Everyone says sleep is “important,” but they fail to qualify that. We know it’s important, but how important? “Why should I care?” is what you’re often left asking.
If you get less than 6 hours of quality sleep you are – metabolically – a type II diabetic the following day because of poor sleep’s affect on blood sugar regulation. If you’re not sure what that means, let me tell you: when you have the glucose control of a diabetic that spells insipid weight gain and preventable disease. Interested now?
And notice I said “quality” sleep. If you’re hitting the sheets for 7 hours, there’s a good chance you’re dipping well under the six hour mark on the quality scale.
I could go on about the negative effects to mental performance, physical performance, recovery, mental health, and testosterone levels — the list is days long. But, this isn’t an article about the importance of sleep, it’s a guide to fixing sleep mistakes.
Here’s the top five critical mistakes robbing you of amazing sleep…
Mistake #1: Artificial Light After Dark
If you think about the way we used to live – way back in the day – what sources of light would we be subjected to after the sun went down? Candles? Fire? That’s about it.
Today, we’re soaking up the light from televisions, computers, devices, overhead lights, electric billboards, and more.
Once the sun goes down, your body gears you up for sleep. Complicated chemical reactions and electrical signaling happen (or are supposed to) that create the necessary conditions for quality rest.
But, when you’re subject to artificial light after dark those processes are interrupted. Everything goes haywire. Quality sleep is not achieved.
Solution: Block artificial light after dark and filter out ALL blue light. You can install a free program on your computers called f.lux and buy $8 blue blocking UVEX glasses to wear to block out the blue light from other devices.
Mistake #2: Swimming in Stress
Let’s be real: neolithic human beings suck at managing stress. We’re over-scheduled, over-burdened, and deeply indebted. On top of that, we’re getting crappy sleep.
The misconception you’ve probably fallen victim to is that sleep heals stress. But that’s not the case because stress destroys sleep quality. The broken can’t repair the broken.
Amazing sleep is partially reliant on stable cortisol and adrenaline levels. Cortisol is a rhythmic stress hormone that is supposed to rise in the morning (to wake you) and fall at night (to allow for sleep). But your full schedule, credit card debt, and micromanaging boss ensure that your cortisol levels are chronically elevated.
Solution: Managing stress and creating more margin in your life are imperative to achieving better sleep. And don’t even think about reaching for wine to numb the pain of a stressful day…
Mistake #3: Caffeine and Alcohol
Coffee in the morning to get your ass moving and a glass of wine or a few shots of the hard stuff at night to numb everything up; the habit of champions, right?
Don’t get me wrong, I drink coffee. But you have to be careful. Limiting consumption to one cup and drinking it before noon is imperative. Caffeine can affect you for a very long time; any consumption after 2pm is likely to interfere with sleep.
And that wine you’re drinking at night? Gotta nix it if you want to reboot your sleep. Alcohol may help you relax and fall asleep faster, but the metabolic process of clearing it from your body causes a withdrawal period that’s significant enough to disrupt your sleep.
Alcohol is also known to disrupt the sleep cycles, preventing you from achieving normal periods of REM sleep.
Solution: All coffee consumption needs to be partitioned to before noon. Alcohol should be moved to as early as possible in the evening or nixed altogether.
Mistake #4: Eating ANTI Foods
ANTI foods are addicting, nutrient poor, toxic, or inflammatory. There’s a whole outline on it here if you want clarification.
So what’s the big deal with these foods? They disorder hormone, gut, and brain function and cause inflammation and an inflammatory immune response in the body.
If you want to sleep like a baby, you need to think about your system holistically. Everything has some sort of impact and food is one of the leading factors.
Solution: Try rebooting your diet to avoid the consumption of ANTI foods. There’s also an amazing chapter on eating for sleep in my action guide, REM Rehab.
Mistake #5: Poor Sleep Environment
You can do everything right in your life to ensure great sleep, but if you make critical errors in your bedroom all bets are off.
What are a few of these critical errors? Not blocking out ALL light, making the bedroom too warm, and having an old mattress or pillow.
Solution: Try blackout shades on windows, cover LEDs on devices, remove night lights, set the temperature between 60 and 68 degrees, and make sure both your pillow and mattress are adequate and of high quality.
There’s a lot more to better sleep but it’s not all going to get covered in a blog post. I’ve published a 50+ page guide with my colleague, Evan Brand called, “REM Rehab: Reboot Your Sleep, Feel Amazing, and Set Your Productivity on Fire.“
This is the most comprehensive, up-to-date, science-based, practical sleep guide available and it comes with a private support group where you can connect with Evan and myself as well as all of your fellow REM Rehab readers. We’ll show you advanced strategies for falling asleep faster, sleeping deeper, staying asleep longer, and waking up more refreshed than ever. Check it out here.