I thought I could provide you with some entertainment and information about what a sleep coach does daily to achieve high quality sleep. Most of these are easy habits you can start doing today and can really help during this time of social isolation and COVID19.
I thought it would be fun to go over all of the things I do to improve the quality of my sleep.Doing these things together has had a cumulative effect on the quality of my sleep. Which means even on nights when the kids are waking me up multiple times or I get wrapped up in a good book, the time I am asleep is A+ even if the duration was low.
This has allowed me chase around a 3 and 6 year old, train for a marathon ( which is canceled) ,ironically it was called the Martian Marathon colonizing Mars doesn’t sound so crazy now, run a business, cook, clean, and keep the house running without having energy crashes or propping myself up on caffeine.
*disclaimer some of the links contained in this blog are affiliate links. This means I receive a small percentage of the sale which helps me to pay for the electricity of my halogen lamp.
Wake Up to Light
Let’s start in the morning and work our way from there. I never really cared for an audible alarm clock to wake me up. They always worked, but I hated the jolt and racing heart feeling of being woken up with sound. I looked into a sunrise simulator alarm and settled on this one. I was a little worried that I would sleep through it since it was light and I wear a sleep mask. So I set a back up alarm just in case. You can set this one to have sounds like birds chirping if you want.
Surprisingly, I did not sleep through it even with my eye mask on. Waking up to light is the weirdest feeling. You just wake up like the days you don’t set your alarm. No jolt. No major sleep inertia. Light is how your body would naturally wake up. As the sun rises and it gets brighter it would signal your body to wake up. Sounds are a warning signal. Waking up to light allows the body to transition through the sleep stages instead of waking up in the middle of a REM cycle which can leave you groggy in the morning.
Even my wife who is a serial multiple alarm setting snooze buttoner commented on how she liked waking up to the light and was less inclined to hit snooze.
After I get out of bed, I do something that might seem odd, but it makes sense. I sit in front of a 600 watt halogen flood lamp about 2-3ft away. Usually the sun isn’t up yet and with the cold weather and getting the kids ready for school I found it hard to get out for sunrises. This is a good substitute. It wakes you up better than a cup of coffee and resets your internal clocks for the day. In the morning upon waking you want bright light to hit your eyes. 10-20minutes of bright light of 10,000 lux or more is ideal. I use the flood lamp for a few reasons. 1. It is cheap. $15 at home depot. 2. It has a color spectrum similar to a sunrise. 3. At 2-3ft it produces a lux reading over 10,000lux. LED floodlamps are not ideal because they have a lot of blue light in them. This helps to boost my serotonin level, melatonin levels for at night, and wakes me up.
A side note, a brightly lit kitchen is probably only 200-400lux.
I do like my coffee in the morning. It is more the ritual and flavor opposed to the caffeine hit I need. So I started making decaf coffee. I get the flavor and routine of coffee with all the extra caffeine. A word of warning. Do not substitute this on your wife without telling her. It may have led to some days filled with headaches for her (classic caffeine withdrawal symptoms).
Make sure to move
Once the kids are off to school during the later morning I take the dogs for a walk or go for a run without sunglasses on. You want the light to get into your eyes. Any time outside between 8am-12pm is going to help your body at night. Exercise and movement are important for improving your sleep also.
Time restricted eating for better sleep
We usually sit down for dinner around 6pm. I have a strict cutoff of 7pm for eating any food. This allows my digestive system time to process all of the food before going to bed. In doing so, most of the night is dedicated to digestive repair and being in fat burning mode instead of burning glucose. When you are digesting food, your body can’t repair the digestive system or enter into deep sleep.
At first it was a little hard, but that was because I had been messing up my internal cues at night by eating at night. Once my internal clocks were able to get back to a natural timing I wasn’t hungry at night. My hormones were balanced. I tend to fast then for 12-15 hours.
After dinner I also take a magnesium glycinate supplement. Magnesium helps with relaxing, calming anxiety, and our bodies tend to be deficient in magnesium. Magnesium gets used in over 600 chemical reactions in the body. The one I am using right now is unflavored and honestly tastes disgusting. I would recommend either pill form or this slightly flavored powder form. https://thor.ne/uuU5E
Block out blue light
As the sun goes down my blue blocking glasses come on. Blocking blue light at night is important for good sleep. Have you ever seen a blue sunset? No, and that is because blue light is only found during the afternoon sun. If you keep exposing yourself to blue light at night you are telling your body it is the afternoon and so melatonin will be halted. I also have Twilight and Iris installed on my electronic devices to cut out blue light.
Our thermostat is set for 61F at 9pm. Cooler temps increase your melatonin production and helps to initiate sleep. It makes getting into bed slightly chillier, but it warms up quickly and leads to a night of sleep where we are not waking up hot and sweaty.
Usually, an hour before bed I will do a power down hour. I put my phone away, turn off the TV, and do some relaxing activities. Mine usually include some body work like foam rolling and muscle scraping along with reading a book. This time allows my brain to calm down for the night. Scrolling and watching TV is stimulating even if you are just sitting there
As I get into bed, I want everything as dark as possible so I put on my Manta Sleep mask. This mask is awesome at blocking light.
WIFI off at night
Finally, at 11pm our WIFI turns off. I have it on a timer. This gives our bodies a break while we sleep from being hit with electromagnetic waves. WIFI is just another form of light energy and light can interfere with sleep. Plus there is no reason you need WIFI at night anyways.
I do wear an Oura Ring to track my sleep. It is cool getting feedback each night about my sleep, but I do not let it stress me out if I have a bad night or strive to have perfect nights. Its a tool that is not without error just like all of your fitness trackers out there. It is useful for seeing trends or when I do something new and see a big change in my sleep.
So there you have it. Those are all the things I do each day to try and keep my sleep quality high. They are things I can be in control of. I can’t predict how my body will behave at night or the kids, but I have done all I can to set the environment to be allow it too get the best sleep it can.