You, however, already knew that. You already knew that sleep, or lack thereof, can effect your ability to learn, your memory, your productivity, your creativity, your weight, and your overall health. Laundry list aside, you knew sleep is important simply because you’ve reaped the benefits of great night’s sleep and suffered the consequences of not sleeping enough.
Still, many people — especially millennials — haven’t quite nailed the whole developing-healthy-sleeping-habits thing. Consider the following excerpt from a recent Newsweek article:
A 2014 study by the American Psychological Association found that of the present generational groupings — millennials, Gen Xers, boomers and mature — millennials were by far the most stressed, and reported the highest rates of “feeling sluggish or lazy” and “having trouble concentrating on things they need to do.”
Could it be because millennials aren’t getting enough sleep? Yeah, you see where this is going. The article goes on to say:
Millennials are shaping up to be the most sleepless generation yet. While Generation X reports sleeping the fewest hours per night, millennials report the poorest habits: Nearly one-third of those between 18 and 33 say they can’t sleep because they are “thinking of all the things they need to do or did not get done,” and a similar number reports not sleeping at least eight hours a night because “they have too many things to do and not enough time.” Compare that to only 19 percent of Gen Xers and 13 percent of baby boomers. — Newsweek
TL;DR: millennials have a lot on their plates and it’s keeping them up at night — either because they’re worrying about the things they need to do or because they’re doing the things they need to do.
But aside from being busy, why are so many young people still not getting enough sleep?
One possible reason: many millennials (myself included) grew up in a culture where sleep wasn’t cool. Saying you pulled an all-nighter or “I only got a few hours of sleep last night” was sort of a badge of honor — or at least more interesting than saying, “I went to bed early last night, got eight hours of sleep and feel very rested.”
The good news is times are changing, and over the past few years, and with increasingly momentum, sleep has been becoming cool again. Innovative sleep-enhancing products are consistently hitting the market and more and more people — including top executives and athletes — are talking about and taking pride in their sleep health in the same way that people talk about and take pride in their healthy eating habits or workout regimens.
Just like eating right or working out, becoming a better sleeper requires a desire to a make a change for the better in your life, some knowhow, practice, and, sometimes, the help of a handy device or two.
It’s time to prioritize sleep!
All right, lets get personal for a minute. I recently entered my deep twenties. The big three-zero looms in the foreseeable future. I know 30 isn’t old, but my almost-30 life and my body don’t operate like they did when I was 20. Naturally, I’ve been thinking more about my general health.
I’ve been thinking about how important it is to commit now to developing and cherishing healthy habits that I can bring with me into my life as I get older. Why now? Because in my experience, the longer you wait the harder things get — and I want being healthy, feeling good and being physically able to be key parts of my life as I age, not something I’m constantly in a tug-of-war battle with.
Of course, this isn’t the easiest of tasks. Embarking on a journey like this requires developing habits, then turning those habits into rituals, then turning those rituals into part of who you are. It’s hard, but you’ve got to start somewhere — and I’ve decided to start with sleep, because you can’t accomplish much else if you’re tired and your body and mind aren’t functioning at their highest potential.
Over the past two weeks since starting my better-sleep journey, I’ve been getting some of my best sleep ever and waking up consistently every morning at 6am ready for the day. (Note: waking up early isn’t the key for all people, it’s about getting a healthy, restful night’s sleep)
While I’m still on my better-sleeping journey, I wanted to share a few simple tips, tricks, suggestions and new technologies that have helped me thus far.
Create A Sleep Space You Feel Comfortable In
First step: Don’t dread your bedroom.
You don’t need a new house or to knock down walls to get the bedroom of your dreams — small changes to the bedroom you have now can help create an optimal sleeping environment. Here are few simple tips:
If you have space elsewhere, remove computers and TVs from your bedroom. Your bedroom should be a zen space for sleep, not distractions or reminders of work.
Replace your curtains and/or blinds. Your bedroom should be dark for sleeping — so if your current window dressings aren’t cutting it, consider giving them the boot and searching for blackout blinds or heavier curtains. (Tip: to save money, buy fabric and make curtains yourself — or lets be real, measure them to the length you want and bring them to your local dry cleaners/alterations shop. They should be able to hem them and sew in a loop for the curtain rod for pretty cheap).
Paint your walls a color that makes you feel cozy and relaxed. Sure painting is a nuisance, but it’s a simple and affordable way to significantly change the vibe in your bedroom.
Decorate so you feel at home. You can take your bedroom from sleep dungeon to sleep retreat with few simple and inexpensive buys from a home store — like a wall hanging, a rug and a lamp or two.
Get The Right Foundation (Your Mattress)
For most people, the right mattress is the most important component to a good night’s sleep.
But mattresses can be expensive, a pain to shop for, a pain to transport and a pain to get into your house or apartment. Luckily, ready to solve those problems are several bed-in-a-box companies that will deliver a rolled up foam mattress in a box to your front door.
One of the most intriguing companies doing just that is Eight Sleep, with their comfortable and high-tech Smart Mattress.
Made of four distinct layers of foam, including a layer of memory foam, the Smart Mattress by Eight Sleep hits the sweet spot: not too firm and not too soft (and I’d know because I’ve been sleeping on one for the past three months). Its construction also allows it to not transfer movement like a traditional mattress — so if you sleep with someone else you won’t be woken up by them moving.
Welcome to the future. Then there’s the Smart Mattress’s technology layer. Wrapped around the mattress, this layer of smart tech can warm each side of the bed individually (great for cold nights) and record over 15 factors of sleep data, including deep sleep, heart rate, room temperature and room noise. This data is then calculated to show you how and when you sleep best.
The technology layer can also sense when you’re in your lightest sleep phase and signal to your phone alarm to wake you up (within a pre-set range of time). It can also be integrated with your smart appliances. For example, it can connect with Nest thermostats to raise or lower your room’s temperature once you get into bed or fall sleep, connect with smart light bulbs to gradually raise the brightness level in your room as the bed senses you’re waking up, or signal to your connected coffee machine to start brewing as you’re waking up. And all this costs less than a traditional mattress.
Extra Tip: be sure to buy the size bed that’ll give you (and if you share your bed, you and your partner) enough space. While it might be temping to size down to save money, really consider how much space you need to sleep comfortably and go from here.
Don’t forget about the icing on top. We’re talking sheets, blankets, comforters and pillows. All come down to personal preference, but if you feel you need to, and can swing it, these items can be worth splurging on (becasue no one likes scratchy sheets or an uncomfortable pillow).
Or try this affordable fix. If buying a new mattress is just not in the cards for you financially, consider investing in a memory foam mattress toper. They can make a real difference in the comfort of your bed.
Good Sleep Starts Hours Before You Go to Bed
Chances are you stare at a screen, whether a phone or a computer, for a few hours each day. But did you know that the bright blue-ish light those screens emit can effect your circadian rhythm and make it harder for you to fall asleep at night? Luckily, there are simple fixes to quell the harsh blue light your screens emit and replace it with softer, warmer and more sleep-friendly light as the day goes on.
For Your Phone: If you have an iPhone, Apple recently released Night Shift, which will change the brightness and color of your phone’s display based on a pre-set time or based on when the sun goes down (using your phone’s clock and geolocation). If you’re an Android user, you’ve got options too.
On Your Computer: Apple’s Night Shift is also available for your Mac computer. If you don’t own a Mac, or do and want more control over your nighttime light settings, there’s F.lux. F.lux has been around for years, and once installed, will gradually adjust the color and brightness of your screen as the day goes on. (I’ve been using it for years and love it).
Prep Your Sleep Space
Now that your bedroom is inviting, you’ve got a comfortable mattress and you’ve primed your circadian rhythm with sleep-friendly light all evening, here are a few tips to help prep your bedroom, and your senses, for a solid night’s sleep.
Cool it down. Sleep experts say an ideal bedroom temperature for comfortable sleeping is between 60 and 67 degrees. So turn down the thermostat, plug in an air conditioner or open the window to get your room feeling cool and fresh.
Correct your air. If you live in a dry climate, or just have dry air in your bedroom, consider investing in a good humidifier. It’s amazing how much air with the proper level of humidity will make a noticeable difference in the overall comfort and feel of your room — plus it’ll help hydrate your skin and sinuses.
I use the Miro CleanPot AromaPlus humidifier, available via The Grommet. Unlike most humidifiers, which are unsightly and hard to clean, the Miro looks beautiful and easily comes apart for convenient cleaning (import as the damp environment within humidifiers can harbor mold). As an added benefit, the Miro CleanPot AromaPlus has a designated place to add essential oil so you can defuse relaxing scents while raising the humidity level of your room.
You can find more neat sleep-enhancement tools on The Grommet here.
Try a sound blanket. Forget white noise or rain sound machines that produce sound from a fixed location — try Nightingale. Comprised of two small units which plug into your bedroom’s wall outlets (one on each side of the room), the Nightingale emits an array of customizable masking sounds (called sound blankets) which help mask common sounds that can keep you up or wake you up. Think of it as having noise canceling headphones but for your whole bedroom.
Even light bulbs can now help you sleep better. GE’s C-Sleep, LED smart bulbs (they’re Bluetooth enabled and can be controlled by your phone) can emit three different kinds of light — one that’s warm and calm at night to help prepare you for sleep, one that’s crisp and vibrant for morning to help wake you up, and one for all the time in between. While they cost much more than traditional bulbs, they use way less energy and can last for 20 years. I put two in my bedroom and discovered it’s possible to be a light bulb evangelist (little changes make big differences).
Prep Your Mind and Body For Sleep
Finally, it’s time to prepare your mind and body for a great night’s sleep. To do so, try carving out a transition time — a period of time before bed that you devote to you, to winding down and to priming your body for sleep. Consider it your pre-bed ritual. Here are some suggestions to get you started:
Set an alarm. Not for the morning, for the evening — and let it remind you when you should start winding down for the night.
Play music that soothes you. A good nighttime ritual is to turn on relaxing tunes, meditation music, or nature sounds (perhaps right after your evening alarm goes off). Getting into a habit like this can help signal to your body that it’s time to wind down, relax, and begin preparing for bed.
Smell your way to good sleep. People underestimate just how much smell can effect your state of mind. While preparing for sleep, simply diffuse some lavender or sandalwood essential oil using a candle-based oil defuser (this Miro humidifier above, as mentioned can diffuse essential oils too).
Get the right PJs. Too often, when it comes to the clothes we sleep in, we just grab whatever old, worn-out threads will do the tick. But don’t be scared to treat finding the right sleeping clothes like finding the perfect shirt, dress or pair of shoes. Get yourself something meant for sleeping, or something you’ll really feel comfortable sleeping in. Plus, having designated sleeping clothes can make sleeping feel more like the special event that it is.
Calm your mind. To help jumpstart your nighttime relaxation, or to help you drift off to sleep, try listening to Calm’s Sleep Stories. Calm, a popular meditation app, recently launched Sleep Stories, a series of soothing tales read by relaxing voices that can be likened to bedtime stories for adults.
Don’t Dread The Morning
One very important key to treating bedtime and sleep with the respect it deserves, is to not dread the morning. Think about it — if you loved mornings, you might place a higher value on getting a great night’s sleep (so you can wake up refreshed and make the most of your mornings). I know it’s a tall order, but here are two things that are helping me become the morning person I’ve always wanted to be.
Wake up right, with light. Would you rather be suddenly jolted awake by a buzzing alarm or be gradually woken up naturally with light that mimics a sunrise, accompanied by nature sounds? I’m going to guess you chose the latter.
If so, check out the Philips Wake-Up Light. Over a 30-minute period in the morning, ending at your pre-set wake up time, the Wake-Up Light transitions from soft red through a soothing orange light until your room is filled with a vibrant yellow light. This innovative device, complete with clock and nature sounds alarm clock, also features a “midnight light” used to cast a soft, eye-friendly light for getting up in the middle of the night, as well as a sunset simulation for helping you get to sleep at night (basically the opposite of the wake-up function).
Make your mornings count. If you’ve tried everything you can think of to be a morning person, but still haven’t been able to get to bed on time and master your AMs, it’s time you got yourself The Morning Sidekick Journal. This incredible little book is part motivational guide and part goal-tracking journal that’s thoughtfully structured to help you achieve your morning goals. It’ll also help you hold yourself accountable for when you get to bed at night, when you get up, and encourages you to set your morning’s goals and the next day’s intentions the night before (so you wake up to structure and purpose). I’ve been using mine for about two weeks and it’s actually making a big difference in my life (it’s the main reason I’m developing a habit for getting out of bed every morning at 6am).
Do incantations. Never heard of incantations? You can learn more here from Tony Robbins. Basically it’s an affirmation (i.e. repeating a positive phrase in your head) on steroids. So instead of blankly and emotionlessly repeating a phase in your head (ex. “I am smart”), you say it out loud with emotion and feel it in your body.
Try this incantation before going to bed, when your alarm goes off, or after you get out of bed — “I easily wake up every morning at (insert whatever time you’d like to wake up — say 6am) excited about my life and the day ahead.” Say it out loud, feel it, mean it — and yes, if you live with anyone else you will look crazy. Of course you’ll look crazy. 100%. But look on the bright side: At least you’ll be well rested