“To sleep, perchance to dream.”
William Shakespeare wrote that line in “Hamlet” hundreds of years ago, but Old Billy-Boy didn’t have to deal with artificial lights, blue light effects, computer screen glare, a hyperactive internet-obsessed world, or messed-up circadian rhythms from air travel. Hamlet was just deciding whether to live or die.
In a way, however, so are you with your sleep choices.
See, nothing ages you like lack of sleep. Not giving your body a chance to rest and repair itself is really stupid, but we all do it. All of us, at some point, have shorted ourselves on sleep because of work or a baby or another obligation or just because we were having a lot of late-night fun.
Sleep, we tell ourselves, can wait for when we’re dead. But that’s kind of a silly saying. You don’t “sleep” when you’re dead, you’re just dead. Better you should be smart about your sleep now, because it affects everything, including your work and your workout performance.
So, you know you should get more sleep, but how do you do it?
1) Work Out
Nothing will make your sleep fuller and deeper (without any kind of sleep-aid) than exercise. Ever notice how when you do not work out that your sleep suffers? It’s more shallow, not as restful, and you wake up more. Tire yourself out with exercise several times per week and feel how your sleep improves.
Waking up in the middle of the night? Sure, you can try warm milk, but maybe the next day you should try more thrusters and deadlifts.
2) Set a Nighttime Alarm on Your Phone
Set two alarms, actually: one for heading to your bedroom, and one for turning out your light.
I know that sounds stupid, but try it. Set a timer for something like 9pm each night (“Head to your room”) and 10pm (“Lights out”). So if you’re sitting there, lost on the internet again or working when you should be sleeping, your phone will remind you to stop.
See, our computers can make us forget time passing, but if we are smart, we can also use them to make us remember time passing. And when that alarm tells you to head to your room? DO IT. A regular bedtime is what your body wants and needs.
3) Eat Well
Eat whole foods that are good for you, like Steve’s Grainless PaleoKrunch or Steve’s PaleoKits. Cut down on sugar and garbage. Drink coffee only before noon. Your body is affected by garbage more than you realize, so clean up your nutrition and watch how much better you feel and sleep.
4) Wear One of Those Sleep Masks
I know they look stupid and you feel like a 1950’s housewife in one, but damn those puppies work. I put on one of those “I Dream of Jeannie” masks before sleep and it’s like you hit me with a stick. I’m out and in a deep, deep sleep. I feel like a million bucks when I wake up. (You can also use room darkening curtains to achieve this effect.)
5) Read More About Sleep and What Can Help You
The New York Times has many resources for you, including a guide on “How to Get a Better Night’s Sleep” and some interesting articles, including “The Purpose of Sleep? To Forget, Scientists Say” and “Light Bulbs That Help You Sleep.”
And remember, sleep isn’t just a nice thing to have. It’s essential to proper maintenance of your body, as well as being key to high performance and productivity, so work enough sleep into your schedule and fight to keep it there.
“Sleep is the single most effective thing you can do to reset your brain and body,” says Dr. Matthew P. Walker of the University of California, Berkeley in “Sleep Is the New Status Symbol.” And he’s right — so get more of it!