To be honest, the idea of a “sleep hack” sounds terrifying. The first thing that comes to mind is Freddy Krueger reaching his clawed hand up between my legs while I’m sleeping and I’m not into that. However, whether or not you’re aware of it, your sleeping routine is an important ritual that affects your perspective and performance. Getting a good night’s rest is effectively a super power that grants you a bonus to your focus, creativity and energy levels throughout the day. Since “a rising tide lifts all ships,” the more people who are sleeping, feeling, and performing better, the more the world as a whole functions at optimum performance and the more likely we are to make it to a type one civilization.
Okay, maybe I’m romanticizing the impact of a good night’s sleep a little. But whether you can’t fall asleep at night, don’t get a good enough sleep when you do, can’t get out of bed, or are dealing with issues that keep you up, there are simple straight forward steps you can take to help you help yourself.
You are now leaving the ‘before’ stage of your life when sleep was something you did at the end of the day. From now on you will know that a proper night’s sleep is always the beginning.
A New Paradigm For Alarms
Having a regular sleep routine is probably one of the easiest ways to ensure a solid night’s sleep. While you’re all probably used to setting an alarm to wake up in the morning, have you ever considered setting an alarm that tells you when to go to bed? Shocking! But it works.
Now, I know you’re an adult who works hard and probably wants to stay up all night giggling and talking about boys when you’re not at work, so consider this not just a sleep tip but a responsible step toward being a healthy adult. Once you’re into the routine of controlling your sleep and wake time, you realize how much of your previous pass outs were dictated by random chance and not force of will.
You might have gotten used to the idea of falling asleep with your phone in hand, but it turns out that computer screens, smartphones, flat screens, and fluorescent lights emit light that is deep in the blue spectrum. Technically all light makes falling asleep more of a chore, but blue light in particular has the nasty side effect of suppressing the production of Melatonin, the chemical your body needs to tell your brain to power down and get drowsy.
The simplest way to do this, of course, is to stop using computers or smartphones one to two hours before going to bed. If that doesn’t sound appealing, fear not! Amber lenses have been shown to cut down blue light just enough to not hamper Melatonin from doing its thing. Grab yourself a pair of Blu Blockers and use them when you’re up late on Facebook or binging Daredevil season two on Netflix. It might sound weird right now, but some think wearing your sunglasses at night might be the wave of the future.
Esprit de l’escalier is a French word without a direct English translation meaning “the spirit of the staircase” and refers to situations in which you think of the perfect comeback or the perfect thing to say when it’s too late. That kind of stuff can gnaw at a person and is one of the many random thoughts cycling through your head and keeping you awake.
Some people stay up all night re-running moments in their head, stressing about bills, their parents, or their jobs. Some people claim they have their most creative ideas right before bed and thus can’t sleep. This is why keeping a journal is a great habit to get into in general. I’m not talking about starting a burn book or laying out your hopes and dreams, but just literally writing out and taking note of any stray thoughts in your head helps to get them out and let you relax enough to slip into sleep.
Breathe Like You Mean It
If you’re anything like me, you’ve been breathing almost your whole life. Sure, there was the odd time you held your breath or had the hiccups, but I’m willing to bet that if you’re reading this now, you’ve made breathing a pretty consistent habit. Like most habits, it’s something that you do almost unconsciously and without much thought. So what if I told you there was a breathing technique that has been around for centuries which lets you turn yourself off as easily as pressing a button?
The 4-7-8 breathing technique is a medically recognized and Oprah approved method for calming your mind and body before bedtime. It’s fairly straight forward: First touch the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth (behind your teeth) and hold it there. Second breathe in through your nose and count to four, then hold that breath for a count of seven. Finally breathe out through your mouth while counting to eight. You don’t have to make a heavy panting or wooshy sound, but it might help. Repeat those three steps at least four times. After a couple of weeks you can increase your reps, but wait until you’re fairly experienced. The 4-7-8 breathing method helps clear your mind of conscious thought and lingering baggage from the day and primes your respiratory system for sleep breathing.
So You’re Asleep, Now What?
Once you’ve actually fallen asleep and all the heavy lifting is done, it’s time for the fun stuff. It might seem fantastical, but the ability to be aware of and take control of your dreams is actually a long studied scientific fact. Not only is it a proven phenomenon, it’s something that can be repeated and taught with relative ease. There are a lot of reasons why you might want to control your dreams. The very act of doing it has been shown to increase willpower and stamina in the real world. There are also outside the box problem-solving strategies that are available to anyone who wants to carry the big questions with them into dreamland. No really. A psychologist at Harvard wrote a book on such techniques and is insistent that it’s a great way to tackle issues in real life or overcome recurring nightmares and personal problems in the dream world.
What good is a decent night’s sleep if you don’t stick the landing? In the same way that your pre-bed game is an integral part of falling asleep, so is your post-slumber ritual. Generally speaking, you don’t want to fall into any bad habits, but you also want to initiate some good ones. Remember, much like blue light affects your ability to fall asleep, natural light gives you a bonus +1 for waking up. Make sure your bed faces or is hit by a window with curtains that don’t block light. This is integral.
Before bed, remind yourself of your routine or what you’re going to do. Consider it like you’re programming yourself to wake up and accomplish a specific task. With a solid goal and time limit in mind, waking up is much easier. Also, break the habit of hitting the snooze button. If that means moving your alarm across the room, then do it. As soon as you open your eyes, commit to getting your feet on the ground. Keep a bottle of water by the bed and hit it right after you’ve planted your feet. All of this plus the natural light, pre-programming, and conscious effort not to hit snooze causes a snowball effect. Eventually, you can’t not get out of bed.
Follow all of these steps long enough and you’ll become a pro at sleeping. You’ll start to notice that you have more energy during the day, better sleeps at night, and are more focused and effective at whatever it is you choose to do with your life.