I work with virtually all of my coaching clients on getting more sleep, or how to sleep better. (Food is a close second) Sleep has gotten a lot more complicated. In the early 1900’s, before everyone had access to electricity to keep them up at night (not to mention smartphones), people slept an average of nine hours a night. Can you imagine?
An epidemic of sleep deprivation
If you sleep less than seven hours, most sleep experts would put you in the category of “sleep deprived”. And almost half of us sleep less than six hours a night. In my roles as both a physician and coach, I get a unique glimpse into what’s happening in people’s lives and I see why, as a culture, we’re not sleeping.
Do these quick simple things to improve your sleep:
Don’t use your phone in bed.
Reading emails or texting requires a level of thought and attention that wake up your brain, exactly when you should be winding down and turning your brain off.
If you must have your phone in your bedroom (as a clock and/or alarm), put it in airplane mode and do not disturb.
I had a client who complained of terrible sleep. When I probed, I discovered her phone was pinging with notifications all night, continually disturbing her. People also knew that if they called her in the middle of the night, she’d answer. No more. If you’re worried about missing an emergency call from a family member, program the Do Not Disturb function on your phone to allow calls from certain numbers.
In the evening, turn the brightness on your phone way down.
As soon as the sun goes down, you should turn down the brightness on your phone. If you have an iPhone, for example, you can select the “night shift” setting to decrease blue light after sunset. When I use my phone as a clock overnight, I keep the screen as low as it can go. That way, if I have to check the time, my brain won’t get awoken by a blinding flash of screen light.
Black out your bedroom.
Even small amounts of light at night (such as a night light) inhibit melatonin release. Melatonin, in addition to promoting sleep and healing, is key to the production of other important hormones, including growth hormone. We recently bought a stylish, inexpensive set of blackout curtains that renders our bedroom pitch black (they’re better than the other ones we used to use), and I can’t believe how much better I sleep. I also fall asleep faster and am able to sleep longer.
Read instead of watching Netflix.
I know: Easier said than done. Screens of all kinds negatively impact sleep. If you’ve been struggling with sleep and tend to be on screens in the evening, try this experiment: At least one night a week, keep the screens off and read a book instead. You’ll surely discover that you get much more drowsy in the evening, and feel an urge to head to bed. You’ll also probably fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly.
Put off stressful discussions until daytime.
Avoid stressful triggers after 8:00 pm.
Never check your email at night, particularly if there might be a non-urgent email from work (or a relative) that could upset you or cause stress. Don’t watch or read the news. Avoid scrolling through your Facebook feed if some of the posts will bother you or trigger you. Refrain from calling that family member who always leaves you wanting to tear your hair out or throw things. Consider this your wind-down time, and protect it vigilantly.
If you rest better, your whole world will be better off, literally. You’ll feel better, look better and get along better with everyone else, trust me on this one. It’s worth making the extra effort.