Sleep is the secret sauce. There isn't one facet of your mental, emotional, or physical performance that's not affected by the quality of your sleep.
The big challenge is that in our fast-paced world today, millions of people are chronically sleep deprived and suffering the deleterious effects of getting low-quality sleep.
The consequences of sleep deprivation aren't pretty either. Try immune system failure, diabetes, cancer, obesity, depression, and memory loss, just to name a few. Most people don't realize that their continuous sleep problems are also a catalyst for the diseases and appearance issues they're experiencing.
Always remember the value of your sleep. You will perform better, make better decisions, and have a better body when you get the sleep you require. Sleep is not an obstacle we need to go around. It's a natural state your body requires to boost your hormone function; heal your muscles, tissues, and organs; protect you from diseases; and make your mind work at its optimal level. The shortcut to success is not made by bypassing dreamland. You will work better, be more efficient, and get more stuff done when you're properly rested.
Follow these 50 tips, from my book Sleep Smarter, to get a better night's sleep, starting tonight.
When you know you have a big task, project, or event coming up, pull out a calendar and plan ahead how you can get your ideal number of sleep hours in. Oftentimes it's as simple as setting up a schedule. But people overlook it because, well, it's just too easy.
Begin reframing your idea of sleep. Instead of seeing sleep as an obstacle to work around (something you "have to" do), start seeing it as a special treat for yourself (something that you "get to" do) and love the entire process.
When it comes to sleep benefits, all sunlight is not created equal. The body clock is most responsive to sunlight in the early morning, between 6:00 a.m. and 8:30 a.m.
Exposure to sunlight later is still beneficial but doesn't provide the same benefit. Of course, this is going to vary depending on the time of the year, but make it a habit to get some sun exposure during that prime time light period.
If you are stuck in a cubical dungeon away from natural light at work, use your break time to strategically go and get some sun on your skin. Just a few minutes of outside time can makeover you mood.
Even on an overcast day, the sun's rays will make their way through and positively influence your hormone function. You can take your 10 or 15 minute breaks outdoors or near a window, or if you're really playing at a high level, you can make a habit of eating your lunch or having your meetings outside.
Only getting sunlight on your skin through the filter of a window might not be the best idea for your health.
The sun has a plethora of wavelengths that impact our bodies, but the two you most need to know about are UVA and UVB. UV stands for ultraviolet, and these sun rays have long been known to influence our physiology. UVB is the most valuable for human health, as it’s the only wavelength that triggers your body to produce vitamin D.
If you want to give your body the deep sleep it needs, make it a mandate to turn off all screens at least 90 minutes before bedtime in order to allow melatonin and cortisol levels to normalize. As an added bonus, cutting television time can also boost your weight loss.
If you ignore this and continue to have problems sleeping, I promise you Jimmy Fallon is not going to pay your hospital bills.
Use an alternative medium for nighttime activity. Remember those papery things called books we talked about? You can actually open one of those ancient relics and enjoy consuming a great story, inspiration, or education that way. And remember when people actually talked to each other face-to face? You can talk to the people in your life, listen to how their day went, and find out what they're excited about and what they may be struggling with. They can obviously do the same for you, too.
In our world, where we're more connected than ever before in some ways, we are often desperately lacking connection in others. Getting off our electronic devices, having a conversation, and showing affection is vital to our long-term health and well-being.
Turn off the cues. Behavioral psychologist Susan Weinschenk, PhD, says, "One of the most important things you can do to prevent or stop a dopamine loop, and be more productive (and get better sleep!), is to turn off the cues. Adjust the settings on your cell phone and on your laptop, desktop, or tablet so that you don't receive the automatic notifications. Automatic notifications are touted as wonderful features of hardware, software, and apps. But they are actually causing you to be like a rat in a cage."
If you want to get the best sleep possible, and take back control of your brain, turning off as many visual and auditory cues as you can will be an instant game-changer.
Set an unbreakable caffeine curfew to make sure your body has time to remove the majority of it from your system before bedtime.
For most people, that's generally going to be before 2:00 p.m. But, if you're really sensitive to caffeine, you might want to make your curfew even earlier, or possibly avoid caffeine altogether.
Make sure that the temperature in your bedroom stays close to the recommended 68°F at night. For some people, this is just right, but others may have images of Jack Frost and Frosty the Snowman.
Trust me (and the science), you will sleep better if you're a little cooler; just don't overdo it—60°F is the recommended minimum. You can still have your covers and pj's, but don't overdo that either or you'll keep your body temperature too high (chances are your lover or would-be lover doesn't want to sleep next to a flannel-clad, multiple-layered lumberjack at night anyway). Get a nice, cool environment in your room and snuggle up to sleep more soundly.
If you have trouble falling asleep, try taking a warm bath one-and-a-half to two hours before hitting the sack.
This may seem counterintuitive, but while your core temperature will increase from the bath, it will fall accordingly and level out a little cooler right around the time you turn in for the night. Many parents know that this is the secret method for helping young kids fall asleep and stay asleep at night.
The 10:00 p.m. recommended bed time isn't exact with all of the variation in time zones, daylight saving time, how far you are from the equator, the time of year, etc. If we get too neurotic about the exact time to go to sleep, it can get a little ridiculous.
To get the highest-quality sleep possible, you want to aim for getting to bed within a few hours of it getting dark outside. For most people, this is going to mean somewhere between 9:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. most of the year.
To help reset your sleep cycle so that you're actually tired when the optimal bedtime rolls around, make a habit of getting some sunlight as soon as possible when you wake up. This is going to help boost your natural cortisol levels and fully wake your system up.
Your body knows what to do, and it will find its natural sleep cycle when you practice good sleep hygiene.
Keep the topical magnesium right by your bedside and apply it right before you hop under the covers. The best places to apply it are:
1. Anywhere that you are sore
2. In the center of your chest (a major position aligned with your heart—one of the most magnesium-dependent organs in your body—and your thymus gland—one of the major regulators of your immune system)
3. Around your neck and shoulders (where many people carry a lot of their stress)
Spray it on liberally and massage it in. Four to six sprays per area is a great baseline to go with.
Incorporate magnesium-rich foods in your diet, too. A study done by James Penland, PhD, at the Human Nutrition Research Center in Grand Forks, North Dakota, found that a diet high in magnesium and low in aluminum was associated with deeper, uninterrupted sleep.
Green leafy veggies, seeds like pumpkin and sesame, and superfoods like spirulina and Brazil nuts can provide very concentrated sources of magnesium for you.
Do your best to avoid potentially gut-damaging chemicals that can hinder serotonin and melatonin production. Strive to eat organic, locally grown, unprocessed foods for the bulk of your diet.
Leave some room for fun stuff, but make it a mandate that the vast majority of your foods are safe and nourishing to your gut health, brain, and sleep (go for these 10 best prebiotic foods for gut health). Be sure to get in three to five servings of foods that contain the good-sleep nutrients above every day, and you'll be well on your way to improving your sleep from the inside out.
Get at least one houseplant to improve the air quality in your home and go from there. If you don't have a green thumb and can barely take care of your own personal grooming (let alone a plant), then get a really low maintenance plant, please.
The pros of having a houseplant are simply too good to pass up; just make sure that it's something that suits you and not an additional stressor. Reach for any of these 8 best plants to boost productivity, and get an added load of happiness.
If you share a sleeping space with someone else, make an agreement with them to keep office work out of the bedroom.
This is a sacred space for both of you, and usually it just takes a heart to-heart conversation to make sure that everyone is on the same page. The biggest person to hold to the agreement is yourself, so have the discipline to keep your bed reserved for sleep and sex.
Get physical. An obvious aspect of sex's impact on sleep is the physical exertion involved. When you put in some work bumpin' and grindin', you'll naturally feel more fatigued after the session is over, and it's no secret that the big 'O' impacts your sleep.
You don't have to just lie there most of the time all vanilla-ice-cream style. Move around, get involved, and put your back into it. Lying back and receiving is super fine as well, but if you want to earn your sleep black belt, then you've got to put some work in, too.
You don't just want to block out the light from outside; you want to eliminate the troublesome light inside your bedroom, too. One of the biggest culprits is that angry alarm clock staring at you. The alarm clocks with the white or blue digits are more disruptive than ones with red digits.
You can start by simply covering the alarm clock up as one tactic. Another option is to find a digital alarm clock with a dimmer adjustment that allows you to turn the clock light all the way off. Cover the clock up or get a better clock—either way, you'll be doing yourself a favor.
In preparation for sleeping in your pitch-black room, lowering the luminosity of the lights in your home (turning down the lights) or utilizing different color bulbs is a very good idea.
As the data shows, red lights are great, plus candle light can be a nice alternative. Additionally, Himalayan salt lamps feature a soft pinkish-orange tint. Some research indicates that salt lamps can produce a small amount of health-giving negative ions. So this goes to show that you don't have to really love tie-dyed shirts in order to enjoy a salt lamp.
The purpose of using blackout curtains is really to block out unnatural light that would be making its way into your home. But if you live in an area where you don't have street lights, a neighbor's porch light, or cars constantly driving up and down your road, then getting blackout curtains is not totally necessary.
Sure, you might have some illuminating moonlight during certain times of the month, but moonlight is only a fraction of a percent of what you'd be hit with from any other type of light. The caution over light pollution has more to do with unnatural light, not the natural light you'd get from the moon subtly reflecting the rays of the sun.
Whether you choose to do a full workout in the morning or afternoon, make sure to get some activity in during the first part of the day regardless. You don't have to hit the gym to encourage that natural hormone spike that helps to set you up for great sleep at night, and set up any of these 9 morning exercises to start your day stress-free. You can take just a few minutes to do some bodyweight exercises, go for a power walk, do some rebounding on a mini-trampoline (studies show that a trampoline can even prevent cancer), do some yoga (these 5 essential morning yoga poses are the way to get started), hit a few sets of kettlebell swings, do Tabata, or so many other things.
Doing just a few minutes of any of these won't interfere with your training later in the day (if that's when you choose to train). If you prefer to do a full workout in the morning, then simply do that. Whatever way you slice it, the clinically proven benefits of activity in the morning are just too good to pass up.
Take out a schedule and block off specific appointment times for you to work out, and follow these 5 rules to fit exercise into your busy schedule. You can set a time for the morning or early evening; just ensure that you're giving yourself the best advantage for getting great sleep.
If you're really serious about being the healthiest person you can be, you'll set your personal exercise appointment and sleep time first, then schedule everything else around them.
The best form of exercise is the exercise you'll actually do, because there's nothing worse than dreading your fitness (but find out how you can help beat workout boredom).
It's difficult enough to fit exercise in with all of the things we have going on today. Why make it harder by planning to do something you don't like?
Statistics show that having external accountability drastically increases your rate of follow-through, and having a group of friends at your morning spin class ensure you'll actually make it out of bed in time for the session.
When it comes to workout accountability, the most important prerequisite is to have a person (or people) who believes in you. It's not the best idea to look for support in people who might doubt you and shut you down (even unintentionally).
Make sure that you're lifting weights at least two days per week, and follow this guide to strength training for beginners to get going. Focus on compound lifts that really give you the most bang for your buck and reap the benefits when it comes to bedtime, because science has proven: strength training totally beats cardio.
Many people use their phones as a Swiss Army knife to replace a lot of other useful devices. One of those useful devices is an alarm clock.
To avoid this seduction of keeping your cell phone near your bedside, simply take action to use an actual alarm clock. You can use an alarm clock with the full shut-off dimmer; you can use a traditional buzzer alarm clock; or you can even use a rooster for all I care. Just stop using your cell phone if you don't have to.
It's suggested that things like televisions, stereos, air conditioner units, computers, and refrigerators be at least six feet away from your bed at night (that means six feet in the vertical sense, too!).
If you're at all able to position your bed in a way that it achieves this recommended distance, then that's great. Sometimes there are extenuating circumstances, but always do the best you can with what you have right now. Science has even proved that cell phones and technology have been ruining your child's sleep, so the whole family is seeing the effects of screen time during bedtime.
If you think there's a chance your sleep and your health are being affected by WiFi exposure in your home (or if you're suffering from technology drain), simply get in the habit of turning off the WiFi at night.
Biomechanist and bestselling author Katy Bowman utilizes a basic electrical timer to do this automatically. You simply install it in the socket where you plug your router in, and just set it to turn the power off during your preferred sleepy time.
I know it might sound crazy, but everything will be okay if you keep your phone in another room while you sleep. It's 99.999 percent likely that you won't miss anything important.
But, you will radically improve your sleep quality if you're not allowing your cell phone's notifications and radiation to disrupt your valuable sleep. Go on a cell phone free test drive. Just give it a shot for one week, and if the world ends while you're sleeping peacefully during that period, I'll try to call you the next day and let you know.
If you really need to have something to eat closer to bedtime, have a high-fat, low-carb snack. These 8 bedtime snacks for weight loss will also ensure that your blood sugar stays stable.
In contrast, if you eat a higher-carb snack right before bed, your blood sugar will spike, and the impending blood sugar crash can be enough to wake you up out of sleep. This is why, in our culture, we have the concept of waking up to get a "midnight snack," and that's just one of the many eating mistakes messing with your sleep. But hey, that's why they put a light in the refrigerator in the first place, right?
Remember this always: Nutrient deficiency will lead to persistent overeating (which will lead to poor sleep and poor overall health), so it's time to ditch these anti-nutrients.
By improving your sleep quality, you will inherently get an uptick in leptin sensitivity. And focusing on eating micronutrient-rich food as the bulk of your diet (with some room for fun stuff) will ensure that your body is producing leptin and filling the nutritional gaps that had you ravenously hungry in the first place. Game, set, match. You win.
Have your first meal be an epic one. Start your day off smart because science shows you should never skip breakfast.
Most people in our modern world have been programmed to start their day by having dessert for breakfast: oatmeal, toast, pancakes, bagels, cereal, fruit smoothies, and more. You're starting your day with a huge insulin spike and setting yourself up for a day of fat storage because of this.
Wrap up the drinks at least three hours before hitting the sack.
If you want to play at a high level and still hang out with your friends for drinks, then hook up with them for happy hour instead of an all-night bender.
Practice sleeping smarter to get the rest and recovery your body really needs so that you don't put yourself in a dangerous driving position in the first place. Extenuating circumstances can happen, though, so if you have the symptoms of sleepiness coming on strong, just pull the car over.
Board certified sleep medicine physician Dr. Lisa Shives says, "Find a safe place and try to take a 10- to 20-minute nap. Studies have shown that shorter naps result in greater alertness and better performance."
Experts also recommend avoiding driving alone for long distances late at night. And the National Sleep Foundation recommends taking a break every two hours if you are driving on a long road trip.
Our sleep position habits are just like any other habits: They can take some time to change, and every sleep position affects our health.
Start off the night in your ideal sleep position, and if you wake up during the night and find yourself in a position that you don't want to be in, simply make a conscious effort to get into one that you prefer.
Make sure to communicate your sleeping needs and preferences to your partner—this simply cannot be emphasized enough.
Talk to them with intention and compassion. Understand their sleeping needs, and make sure that you're doing what you can to make them feel comfortable, too.
Reminders about the importance of communication in a relationship have become cliché. Yet the reality of the situation is that communication is the basis for any successful union.
If you want to get the TV out of your bedroom but you are worried that your partner won't want to go along with it, simply have a compassionate heart-to-heart with them. Explain why this is important to you, and ask them if they'd be willing to work with you on this because you respect them and want them to be happy as well. You'll probably be surprised what a little extra love and communication can do.
Set your sights on getting a nontoxic, non-off-gassing mattress that has a higher level of resiliency than the industry standard if at all possible.
Again, you spend about one-third of your entire life on the mattress you choose, so make sure that it's one that's adding to your health and not taking away from it.
If you decide to meditate at night to help you wind down for sleep, try doing it before you get into the bed, not while you're in bed, and start with this simple meditation for beginners.
Again, the neuro-association you want to have with your bed is sleep (and sex if you're too sexy for this party), and that's it. You can sit by your bedside and meditate for a few minutes, then slide your way into bed for a great night's sleep.
Find the right dose for you. Some companies recommend dosages of their products that are often too low or too high for certain individuals. Height, weight, gut health, stress levels, inflammation, and more are all factors that play into how much of a supplement would be ideal for you.
The best advice is to start low and work your way up, unless you are 100 percent certain in what you are doing, or begin with some natural sleep aids when first embarking on your sleep transformation.
Don't mix sleep aids with alcohol. By mixing the two together, you can relax muscles too much, stop breathing, and find yourself waking up like Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense. (Spoiler alert: He was dead and didn't know it.)
Seriously, taking any sleeping aid (be it medication or a supplement) along with alcohol is a really bad idea. Be smart, be safe, and don't talk to the kid who says, "I see dead people."
Go to bed within 30 minutes of the same time each night and wake up at the same time each day. Many people in our modern world try to "catch up" on sleep and sleep in on the days that they don't have to get up for work. Though the argument can be made for sleeping in on the weekends, research shows that loading up on sleep on the weekends is a bad plan.
By throwing off your sleep schedule like this, you'll usually find that you're more tired than you want to be on your off days, and really dreading getting out of bed once Monday rolls around. Remember, a consistent sleep schedule is important for your health.
Book yourself a massage this week. When's the last time you got a massage? If it's recently, I'd like to congratulate you. Right now, about 10 percent of the US population gets a massage regularly, and that number is growing fast, especially since massages can even boost your immunity.
If you don't know of, or don't currently have the resources for a private massage therapist, then book an appointment at one of the national massage studios because they always have great deals for new clients. It would be the best idea ever to get yourself a monthly membership at one of these massage studios as well. It'll make sure that you're going in at least once a month, and it will also give you the ability to try different forms of massage and different therapists until you find one who clicks with you.
Give progressive muscle relaxation a shot. You might think that your muscles are relaxed, but they're probably not. Many of us hold in constant muscle tension where our muscles are slightly "on" even when we consciously believe that we are fully relaxed. On top of that, many people are in the habit of holding their breath (realize it or not), which further tenses your muscles. Try a 15-second breathing exercise that'll help reboot your whole body.
To help combat this and truly relax those muscles, the best thing you can do is fully tense them up first. Sound strange?
There are many other tools that you can use for self-massage at home, including foam rollers, tennis balls, lacrosse balls, and trigger point massage tools, just to name a few.
And, of course, you have your own hands for self-massage (try these 5 tricks to give yourself a massage), or a partner's hands if you know how to ask nicely. Make it a consistent part of your nightly ritual to get just a couple minutes of bodywork in to de-stress from the day.
A 1991 Harvard study found that women who do not wear bras had half the risk of breast cancer compared to avid bra users. Take bedtime as an optimal opportunity to go bra free. This is a great start to improving your health and cutting down on your programmed bra dependency. Tight clothing is also one of the biggest sleep mistakes making you gain weight, so ditch the restrictive wear for speedier weight loss, too.
For the guys, avoid wearing tight underwear to bed that keeps your testicles pressed against your body. You're potentially overheating your family jewels, and not allowing them to extend and retract based on a more natural temperature. Bedtime is a perfect time to wear something looser or to not wear anything at all.
Make it a regular practice to get some quality time with your bare feet on the ground and practice grounding at least 150 minutes a week (really). This means conductive surfaces like soil, grass, sand (at the beach), and even living bodies of water like the ocean. The practice is one of the best alternative therapies you can try, and reap the health benefits that come with it.
There are other surfaces that are conductive, like concrete and brick, but their effectiveness depends on several factors. It's best to get your vitamin G (your daily interaction with the earth) from the soil and grass itself. By the way, have you ever noticed that when you take a vacation and go to a beach, you tend to get really amazing sleep? A lot of people actually fall asleep at the beach before they can even make it back inside.
Now you know it's not a coincidence; it's the natural response of someone who finally gets connected with the earth again.
If you live in a climate where getting your quality vitamin G time isn't always feasible, that's when access to earthing technology can be so helpful.
The earthing products also allow you to not shift your life around too much to get the benefits of earthing. You can simply continue doing things you normally do—work at your computer, sleep, etc.—and be connected to the earth the whole time. You can have one earthing product or earthing products everywhere—there are mats, sheets, mattresses, mouse pads, and even bands you can put on specific pain points on your body that are used clinically to reduce pain and inflammation.