Sleep has been called the only legal performance enhancing drug, and for good reason. Sleep is the time during which your body releases human growth hormone (HGH) – yes the same substance athletes get banned for taking – while reducing your risk of nearly all fatal diseases (heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure) and also making you even look better (speaking of high performance and health, learn if nutrition or exercise matters more here). The best part? This performance enhancing drug doesn’t cost you anything. This entire post comes from The Heavily Scaled Podcast, led by our wonderful coaches, Gabi Bradley, Katie Mills, and Claire Strohl. They did some research and put together an episode completely devoted to sleep. Check it out on Apple Podcasts here. This is from Episode 14 in Season 1. Now, onto the tips:
12 Tips for Better Sleep:
- Stick to a consistent schedule: many people sleep in on the weekends in an attempt to catch up on sleep missed during the week. As it turns out, this is a bad idea. Your sleep doesn’t function like a bank account and you cannot catch up. Throwing your body off of its usual pattern is one of the worst things you can do for your sleep according to WHOOP, as well. Stick to a schedule – just make it a schedule that gives you eight hours.
- Don’t exercise within two hours of bedtime: when you exercise, your core temperature elevates and your body ramps up cortisol production – both of which make it harder to sleep. Try not to workout within two hours of bed time so that you have time to cool off and unwind.
- Avoid caffeine in the afternoon – 2:00 pm at the latest: caffeine has a half life of seven to eight hours which means that if you drink it at 4:00 pm, not even half of that caffeine will be processed when you try to lay down for bed. Just try and stick to no caffeine any time after noon, 2:00 at the absolute latest.
- Avoid alcohol close to bed: all the fun things are gone, huh? Alcohol actually stops you from getting into REM sleep – which is insanely important for your ability to learn new skills. You NEED REM sleep. Try and limit alcohol consumption around bed the best you possibly can.
- Stay away from large meals and large amounts of water around bed: if you go to sleep stuffed, your body is going to basically work all night trying to digest that food, which will leave you under-recovered the next day. Water isn’t the same issue; it has to do with you waking up to go to the bathroom multiple times per night. If you’re getting up more than once to use the restroom, you’re drinking too much water around bed.
- Avoid specific medicines: popular over the counter medicines such as Excedrin, anything with pseudofed, and NSAIDs like ibuprofen all impact sleep negatively.
- Don’t nap after 3:00 pm: while the benefits of napping are numerous, taking a nap too close to bed can throw off your ability to get to bed later – and keeping that consistent schedule is still among the most important things in sleep.
- Create a nighttime routine: your body loves routines, so give it what it loves. Tell your body it is time to go to bed by doing the same things each night around the same time. Spend some time reading, getting away from technology, and other things such as taking a warm shower or meditation. Choose a couple things you may enjoy and be consistent with it.
- Craft a positive sleep environment: just as it becomes nearly impossible to eat healthy options when you’re in Taco Bell, sleeping in a room not built to help you sleep just is a bad choice. Make your room dark, quiet, and cold.
- Get 30 minutes, at least, of sunlight per day: amazingly, this actually resets your circadian rhythm and makes a big impact on your sleep.
- If you cannot fall asleep, don’t just lay there: the longer you just lay in bed, the more likely it is you’ll simply never fall asleep. Instead of dealing with that frustration, simply get out of bed, go to another room, and read a book until you feel tired. Then go back to bed – and don’t beat yourself up for not being able to fall asleep.
- Do mobility (stretching, for example) before bed: this is often a meditative process for people, and helps to make your body feel good before you lay down for the night
If you’d like to take a deeper dive into sleep, we recommend reading Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker.