Sleep is just one of those things that way too many people think they can live without. When it comes to the most important things in life like air, water, food, and shelter, sleep may really be next on the list. But, that doesn’t stop millions of people from trying to slink by on as little as 3-4 hours of nightly rest. Driven by a need to achieve, a need to provide, or just that urge to get things done, people are always trying to fit a couple of extra hours of work time into the day. Even if it means sacrificing that all-important beauty sleep. Encouraged by the stories of those self-made billionaires who only sleep but a few hours a night like Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, people forgo an overnight reboot in favor of burning the midnight oil. But, what if we told you that those stories of overwhelming success due to sleeping less are all a myth, and the mighty empires that are Microsoft and Amazon were built on the backs of countless nights filled with 8-full hours of sleep?
Negative effects of not sleeping enough
Before diving headlong into all the ways to maximize your sleep schedule, it is important to understand the negative effects of not getting enough sleep. Depriving the body of the correct amount of sleep, even if you are just sacrificing an hour or 2 per night, can come with all manner of negative outcomes. Not sleeping enough can be a predictor for depression, contributing factors to weight gain or obesity, and increases the possibility of cardiovascular disease or stroke. Studies have even determined that not getting enough zzz’s every night can shorten your life span by more than a decade. Starting to rethink that 5-hour per night habit now aren’t you?
Righting your sleep schedule
The first step toward righting your sleep schedule is identifying your chronotype, or simply put figuring what kind of sleeper you personally are. Dr. Michael Breus is an expert on sleep and has broken the chronotypes down into 4 categories. Lions who go to sleep early and wake up early, Bears who go to sleep before midnight and wake up mid-morning, Wolves who stay up late and sleep in, and Dolphins who suffer from insomnia. Once you have identified your chronotype it’s time to adjust your schedule to match it. Knowing that you work best going to sleep at 11 p.m. and being up around 8 a.m. isn’t helpful if you’re working the graveyard shift! So, making sure your schedule fits your chronotype is extremely important.
The next step is creating a ritual and sticking to it. Research shows that going to sleep at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning is proven to make you feel better. But, adding in writing out a to-do-list or journaling before bed can actually shut your lights out faster. So creating a uniform evening ritual can increase the quality of your sleep exponentially. While jotting down a schedule for the following day can help break those complicated thought cycles that keep those neurons firing when you would rather be snoring.
Conquering light and temperature
Another often forgotten tax on optimal sleep is exposure to light and temperature. Researchers have found that exposing yourself to sunlight first thing in the morning can really help to get your brain firing on all cylinders. While limiting your exposure to artificial light after sundown can help your brain to shut down easier, and for you to sleep more deeply. Artificial light includes cell-phones and televisions which makes reading or listening to an audiobook before bed a far superior option to watching TV. As for Temperature, studies dictate that lowering the body temperature before bed helps to create more melatonin allowing you to sleep better. Lowering the thermostat to between 62 degrees and 67 degrees Fahrenheit and taking a cold shower before bed can really do the body good.
Another important factor in getting high-quality sleep is breathing properly. 2 out of every 5 American adults suffer from sleep apnea and aren’t breathing well while they sleep. This negatively affects the quality of their zzz’s. Simple things like sleeping on your side or using nasal strips can really heighten the quality of your sleep. Also in the vein of breathing a little easier while at rest, keeping some houseplants in the room where you sleep has been shown to raise the air quality and make for a more restful snooze.