Millions of people have trouble getting high-quality, deep sleep on a consistent basis. The majority isn’t even aware that the lack of high-quality sleep is causing them so much trouble! And that’s a real problem, as the consistent lack of high-quality sleep is one of the biggest causes of stress, diseases and low performance. Whenever you don’t get enough high-quality sleep, you start to lose focus, work slower, be less creative and have less stamina to work hard for longer periods of time. Overall, your performance and the general experience of your day will suffer from it, big time.
Getting high-quality sleep means that you’ll have more energy during the day to work hard on your goals, be more creative, have stronger discipline, focus with more intensity — and overall be a lot more productive. Oh, and did I mention it’s one of the keys to minimize stress too? In other words, getting high-quality sleep is key for peak performance and a happy life.
I Used To Feel Like A Train-Wreck
I’m writing this article because I didn’t just learn this stuff in theory, but I have experienced the amazing benefits of improving my sleep quality in my own life. You see, I used to always think I was not a ‘morning person’ as I felt like a complete trainwreck every single morning. I loaded up on coffee in order to feel a bit more awake, but usually, for the first 2–3 hours of my day, I wouldn’t be able to function at all.
I used to be unfocused and unproductive, and I would start feeling ‘awake’ somewhere after 11:00. Fortunately, all of that has changed. That’s why I’ll share 7 of the most valuable tips that have helped me get better sleep, feel incredibly rested and have more energy every single day.
Tip 1: Make Your Bedroom As Dark As Possible
If you want to get the best sleep possible, you need to make your bedroom as dark as possible. Having light sources of any type in your bedroom can disrupt your sleep patterns quite a lot. This is because your skin actually has receptors that can pick up light (it’s not just your eyes that pick up light, but receptors in your entire body).
Researchers at Brown University discovered that if there’s light in your bedroom, whether coming from outside or caused by lights from the inside, your body is picking it up and it starts sending messages to your brain and organs that can interfere with your sleep. Studies show that exposure to room light during usual hours of sleep suppresses melatonin (an essential hormone to fall and stay asleep) levels by more than 50%. Yikes!
Sleeping in total darkness is something that our genes expect us to do, and it helps us get the highest quality, deepest sleep possible. Therefore, get some blackout curtains, cover your alarm clock if it emits light (or get an alarm clock with a dimmer adjustment) and dim the lights more and more as the evening progresses.
Tip 2: Use Your Bedroom ONLY For Sleep And …
There are only two things you should use your bedroom for:
Anything else has no business in your bedroom..
Yet, especially nowadays, millions of people use their bedroom as a movie theatre, arcade hall or social media heaven. It’s now standard do have a TV in your bedroom or scroll through Instagram from the comfort of your bed. Yet, this is the #1 killer of your sleep quality — and one of the major reasons why people feel tired, stressed and overwhelmed.
When the place where you should suppose to rest turns into a space of dopamine-producing entertainment, it’s no wonder millions of people complain about feeling tired, overwhelmed and stressed. Where else are you supposed to get your rest if you don’t do it in your bedroom — the one space dedicated to recharging and winding down?
The problem with watching TV or checking social media in your bedroom is that your brain produces dopamine and cortisol hormones because of the blue light emitted from the screens, and the way movies and social media are designed. Instead of helping you wind down for a good night’s sleep, it’ll only make your brain more active and engaged. The exact opposite of what we need in order to rest deeply.
Even more problematic is that you start to create the wrong neuro-associations between your bedroom and what it’s actually meant for. Every time you watch TV or check social media in your bed, certain neurons in your brain (linked to entertainment) will fire. If you do this over and over again, your brain will start to link your bedroom to a place of entertainment, and the neurons related to entertainment will automatically fire as soon as you enter your bedroom.
In other words, your brain will become more active and anticipates entertainment by merely being in your bedroom. You can imagine how problematic that is when you actually want to wind down to get high-quality, deep sleep. Your brain is confused and simply doesn’t know whether to wind down or get excited.
So, if you have trouble falling asleep — or you feel like a mess when waking up — this is probably the reason why.
Tip 3: Cool Down Your Room
Do you ever find yourself having trouble falling asleep on a hot summer day? I certainly do.. It feels all sweaty and uncomfortable, and you can’t wait for it to be over.
That’s because your body temperature is one of the elements that has a huge impact on your sleep quality. Since your body temperature is usually determined by the temperature of your environment, it’s key that you cool down your bedroom. When it’s time for your body to sleep, there is an automatic drop in your core body temperature to help initiate sleep. If the temperature in your environment stays too high, then it can be a physiological challenge for your body to get into the ideal state for restful sleep.
Studies have proven that the optimal room temperature for sleep is at around 15.5–20 degrees Celsius (60 to 68F if you’re from the US). Anything too far above or below this number will cause trouble getting high-quality, deep sleep. So, aim to cool down the temperature of your room, or use a device like the ChilliPad to get cool on warm days.
Tip: Not only is it important to cool down your room but also be cool yourself (emotionally). When you experience a lot of stress and anxiety, your body temperature tends to increase as your body is preparing to ‘fight’ the perceived threats (even though they are mental threats). Therefore, aim to release stress and anxiety through meditation, exercise, journaling and doing breathwork exercises (like Wim Hof breathing).
Tip 4: Journal Before Going To Bed
For years, I used to have trouble falling asleep. The biggest problem for me was that thoughts would run through my head, often for hours on end. It would drive me crazy and I wasn’t able to stop it. Fortunately, all of that changed as soon as I started to journal as part of my nighttime ritual.
When I journal in my Self Journal, I write about all the things that happened that day, the random thoughts that circle in my head, the ideas that I have and the things I’m grateful for. By simply writing this all down (it only takes about 5 minutes) before going to bed, I no longer lay awake for hours thinking, reflection and pondering about stuff. As soon as it’s onto paper, it’s out of my head. And that gives me the necessary calm mind to fall asleep a lot sooner.
Tip 5: Improve Melatonin Production
Melatonin is the key hormone to fall and stay asleep. When your melatonin production gets messed up (which happens a lot with modern day lifestyles), you will experience more difficulty in falling asleep and the quality of your sleep will decrease along with it.
Because of things like emitted blue light from electronic devices, artificial room light, excessive caffeine intake and a deficiency in key minerals (such as magnesium and zinc), melatonin production is suppressed way too much for a lot of people in our society.
To counter this, you can improve melatonin production by not using any blue-light emitting devices (such as your phone, laptop or TV) one and a half hours before going to bed, dimming the lights in your room, supplementing magnesium and zinc — and by using a high-quality melatonin spray (or drink melatonin tea) one hour before going to bed. This will help you wind down and fall asleep much faster.
Tip 6: Exercise Hard, But Smart
A study published in the Jurnal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that patients with primary insomnia had a radical improvement sleep quality when they followed a consistent exercise programme. The results are stunning:
- They fell asleep 55% faster
- There was a 30% decrease in total wake time during sleep
- An 18% increase in total sleep time
- A 13% increase in sleep efficiency
All by simply following a consistent exercise routine! Keep in mind that these benefits are more long-term benefits and usually can’t be noticed right away.
Doing your workout in the morning has even more benefits, as critical ‘wake-up’ hormones are being kickstarted, helping you feel more energized and awake while also keeping your hormone cycle well balanced.
It is important, however, that you don’t exercise too late in the evening. By doing so, your body temperature will still be too high by the time you go to bed. And, as we’ve discussed in tip #3, it’s critical to keep your body temperature cool if you want to get high-quality, deep sleep.
Tip 7: Go Easy On Caffeine
I love my cup of coffee, I really do. But in the past, this ‘love’ of coffee was more based on a bad habit. I would, automatically, grab a cup of coffee as soon as I felt bored or tired, no matter what time of the day it was. Without realizing it, this was the exact reason why I was tired all the time and why I felt like a trainwreck every single morning.
The problem with caffeine is that it continues to work in your body hours after consuming it. It keeps your body on guard, active and in a mild state of stress hours after consumption, which makes winding down and going into a state of deep sleep much harder.
Christopher Drake, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioural neurosciences at Wayne State University School of Medicine, says, “Drinking a big cup of coffee on the way home from work can lead to negative effects on sleep, just as if someone were to consume caffeine closer to bedtime”.
The study Christopher conducted showed that people who drank coffee 6 hours before bed lost at least 1 hour of sleep. That’s crazy! The problem is that, because of this loss of sleep quality, we feel more tired the next day, so we tend to drink more coffee the next day to compensate for our tiredness. This, in turn, decreases our sleep quality for the next night — and the pattern is now set.
So, after realizing these destructive effects of coffee, I decided to no longer drink coffee after 15:00 and keep it at a maximum of two cups a day. This way, I do experience the cognitive enhancing benefits of coffee, while avoiding most of the bad stuff. I clearly feel how much more energy I have now that I limit my coffee intake.
Now Do It
All of these 7 tips will help you get high-quality sleep that makes you feel incredibly rested. This will make waking up early so much easier and so much more fun. You no longer have to feel like a trainwreck when you wake up. Instead, you can start to feel energized so that you can have focused and productive mornings and days that will take your performance to the next level.
But, it’s important that you take ACTION on these tips. So, as an action point for this article, pick out at least 3 of the tips and implement them right away! Let me know in the comments which ones you’ll implement 🙂
To Your Personal Growth,
Founder Personal Growth Lab
Ps. Getting high-quality sleep is a key part of making my mornings highly focused and productive. If you want to learn how to become a morning person, raise your performance to the next level and have incredibly focussed & productive mornings, I recommend you check out Morning Ritual Mastery by my friend and mentor Stefan James!