing our circadian rhythms off. By making your room as black as possible, you’ll get your hormonal system back on its original sleep schedule, making it much easier for you to sleep deeply.
- Create a nightly ritual. One of the best ways to ensure good sleep is to prep for it. Most of us work frantically or compulsively think until we hit the bed, with no restfulness in between. Give yourself some time to wind down for at least two hours before bed. Most importantly, give yourself the permission to do so! Let’s face it, work never ends; if we wanted to, we could work until we died. It’s our responsibility to relax and choose peacefulness. Accept that — and enjoy some quiet time. Now that we can own that, let’s start getting out of our heads and creating a life worth living. Design a bedtime routine that you look forward to, one that starts about 2 hours before bed, filled with a few of your favorite things. Think relaxing reading, journaling, soft music, baths, massages and candles. Note: this is the time to start shutting off lights and electronics. You’d be surprised what you can pick up for little to nothing and create a routine fit for a king or queen. Try essential oils, diffusers, incense, candles, Epsom salts, and coconut oil for self-messages. Try sitting outside in the moonlight for a few minutes, too. This is fantastic for the female hormonal system but is equally great for restoring circadian balance to men.
- Third, coffee is not a sleep tonic – stop drinking it by noon. Caffeine can be medicinal, but, not for sleep. Stimulants drive up cortisol, which inhibits the release of melatonin. If you can tolerate coffee, then just be sure to time it correctly so it doesn’t interfere with your sleep. Caffeine has a half-life of 6 hours, so stop drinking it by noon, or at least 8 hours prior to bedtime. If your sleep is very poor it might be best to go completely off the stuff – try an adrenal healing tonic of reishi and ashwagandha instead.
- Go to bed by 10:00 pm The body creates an extra surge of cortisol after 11 pm to keep you awake. If you push yourself past 10 pm you’ll notice this. This one isn’t rocket science; it’s just a good general rule of thumb to make it to bed before 10 pm. This way you avoid feeling wired and tired and have an easier time falling asleep consistently.
- Don’t exercise within 2 hours of bedtime. Exercise also stimulates the rise of cortisol. For best results, work out in the morning after gently waking up. The ideal workout time is between 10 am -2 pm. It’s also best to intermittent-fast during a workout to release the most youth hormone. Working out earlier in the day promotes hormonal balance and an easier time sleeping later on. If you feel you must move at night, stick to relaxing forms such as gentle yoga, stretching, Tai Chi or Qi Gong, or even a quiet walk down the block.
At the end of the day, health is not about what you put in, it is about what we can comfortably take out. Good sleep is less about what we do and more about what we don’t do.
These are sleep basics that are easy to implement immediately, at zero cost. Commit to these, save some major money — especially down the road by boosting your immunity — and you will ensure a great night’s sleep and an even better next day.
(Get more tips for better, more effective sleep here)
Food and Sleep
There is a very obvious connection between what we eat and how we sleep. Our diet can either help or hurt our sleep. That’s because diet has a huge impact on our hormones, gut flora and metabolism – all of which impact our sleep. It is wise to fuel your body (especially your brain) correctly so that it has the needed nourishment to heal the rest of your body.
Here are a few specific dietary guidelines that will optimize sleep even more:
- Consume Fats (omega-3s) at dinner. You have a few options for getting healthy fats in before bed. One would be to eat low-mercury fish for dinner such as wild-caught sardines, salmon or mackerel. If you do not like fish then try a supplement like krill oil 2 hours before bedtime. Krill is the cleanest and most effective omega-3 supplement next to Fermented Cod Liver Oil. The reason to take omega-3s for sleep is that they aid brain function, keeping your brain nourished while sleeping. Also, easy-to-digest fats are great before bed because fat keeps your energy level stable longer, and it takes energy to sleep efficiently. Otherwise, you go into a blood sugar drop in the middle of the night and the body switches back into survival mode.
- Eat 1 tbsp of raw honey before bed on an empty stomach. Many people, including Dave Asprey and Seth Roberts, have experimented and tested the benefits raw honey has on your sleep. Your brain uses glycogen stored in your liver at night, and raw honey replaces this supply so you can maintain stable blood sugar levels throughout the night. Another cool fact about raw honey is that it improves bifidus bacteria in the gut, which populate during sleep, helping to create neurotransmitters like serotonin. Serotonin is a precursor to melatonin, helping you sleep deeper.
- Try Grass-fed Collagen before bed. This is my personal favorite at the moment. I have been making sugar-free gelatin desserts out of this stuff that taste so good it’s unbelievable. In addition, the easily digested fat and protein truly help you sleep soundly. It also has many additional benefits such as improved skin and hair health, muscle recovery and joint repair. The best part about collagen powder is that because it’s a fluffy powder, you can easily mix it into guilt-free late-night snacks.
Here’s my personal pro-sleep tonic:
How To Make It:
- Blend everything in a good blender until it forms a nice mousse consistency, enjoy, and then pass out!
You may not want to take everything all at once the first time, because you won’t know which part of it worked best for you.
Start off with a few ingredients, and isolate and test them one by one. See what works for you and then create your own personalized bedtime tonic.
I know this is a lot of information about sleep, but my intention is that it helped you in some way to start resting better. My advice is to start with the easiest things for you to implement and go from there.
Cheers to the best sleep of your life!
(You’ll Also Love: How to Sleep Like a Caveman)