Hello, again and welcome to part 2 of this 3-part blog series about SLEEP!
If you missed part 1, WHY sleep matters, click here so you don’t miss out! And, be on the lookout for the finale (part 3) coming next week!
Now that you understand why adequate sleep is paramount to health, fitness, brain function, and daily living –how do you get that sleep your body so deeply craves? Thankfully, I have your answers, my sleep deprived friend!
Enter, the sleep ritual. This powerful set of actions and behaviors will prepare your body for deep, restful sleep night after night. Trust me when I say this, you will learn to love your sleep ritual and will feel the effects almost immediately.
Setting The Scene
Good sleep doesn’t magically happen, it is a deliberate process starting early in the day and concluding with you actually falling asleep. Therefore, a few things are highly recommended for you early in the day:
- Wake up Call: Try to wake up around the same time every day if possible, even on weekends. This is your anchor and will regulate your internal clock, or circadian rhythm, making falling asleep at night much easier. The key is waking up and getting up when your alarm goes off. Don’t hit snooze, no matter how badly you want to.
- No Caffeine After 2pm: Caffeine is a powerful stimulant, and research shows it can affect your sleep up to 8 hours after consumption, even if you don’t feel its effects anymore (talking to you caffeine junkies!).
The alternative here is allowing your body to get tired (it’s trying to tell you something) and focusing on getting a good night’s sleep. Try to stay out of the vicious but oh, so familiar cycle of Caffeine-No Sleep-Fatigue-Caffeine.
5-Steps To Better Sleep: The Sleep Ritual
If you choose to do one thing for the rest of your life, let it be this: The Sleep Ritual. A sleep ritual is simply a set of 5 specific steps you do every night to prepare your body for deep, restful sleep. The ritual itself is designed to calm your mind and body, secrete sleep hormones (melatonin) and reduce stress.
Similar to how you can’t just crush a workout and immediately slow your heart rate, you can’t go 100% all day and then crash at night. And if you do, it’s probably not restful sleep. Here are 5 Steps to Better Sleep:
#1. COOL IT DOWN
In order to initiate sleep, your body’s core temperature must drop about 2-3 degrees. The best environment to sleep in is a cold, dark one. An optimal sleeping temperature is about 65-68 degrees. If possible, keep it cool!
#2. TURN OFF SCREENS + ELECTRONICS
Screens and digital devices stimulate our brain with noise, light and distraction. Turn off ALL electronic devices 30 minutes before bed.
Taking your phone into bed and scrolling mindlessly or having the TV on not only causes your body to stay awake and alert but also halts the secretion of melatonin due to the blue light electronics emit.
Put that phone away somewhere if you think you’ll be tempted to check it “one last time”.
#3. LOWER THE LIGHT
Start to dim the lights at the same time as you turn off electronics. Use a lamp instead of the overhead lights. Create a dark space to sleep in, as this mimics the light outside at night and allows your body’s internal clock to regulate sleep.
From our buddies over at Precision Nutrition, “Our brain produces melatonin as light levels decrease. Melatonin ensures deep sleep and may also help regulate our metabolism. If we have too much light at night, we don’t get proper melatonin production.”
#4. DO A BRAIN DUMP
Is your brain swimming in tomorrow’s to-do list? Trying to solve a problem you had at work? Thinking of amazing ideas for your next project at home or work?
Keep a journal next to your bed and write out everything on your mind, all your ideas and to-dos, and set it aside.
Now, it is the journal’s problem and you can rest well knowing you don’t have to remember every little thing.
#5. DO SOMETHING RELAXING + CALMING
This the most important step of the entire sleep ritual: do something that actively calms you down for about 30 minutes. This can be anything without a screen:
- Read fiction (or read your kids a quiet bedtime story).
- Take a warm or very cold bath or shower.
- Have sex (doesn’t count if you’re alone, though).
- Meditate, or do some deep breathing techniques.
- Listen to relaxing music.
- Pet your dog or cat.
It doesn’t matter what you do here, as long as it cradles you to deep, restful sleep.
Action Step: Create and Perform YOUR Sleep Ritual
Your action step for this week and beyond is obvious: create and perform YOUR sleep ritual. Make this custom to you and your needs. Try it tonight beginning 30-45 minutes before your bedtime and remember consistency with this ritual is what yields you better sleep.
Coach Matty B’s Sleep Ritual: I LOVE my sleep ritual and over the last 2 years have honed and perfected it. Check out my nightly ritual:
- Shape the Path for Better Sleep: No caffeine after 2 pm. Set thermostat to 67 degrees at bedtime. Lower ALL lights.
- Shape the Path for the Next Morning: Set up coffee, put lunch together, set clothes out – on early workdays.
- Take a contrast shower (alternating between very hot and very cold water 2-3 times) usually in the dark.
- Do a brain dump – to do’s, ideas and gratitude journaling.
- Read fiction – almost always epic fantasy because I am a huge nerd.
- Fall into deep, restful sleep.
So there you have it, a 5-step guide to scoring better sleep! These are easy action steps you can start implementing tonight and through out the weekend. Give yourself about 7- 10 days to consistently stick with a ritual and make note of how you feel each day. Are you less sluggish? Appetite isn’t excessive?
Aside from feeling tired, quality sleep has such profound impact on the way we look, the way we feel and our quality of life.
In addition to regular exercise and proper nutrition habits (eating real foods), other lifestyle habits like sleep are equally as important.
If your goal is to be healthy and enjoy a long life, all of your lifestyle habits need to reflect this. Exercise and eating healthy just aren’t going to be enough.
Coach Matty B