Most people in industrialized societies are working jobs with long hours and lead incredibly busy lives.
With so much to do, they often skip on the essentials of good health, such as not getting enough sleep.
Take Michael, for instance. He’s a 24-year old call center agent and a new father who regularly works the graveyard shift.
With the demands of parenthood and work bearing down on him, he treated sleep as a luxury he couldn’t afford.
But contrary to what most people think, sleep is FAR from a luxury.
If you deprive your body of this basic need, you’ll have to pay for it one way or another.
Michael learned this the hard way during one bleary-eyed morning. He had just gotten out of work and was driving home.
He was only 10 minutes away from his place when it happened.
Michael dozed off for all of two seconds, but that’s all it took for him to ram the taxi cab in front of him.
Luckily, he wasn’t going that fast when the cab hit the brakes at the intersection, so it was just a minor fender bender.
But it was a sobering moment for Michael nonetheless.
The memory of waking up to the sound of a loud, sickening thud followed by a metallic crunch would stay with him for a long time.
It pushed him to do something about his situation so he wouldn’t go through that experience again.
Michael saw a sleep specialist, worked out a sleep schedule with his wife and asked his boss to move him to daytime hours.
Wake up and smell the health risks
Michael’s case is hardly rare, which makes it sad knowing that so many people are wasting their health over avoiding sleep.
The problem with skimping on shut-eye is that it creates long-term problems down the road – and you shouldn’t brush it off.
For one thing, you’ll increase your likelihood of heart disease by over 50%. Other problems include a higher risk for diabetes, obesity, and a compromised immune system.
Worse, a sleep-deprived brain means your memory is shot and you can’t retain new information.
A fuzzy head means reduced focus and concentration, so say goodbye to being productive at work.
And like what happened with Michael, having a few seconds of micro-sleep while driving on the road can have serious (and permanent consequences).
Here are some ways to get the most out of your sleeping hours:
#1: Routine is key
Humans are wired to operate on a sleep schedule, something which has come under attack since the dawn of the modern age.
Mathew Walker, Ph.D., author of “Why We Sleep” says that the demands of modern living have taken its toll on our basic biological need to sleep.
He shared this insight in his book:
“…the decimation of sleep throughout industrialized nations is having a catastrophic impact on our health, our life expectancy, our safety, our productivity, and the education of our children.”
As such, the key to regularly getting a good amount of sleep is through a schedule. The human body thrives on routine, and you have to design your day to support this.
One quick way to do this is by deciding on a FIXED time to get up every day, then schedule your bedtime based on that.
Check out this weird but powerful technique you can use to sleep within minutes if you want to sleep for at least hours and need to be up by 6 am, then you need to be in bed by 10 am. Stick to this routine throughout the week, and your body will gradually adjust.
As you get used to this schedule, you eventually won’t have to set an alarm. You know you’ve settled into your target sleep pattern when you get up at the same time every day.
#2: Turn off your smartphone at night
Nothing wrecks your sleep rhythm more than a bright screen in your face before going to bed.
You might think you’re relaxing while scrolling through your Facebook or Instagram feed, but it’s doing things to your body you’re not aware of.
You see, your natural sleep mechanism is designed to release a hormone called melatonin when you’re about to hit the sack.
So when you use a mobile device or your laptop, the bright light sends a signal to your brain to stop producing melatonin. Part of a good sleep schedule is learning when to stop using electronics as bedtime nears.
Give yourself at least a couple of hours to unplug from your electronics before going to bed. This allows your body to get “settled” in for the night ahead and go down like a sack of potatoes when you turn off the lights.
#3: Set the stage for good sleep
Your environment plays a HUGE factor in the quality of your sleep. So you need to make sure that the bedroom is a place that’s conducive for resting.
Aside from removing all electronics from your bed, here are other ways to ensure sleeping success:
– Remove all stressful associations from your sleeping environment. This means leaving your work OUT of the bedroom. Your mind should only think of sleep when you’re in bed.
– Don’t stay in bed if you can’t sleep. Do something else outside of the bedroom and come back when you’re done.
– Eliminate distractions and bright lights. Your body associates sleep time with darkness, so make sure you have good curtains and have eyeshades handy if needed. Also, pinpoint any sources of noise, such as a television or your mobile device, and deal with it accordingly. Switch it off or keep it out of the bedroom altogether.
– Invest in a good mattress and keep the temperature cool. The ideal range is about 60-70 degrees, which allows your body to naturally fall into a relaxed state. Proper lumbar support is a big thing too, so get a mattress that’s kind on your back.
#4: Naps are ok, but do it right
Dr. Walker also says in “Why We Sleep” that by nature, people are meant to sleep in a biphasic pattern.
This basically consists of 7-8 hours of sleep, and one nap during the day for 30 minutes up to an hour. According to him, this works better than sleeping according to a monophasic pattern which is sleeping throughout the night with no naps.
So, he recommends that you take at least one nap to help you get through until the evening. However, you should do this before 3 pm to give yourself enough time to get tired at night and stick to your prescribed bedtime.
One benefit of napping is that it reduces the odds of a heart attack by more than half. Companies such as Google and Nike have facilities like nap pods to allow their employees to recharge as it helps with their productivity.
#5: Wind down with a book or music
A good way to further reinforce your bedtime routine is by introducing better habits that you can associate with your sleep patterns.
Reading before bed is a good ritual as it can help reduce your stress levels. The University of Sussex did a study in 2009 to explore the effects of reading on sleep – they found it can cut down stress levels by up to 68%.
As you settle in with a book, it takes your mind off stressful thoughts which helps reduce your heart rate and production of cortisol (a stress hormone). So it helps to pick out a few good books you can get into over the next several weeks (or days, if you’re a voracious reader).
Another alternative is putting on some good tunes before you hit the hay. Like reading, it puts you in another state of consciousness – and this helps you disengage from your worries throughout the day.
Also, meditation has become more and more popular among a wide range of people, such as students, CEOs, parents, and everyone else in between.
This habit in itself is effective in reducing anxiety and depression, so combining it with your bedtime routine makes it even more powerful.
Furthermore, meditation is a great tool for reprogramming your subconscious thoughts. People have used it to change undesired behavior, like negative thinking or even smoking.
Not only that, but you can also use meditation to optimize your mindset for being more successful in life and creating wealth.
If you want to improve your sleep habits while improving the other parts of your life in the process, you can check out my free guided meditation audio tracks.
They’re designed to help you meditate at night and prime your brain for success so you can get up in the morning refreshed and ready to take on the day: