5 Ways to Sleep Better in 2015
A.K.A. the resolution everyone can f*ck with.
There’s nothing quite as quietly anxiety-inducing than staring at your dark ceiling at 2, 3, 4 A.M. in the morning—when you need to be up at 7 A.M. to make your pre-workday breakfast meeting, before a jam-packed day of appointments, conference calls, that never-empty inbox, followed by an extensive cocktail event (and somehow be fresh faced). Yeah, okay, so for the insomniacs among us, this is standard issue. And just when sleep seems like a consistent and distinct impossibility, we hear about a little something called ‘sleep hygiene.’ You can’t blame us that our ear pricked up.
Enter Michael Breus, PhD, a specialist known colloquially as the Sleep Doctor. Yes, we’re serious. If we could make 2015 the year of anything, it would be the year of better sleep. Herein, tips on how to actually get solid sleep, even on those nights when you can’t stop playing that screaming-turned-crying match over and over in your mind. You’re welcome...
Know what affects your sleep quantity and quality.
“Sleep hygiene is a general term used for good sleep habits. It usually involves looking at outside influences to your sleep that a person can change to help them sleep better. These changes can affect either sleep quality or sleep quantity. For example: lowering caffeine consumption, going to bed and waking up at the same time, not smoking, turning off electronics before bed, etc. If you go to bed and get up at the same times each day, you should not need an alarm clock and should be able to wake up with out much effort.”
Time your bedtime accordingly.
“You should consider setting an alarm to tell you when to go to sleep. For example, if you want to go to bed around 11, you should set your alarm for 11 PM and that forces you to go into your room to turn it off—this reminds you to start getting ready for bed. The other BIG mistake many people make is going to bed too early. I have many patients that go to bed early because either they are bored or they are tired and hope to catch up on lost sleep earlier in the week.”
Know how to define a quality sleep.
“Quality of sleep is basically defined by the amount of different stages of sleep a person gets. The average person should get about 5% stage one, 45% stage two, 25% stages three and four, and 25% stage REM. There is also another calculation that can be done called sleep efficiency. Here you divide the amount of actual sleep time (subtracting any nighttime awakenings) by the amount of time spent in bed, then multiply the result by 100. This gives a percentage. We look for a sleep efficiency greater than 85%.
Electronics can play a role because it has been discovered that the blue wavelength of light emitted from these devices can cause a decrease in the production of Melatonin. Melatonin is one of the hormones that helps a person fall asleep.”
It’s not about getting eight hours. It’s about getting what you need.
“Eight hours is a myth. Everyone has an individual sleep need. I need seven, while my wife needs 8.5. The benefits of a full night’s rest (however much sleep you may need) have to do with three areas: physical, emotional and cognitive. Physically we see increased immune function, quicker reaction time, better fitness and a quicker metabolism. Mental effects include lower rates of depression and anxiety (really all mental health issues get better with appropriate sleep). The cognitive benefits include: a better memory, better decision-making, and better problem solving.”
Follow these guidelines during the day.
“There are five simple steps I use with patients that seem to work from my book, The Sleep Doctor’s Diet Plan: Lose Weight Through Better Sleep.
1. Stick to one sleep schedule during the week and on the weekends. This lets your body know when to sleep and when to wake.
2. Stop [consuming] caffeine by 2 PM. This allows enough time to get caffeine out of your system.
3. Stop [consuming] alcohol three hours before bed. This allows enough time to get alcohol out of the system.
4. Stop exercise four hours before bed. This makes sure that you’re not to excited from your workout to sleep.
5. Get 15 minutes of sunlight each day. This helps re-set your biological rhythm.”