If you’ve ever had a bad night’s sleep, you know that it’s the worst thing ever. You’re tired, cranky, and maybe even a little uglier than the day before.
But sleep also has long term effects on our physical health. A bad night's sleep can reduce your resting metabolic rate, making weight loss significantly harder. Bad sleep can also lead to poor memory, chronic stress, and cardiovascular disease.
Before implementing these techniques I felt like I was getting decent sleep, but now I can say without a doubt that I get the best sleep of my life just by using these 5 simple techniques I’m going to share with you.
I want to preface this by saying that all of these techniques can be implemented right away and don’t require any special products, they can literally be done for $0 and could potentially transform your physical health over time.
1 - Go to bed by 10PM.
People who tell me they’re night owls are usually just doing the wrong things to get to sleep at a decent hour.
The 10PM cutoff is significant because it’s when most people experience what they call their “second wind”. 10PM marks the transition from Kapha to Pitta energy in the body. I am of course referring to Ayurvedic science and the way the body’s energy changes throughout the day. If you have no clue what I’m talking about and want to learn more about Ayurveda, I’ll leave a link in the description below.
To make it simple, 6-10PM is the ideal time to fall asleep because your body is the most relaxed it’ll be all day.
2 - Get some sunlight during the day.
You probably vaguely recall the term circadian rhythm from science class. You might even remember that the body operates using an internal clock which repeats itself roughly every 24 hours.
The key word here is “roughly”. The cycle is not exactly 24 hours, so it relies on environmental cues to reset itself to make sure it’s in sync with the outside world. One of those cues is light. If you were to live in a cave for months on end without any natural light exposure, you’d probably look like Smeagol from Lord of the Rings. But you’d also start to deviate from your normal sleep-wake cycle. Without any external cues from the sun, your body wouldn’t know when to start producing melatonin, which is a hormone used for falling asleep.
Research suggests that even 10-20 minutes of direct sunlight during the day is enough to reset the body’s internal clock so that you can fall asleep at a regular time. And yes, this works when it’s cloudy outside.
3 - Shut down electronics after 8:30PM.
Electronic devices like cell phones, laptops, e-readers and TVs emit a lot of blue light, which is the wavelength of light that makes us the most alert and awake. So when you use your phone before bed or stay up past 12am binge-watching Netflix, you’re essentially tricking your brain into thinking that it’s still daytime. This suppresses melatonin production and results in a terrible night of sleep.
4 - Limit your meals after 6PM.
If you’re used to the standard American diet, this one might be tough. But your body’s digestive activity changes throughout the day. After 6PM, your digestive system slows down dramatically to prepare for sleep. So if you do eat a heavy dinner, your body has to work extra hard trying to digest that food when it should be resting. Even if you are able to fall asleep with a full belly, the quality of your sleep will be compromised.
The digestive system is most active between the hours of 10AM-2PM. So if you want better sleep, eat a bigger meal for lunch and eat lightly for dinner.
5 - Exercise
I mentioned earlier how your body uses environmental cues to reset it’s internal clock. One of the ways to do that is getting exposure to natural light, but another is exercise. Your body’s internal clock uses movement during the day to reset its clock so that you can get consistent, restful sleep.
What are the best times to workout? There’s a lot of evidence that morning workouts before 10AM are great for getting consistent sleep, but I’ve found that working out between the hours of 2 and 6PM can also be effective because your muscular endurance is higher and there’s less risk of injury because your body temperature is naturally elevated. I’d advise against working out after 6PM because the stress hormones released from working out increase wakefulness.
And unless you have no other choice, I wouldn’t recommend working out in the middle of the day because your energy will naturally be geared towards digestion and physical activity could disrupt that.
So that’s it. 5 simple hacks for getting better sleep. Try some of these out before you go to bed tonight and let me know how they work for you in the comments below.