The 8 Steps to Perfect Sleep – Every Time!
Be honest with yourself. You wake up every morning feeling like you just barely went to bed!
You struggle to peel back the duvet and set that first foot out into the cold light of day.
How many times do you hit that snooze button before you realise you’re now going to be late?
If any of this sounds familiar and sleep is a struggle for you, you’re not alone.
But getting a good nights’ sleep shouldn’t be up to guesswork. Getting a good nights’ sleep, every time, doesn’t have to be a mystery. Just use these 8 simple steps (9 if you count the uber-sleep tip that you will only find by reading the whole post ) and wake up feeling refreshed and ready for the day ahead. If you get it right, you might even be the most productive you have ever been. Read On…
Why should I care?
Sleep is by far the most important thing we do for our health after eating and breathing. For most people, however, sleep is just something you have to do every night and you can never seem to get enough of it. For a performer who uses their brain an awful lot getting your sleep right can mean the difference between a great days rehearsal or feeling like a zombie all day and drinking your body weight in caffeine. Before I reveal the secrets to the perfect night’s sleep you need to understand a little about how sleep works.
When “Sleeping” your body goes through certain stages in a constant cycle over and over again from being in a “light sleep” all the way through to a “deep sleep” and back to light again. This happens in a series of “Waves” over and over again until you wake. The deeper the wave the more rest you gain in that cycle. The average person has a “cycle” every 20 to 40 mins while asleep.
For the geeks among you, deep wave sleep is also known as R.E.M. state. This is where your brain activity gets its most rest, strangely when it is most active. This is also the state in which you dream in. For the purposes of this article I have assumed the favoured sleep type is Monophasic, all at once in one block. Although there are proven health benefits to Polyphasic cycles, that is the subject of another post 😉
The 8 Steps
Without further ado, here are the 8 steps to getting that elusive “perfect nights’ sleep”;
- Spend longer in bed. – This might sound obvious but the longer your total sleep time the more cycles you will have. 9 – 9.5 hours is optimal, any more than this and you will feel groggy. Any less and you will feel less than optimally rested. So, each afternoon quickly ask yourself “What time do I need to be up tomorrow?” and count back 9.5 hours from there.
- Don’t have a heart attack at your alarm! – Get “Sleep Cycle – alarm clock” from the app store and use it religiously! This genius app resulted in at least a 20% increase in my sleep quality from first use. How it works is it replaces your usual alarm with one of its own that measures your sleep cycle as you are asleep and then it wakes you when you are in your lightest phase. This means you don’t get dragged out of deep sleep which will leave you feeling un-rested and groggy. If used properly I guarantee it will be the best thing you’ve done for your health in a long time.
- Wind Down – You have a morning routine right? Well why not a night time one too. Spend the last 15 mins before getting into bed doing nothing but getting ready to sleep. Decide on something to be a “State Trigger” for you, like turning the lights off. A state trigger is something you do every time you prepare to do something which lets your body know you are about to do it, like turning the lights off every time you prepare to go to bed. Spend the 15 mins before that winding down your brain. Come off the PC and either read some fiction or my personal favourite is write a To-Do list for tomorrow. Turning off the lights is very important as your eyes tell your brain when night time is by the level of light they are taking in. It needs to be absolutely pitch black for your eyes to fully switch off.
- Write your To-Do list – I know I mentioned it previously but this step deserves its own little point as it is so important. Writing a to-do list for tomorrow does two things. Firstly it subconsciously allows you to have guilt free sleep, almost giving yourself permission to switch your brain off. More importantly it gives you a plan of action when you wake up making sure you have a productive day. I usually write two lists – Studies show that the optimum number of tasks on a to-do list is 3 so I write the 3 most important tasks for the day at the top. These are the 3 tasks that if I got nothing else done that day I would still feel like I had a productive day. After those 3, I splurge out all the last things on my mind that I need to remember from “Gym” to “Sort Washing” This means I don’t spend the next two hours in bed thinking “I need to remember to do this” every two seconds.
- Alcohol – no more than two glasses of wine 3 hours before bed provides just the right amount of relaxation. Any more and it will disturb your sleep cycle. Full bodied red wine is best as it has the least amount of residual sugars left over from fermentation but also has an antioxidant called resveratrol which has been proven to have huge health benefits for the heart and circulatory system. I like having a glass of wine or two after my dinner to relax! If you ever needed an excuse for a glass of wine a day – this is it!
- Eat 100-200 calories just before bed – A rice cake with peanut/almond butter gives you the perfect amount of calories to prevent the groggy feeling that comes from low blood sugar when you wake up.
- Keep Cool – it is better to be slightly too cold than slightly too hot when trying to get to sleep. Optimum temperature is around 17 degrees, if you have a thermometer great! If not then aim to be a little too cold. If you feel slightly too warm you probably are and as little as 3 degrees in temperature rise will completely disrupt the time it takes you to get to sleep.
- Let the sun shine – As soon as you wake up tear open those curtains and crack open a window. As mentioned before your eyes respond to the amount of light they get at certain times and exposing them to natural sunlight for 15 mins in the morning is as good a wake up as any cup of caffeine I’ve ever had.
Once you have all of these steps integrated and are consistently getting pretty good sleep try these extra helpful tips to push the restfulness even further;
- Philips Go-Lite – This little gadget is on my wish list. It is quite expensive but boasts really great results. It is usually used for light therapy in people suffering with Seasonal Affected Disorder but for us regular folk it’s like having the sun in your bedroom in the mornings.
- Nightwave – Also on my wish list this gizmo boasts 7 minutes to sleep by slowing down your breathing pattern and forcing you to relax.
- California Poppy Extract/Huperzine A – I am experimenting with 15 drops of California poppy extract which is a mild sedative and 200mcg of Huperzine A to greatly improve my % of deep wave sleep. Also has the nice side effect of making my dreams really vivid.
Pick one of these points to integrate into your daily routine today!
Tomorrow, pick a different one.
In a little over a week you could be getting the best nights’ sleep you’ve ever had, every night!
Goodnight, sleep tight
And don’t let the Casting Directors bite!