What do you want to do when you feel really tired and you have no energy left to do anything?
You want to sleep, right?
This should tell you quite plainly how important sleep is for energy. It’s something of a vicious cycle: but low energy leads to poor sleep and poor sleep leads to lower energy!
In fact, sleep is something of a miracle cure for all kinds of ailments – it improves your memory, your focus, your attention, your mood and your sleep immensely. It is as critical to our wellbeing as food, water or shelter.
Sleeping is far more effective than any beauty treatment, any ‘smart drug’ and any supplement. Get the right sleep and you will perform on the top of your game the next day – it’s that simple.
Most of us don’t get the quality or the quantity of sleep that we need though and as such we find ourselves walking around like zombies. We’re cranky, we’re easily distracted, we’re confused and generally we operate like shadows of our true selves.
So how do you go about upgrading your sleep and getting back your low energy levels? Especially in a world that is ‘always on’ and always on the go.
Tricks to Improve Your Sleep Quality
Take a quick cursory look online and you’ll find that there are thousands of different tips and ‘hacks’ that can supposedly give us better sleep. Everyone it seems has some kind of tip that can lead to amazing sleep and indeed there are a lot of good ones out there.
But again, some of them involve a lot of work and very little pay off. So instead, let’s focus on the best ones that really make a noticeable difference and that are relatively easy to perform.
The good news is that if you’re following the tips below, you should find yourself sleeping much better.
＃Tip1: Take a Hot Bath or Shower Before Bed
This is one of the most powerful ways to help yourself sleep more deeply. Taking a hot shower just before you go to sleep will not only relax your muscles, it will also trigger your body to produce growth hormone and melatonin, essentially getting you nicely drowsy.
＃Tip 2: Have Half an Hour to Rest Before Bed
If there’s ‘one life hack’ that absolutely everyone should subscribe to these days, it’s this one.
No matter what else is going on in your life: take half an hour before bed to read a book and to relax. Keep your phone off and have just a dim bedside lamp. Don’t watch TV and generally let yourself treat this like a ‘wind down’ time.
What this does is to allow you to forget the stresses of the day and to feel more relaxed as a result. Moreover, the lack of ‘screen time’ means that your brain will be able to begin producing more melatonin. When you look at a computer or TV screen, your brain interprets the wavelength of the light as being sunlight. As a result, it acts as though it is daytime and it floods your body with cortisol, preventing you from sleeping.
And this is why it’s also so important to make sure there’s no light on in your room.
Seriously though, the benefits of having half an hour to yourself to unwind go far beyond just better sleep. When your life is constantly rushed and you never have any time for ‘you’, it can often feel as though you’re constantly being pushed to your limit. Start taking this time off to decompress and the world can seem a lot easier to manage.
＃Tip 3: Get Into a Routine
Something important to understand about the human body is that it works to rhythms. Your body likes routine because this allows it to learn natural rhythms – highs and lows that will stay consistent ensuring you start winding down biologically at the right moment.
This can make a big difference then to your ability to doze off and it will also allow you to control the amount of sleep you’re getting more carefully. As you likely know, eight hours is a good ball-park figure to aim for if you can.
Likewise, you should also try to reserve your room purely for sleeping and sex. This is important because it creates an association between your room and sleep. This way, when you head to your room, it will act like a trigger that tells your body it’s bed time and you’ll begin to feel drowsy almost right away!
＃Tip 4: Perfect Your Environment
These are the ‘easy tips’ that pretty much everyone already knows about sleeping – but they’re important and so they’re still very much worth going over.
So another key thing to look at to make sure you’re sleeping optimally is your environment, which must be:
As pitch black as possible
Clean (if possible)
Obviously it’s also very important to wear comfortable pajamas (or sleep naked, which is currently preferred by the research), to invest in a comfortable bed (one of the best purchases you will ever make) and to keep your room the right temperature. The ideal temperature is for your room to be a little bit cool, which is again how we are evolutionarily designed to sleep.
＃Tip 5: Calm Your Mind
But what if you’re someone who can’t sleep? What if your mind is constantly active and you lie in bed with it racing, unable to switch off?
Ever had that ‘hot and bothered’ feeling where you look at the clock, see it says 4am and then curse the world for being able to sleep when you cannot? This isn’t exactly how you sink off to sleep!
To get around this problem then, we’re going to once again take a leaf out of the CBT book (cognitive behavioral therapy). The idea then, is to change the way you approach sleep and the way you think about it.
Specifically, you’re going to stop pressuring yourself to sleep and to instead just allow yourself to relax. Consider sleep to be a bonus.
So tell yourself that it’s fine to just relax in bed and to enjoy being comfy – because it is. That’s good for you too.
You can’t force yourself to sleep, so don’t try. Just lie there and enjoy not having to do anything, enjoy not having to be anywhere and enjoy the feeling of closing your eyes and listening to your breathing.
What you’ll find, quite ironically, is that as soon as you start taking this approach... you drift right off!
A more practical method to calm your mind is to develop the habit of meditation. The mind-calming practice can be done at bedtime—or anytime during the day—to help fight fatigue and insomnia.
By practicing relaxing, whenever you do it, you learn how to let go of the stresses of the day. Think of it like exercising a muscle that gets stronger over time. This allows you to tap into that same ready relaxation state when it’s time to say goodnight.
In fact, meditation, the practice of intentionally quieting or focusing the mind, creates physiological changes that are similar to those that happen in your body during the early phases of sleep. Your pulse slows, blood pressure drops, and stress hormones decrease. Being able to get to that state on demand means that you'll have an easier time drifting off when you want to.
Watch this video to see how to practise meditation for sleeping:
Should You Power Nap?
With the best will in the world, there will still be times when you don’t have the very best sleep and when all your sleeping strategies fail you. In those scenarios, what do you do? Well, one good strategy is just to try again later.
Remember when we compared your energy levels to those of your cat or dog? We said that the cat and dog were either active, or asleep – never anything in between. You can do the same thing yourself by sleeping throughout the day to catch up on some shuteye and many studies have shown that this can boost productivity, mood and more.
So how do you nap correctly? The secret is to time it correctly and specifically to aim to nap for around 90 minutes, not more and not less. This is important because of the way our body cycles through different stages of sleep (the body loves rhythms remember!).
In 90 minutes you will go through one complete sleep cycle and will go from the lightest stage of sleep, to SWS (slow wave sleep) to REM. You’ll then be woken up just as you start to come around.
On the other hand, you can sleep for 10-20 minutes in order to wake up before you go into the deeper stages of sleep and to avoid sleep inertia that way. 90 minutes is definitely better though, as dreaming is considered to be instrumental in helping us lay down new memories and boost our performance.