Air, water, food, sleep, and shelter are probably the most important basic elements of living on this earth.
To thrive on this earth, we need to optimize all of those elements in our life, and one, in particular, can give us plenty of benefits if we just spend a little more time considering “how” we do it.
Unfortunately, sleep is not taken very seriously by many of us, we pay it little mind and hope that our body and brain will deliver despite our lack of consideration.
Sleep is simply one of THE most important elements of recovery, and working at your sleep is just as important as working at your business, nutrition, or fitness.
Sleep! Yes, sleep.
Three elements are most important to consider
1 — The Quantity
2 — The Quality
3 — Our Sleep routine
When we are awake, our brains and bodies are being used, and in some instances abused.
Sleep is when our body recovers.
Consistency around these three areas can go a long way to improving your physical recovery.
Here are ten things you can do to really make a difference in the quality, quantity and consistency of your sleep routine.
Practicing them will most surely make a difference in the quality of your life, relationships, work and play!
1 — Take sleep seriously
First things first, take sleep seriously, please!
For the most part, it just ends up being something we use to bookend our day, slamming our head into the pillow at some hour of the night, hoping that things will work out, and we will see the sun shining again tomorrow.
By taking sleep seriously, and building a functional and flexible routine around it, you will optimize your awakened state. Sleep is the most important element of recovery, so optimizing it makes a real difference.
You don’t have to be perfect, or OCD about it, you just need to be thoughtful and considerate about it daily. Understanding its value, and aligning your behaviour around that understanding is key.
2 — Spend some money on a mattress, linens, and a pillow
This might be one of the easiest choices you could possibly make on spending your hard earned money. Yet it is a classic example of how little we pay mind to our sleep.
We sleep on old, worn out, mattresses. Hand me down mattresses. Dirty hotel mattresses. Couches and pull out couches!
Sometimes we go out and spend a bunch of money on a “good” mattress, but we don’t take the time to lie down on it first, to feel our level of comfort. Just because it is sold as the best mattress on earth does not mean it is the best mattress on earth for YOU! Test it out first!
Then, when you do get the “right” mattress, don’t go putting old crappy hand me down linens on it, or the ones you got on sale with a zero thread count!
Spend some money on a good mattress, good sheets, and a great pillow. You spend your money on a great car, or great restaurants, or whatever you perceive to be valuable to your life, please spend some money on your sleep!
3 — Breathe deeply
Just before you are going to shut things down for the night, try taking some deep breaths. Deep and mindful breathing affects the parasympathetic system and helps bring your heart rate down, relax you, and clears your body of carbon dioxide, replacing it with fresh oxygen.
Ten deep, mindful breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth, 3–4 seconds in and 3–4 seconds out.
Try to get the breath into the whole abdominal cavity, feeling your stomach rise, but also feeling like the breath is coming out the back and sides of your trunk.
This type of breathing will help your brain and body prepare for sleep.
4 — Prepare to sleep
Speaking of preparing for sleep. What are you doing for the last hour or so before you go to sleep?
Pounding ot e-mail and texts? Checking social media? Watching TV or video? Eating? Drinking?
All of the above reduce your body and mind’s ability to shut down. These things amp up your neurological system, they are forms of stimulant.
We want to bring the system down. So about an hour before you plan to go to sleep, start shutting out all the drama.
Bring peace to your day.
Build a sleep routine, even when you travel, take some time to unwind at the end of the day and get into the right sleep space.
5 — Deal with sleep issues
If you are a snorer, chances are you are leaning towards a sleep issue, like sleep apnea. If you are waking up like a brick hit you in the head each day, the opposite of refreshed, then you may want to get your sleep quality checked out.
If you are sleeping the right amount, with the right quality, you should be waking refreshed, not exhausted.
Don’t wait until you get sick to finally have things checked out, there are a lot of very viable remedies on the market today for sleep apnea and snoring. No need to sleep alone anymore!
6 — Understand how much refreshes you
Experiment with the timing and length of time of your sleep and try to get a sense of the amount you need to feel refreshed. It won’t always be perfect, nothing ever is or should be, but the closer you are to a consistent amount of sleep, the better your body and mind will be at regulating.
Try logging your sleep quality and quantity, as well as your morning mood for a month or two to see how it varies. Play a little for short periods with different lengths and get a feeling for what works best for you, and then lean in and do your best to keep that amount consistent. It will pay dividends!
7 — Sleep in an optimal temperature
The temperature of your room and your sleep linens can make a huge difference on your sleep quality. Experiment with pajamas, linens, and room temperature to get the right combination so you sleep soundly and profoundly.
Again, use the daily tracking log to see how certain combinations work best, and then lock it down.
8 — Hydrate well
Dehydration is one of the hallmark causes of fatigue, and it can tacitly affect the quality and quantity of your sleep. Drink more water during the day than you think you should. Carry a one-liter bottle of water with you daily, and fill and empty it repeatedly throughout the day.
You may wake up having to pee in the night, but the quality of your sleep when you are asleep will be markedly improved.
9 — Monitor your consistency
As mentioned before, take the time to create a mechanism for monitoring your sleep. Something as simple as writing it into a simple spreadsheet on a day-to-day basis will show you trends in the quality and quantity of your sleep, and the link to trends in your daily mood and energy. The key here is consistency and simplicity. Use a method you can commit to doing and one that is easy to do, and you will soon see the effects of your sleep.
10 — Supplement with naps
If and when you are not getting enough sleep overnight (big job to do, newborn baby, etc.) don’t be afraid to take a nap.
A short, 20–30 minute nap during the day can make a huge difference in your overall productivity and your sleep quality at night. Longer naps, however, can negatively affect night sleep, or even reduce daytime effectiveness, so just watch out for how long you dip into afternoon sleep mode.
Take it home
Sleep is one of the most important elements of personal recovery and can make a huge difference in your quality of life and effectiveness. Take it seriously, and give it your full attention, you will see the difference.