Great Sleep

4 Ways to Get Great Sleep

Many of us feel we could do with more sleep. However, the demands of modern life make this dream largely impossible. But there is an alternative. Instead of always wishing we could have time for just a little more sleep, we can improve the quality of what sleep we do get.

The following are my tips for ensuring you get the very best quality sleep possible.

Sleep in Complete Darkness

Think cave, the night refuge of prehistoric humans. Our bodies are physiologically adapted to certain environmental circumstances and our physiology has not changed in close to 100,000 years. Essentially that means you are running around in a caveman or cavewoman’s body. Which also means you body is made to sleep in complete darkness.

It has been shown through scientific research that the release of melatonin is light sensitive. Light inhibits melatonin release whenever it touches skin but the eyes are especially important. Even as much light as produced by a single candle has an effect of reducing nighttime melatonin release. These days melatonin is sold as a sleep aid. But why buy and take a synthetic chemical when you can make your own, all natural, melatonin?

It may also interest you to know that melatonin is the single most potent antioxidant known to man. Our bodies naturally enjoy a nightly melatonin bath but only if you sleep in complete darkness. You should probably also know that it takes a respectable number of hours of melatonin release before other vital hormones become activated. Some of these hormones are needed by your immune system to produce T-cells and killer cells that help you fight off cancer and disease. Sounds important, doesn’t it?

Therefore, when you sleep ensure it is dark enough that you can’t see your hand in front of your face. You will also benefit from turning the lights down a couple of hours before going to bed. This will effectively wind your body down much like dusk naturally would.

Avoid Stimulants

Energy from caffeine and refined sugar in processed food is fake energy to begin with. However, it might surprise you that your coffee can cause sleep quality problems up to 12 hours after your last cup. If you must have coffee to help you through the day then don’t have any after lunch. You don’t actually really need it anyway but that is a whole other article. Nicotine is also a stimulant, which will interfere with the quality of your sleep. Smokers can also experience withdrawals during the night, which will mess with your much-needed sleep.

Finally, although it isn’t a stimulant, alcohol also reduces overall quality of sleep. So you might want to rethink that nightcap. Alcohol is also a diuretic which means consumption before bed will increase your likelihood of becoming dehydrated during the night. Sleep is for recovery from the rigors of the day. Being dehydrated while sleeping is obviously not going to result in optimum recovery. More to the point once dehydrated your body acts as if it is experiencing stress. If your body is stressed it produces stress hormones such as Cortisol, which are awakening hormones. Obviously that isn’t going to help your quality of sleep.

Have an Optimal Sleeping Environment

I’ve already touched on sleeping in complete darkness. That is such a biggie that it deserved to be a point on its own. However there are a number of other beneficial things you can do to your sleeping environment that will improve your quality of sleep. This might sounds obvious but do what you can to keep the noise level down. That means turn that television off. Too many people fall asleep with the television on. The sound and the light from the TV are doing your sleep quality no favors. If you live somewhere where there is outside noise such as from traffic then take action to mask it. In my personal experience a fan is perfect. I actually sleep with a fan year round but soothing recordings of natural sounds such as waves or rain will also do.

Another reason a fan is good, even in winter, is it keeps the air moving and fresh. Again think cave. Optimal sleeping temperature conditions are slightly cool with good ventilation. Next ensure you reserve your bed for just two activities – sleep and sex. If you spend time sitting up in bed making notes for work tomorrow your bed becomes associated with thinking about work. This will make it harder for you to wind down and fall asleep.

Lastly, ensure there are no electrical devices within four feet of you. Electromagnetic radiation is bombarding you every day of your modern life. Don’t add every night to that. Your alarm clock, which is probably right near your head when you sleep, is just one source of electromagnetic radiation. Having your mobile phone on the table next to your bed is another. If you are experiencing poor quality sleep, wake up feeling drained and exhausted, try taking a look around your bedroom. If you find a TV, a sound system, electric alarm clock, an electric blanket, a mobile phone, lamps, dimmer switches, and an overhead fan all within arms reach of where you sleep then you may have just found your answer for your troubles. Make some changes and it is likely that not only your sleep will improve but your general level of health and wellbeing will also.

Get Daily Sunlight Exposure & Exercise

As I’ve mentioned above our bodies are sensitive to light and dark. I’m sure you have noticed that there are natural light dark cycles. It’s called day and night. Light is very influential over our physiology. In response to light your hormonal system naturally releases cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that is released in response to stress. Light is one form of electromagnetic stress. Cortisol release activates the body, preparing it for movement such as combat or flight, whatever is necessary for survival. Thus light helps set your body clock. So when you first wake up open your blinds and get some sunlight or go outside for a few minutes. If you can’t do that turn your lights on. This will stimulate cortisol release and wake you up the way nature intended. You can also see how light at night after the sun has gone down is messing with your body. If work, family and money issues have you stressed don’t add to that through light toxicity. Light toxicity is over exposure to light.

As an aside you actually need about 10 to 15 minutes of sunlight each and every day to get a much-needed dose of vitamin D. That reasonable amount of sunlight is a form of good electromagnetic stress. Vitamin D is proven to help fight cancer, is needed for a healthy immune system and allows for calcium absorption in the gut. You can drink all the milk and eat all the cheese and yogurt you like but without vitamin D your body will not be able to use the calcium contained within those foods.

Finally, regular exercise, aside from the fact that it is good for you, will help you fall asleep at night and enjoy a better quality of sleep. Exercise is best in the morning or spread out during the day as exercising too late in the day has a stimulating effect on the body. A raised body temperature is not conducive to sleep. I’ve personally found stretching, loosening, and range of movement “exercises” helpful for winding down and becoming more relaxed before sleep.

So there you have it. We all want to be healthy and to be healthy requires good quality sleep. If you want to be healthy but don’t feel motivated to do what needs doing to realize that goal then you would benefit from reading my article on how to stop procrastinating, get motivated and achieve. I used the exercise I describe in that article to complete a degree within two years. Previously I had felt nothing but loathing for university studies. All that I have discussed in this article is the product of my own personal health journey. I’ve been forced to learn all about sleep. You see I battled with chronic fatigue and won. You can find my story and exactly how I overcame chronic fatigue on my website.

If you enjoyed this article please vote for it on Digg and Stumble Upon. Thanks :).

 

This post was written by Stephen Cox of Balanced Existence. Stephen founded Balanced Existence as the medium by which he can positively impact the largest number of people possible. Balanced Existence is a reflection of the philosophy that we should be the change we want to see in the world. By documenting insights produced from his own journey of personal development it is Stephen’s humble wish to aid others, when needed, in their own journey.

Image by Mayr.

  • http://shanelyang.com/blogs/articles/ Shanel Yang

    Sleep is a great mood enhancer! It also helps people lose fat, gain muscle, and, of course, keep your overall physical, emotional, and mental health. Even better if you can become an early riser to get more out of each day so you can relax enough to get all the sleep you need! See “How to Wake up Early, Refreshed, and Excited” at http://shanelyang.com/2008/04/21/how-to-wake-up-early-refreshed-and-excited/

  • http://abundance-blog.marelisa-online.com Marelisa

    I’ve read what you point out here, our senses are still engaged when we’re sleeping, so use that to your advantage: sleep in a really dark room–even tiny amounts of light can disturb the quality of your sleep; use a white noise machine to block out any noise; get the most comfortable mattress you can find; use a diffuser to release a relaxing scent light lavender every fifteen minutes, and so on. This is an interesting topic on an important topic.

  • http://writerdad.com Writer Dad

    I had no idea about caffeine twelve hours after consumption. Time for Writer Dad to pull back.

  • http://wealthhack.com Wealth Hacker

    Hey great post! I often use a blindfold when I can’t sleep.

    -Quang

  • http://www.productivity501.com Mark – Productivity501

    I read an article last month that said using a cell phone before going to bed was about the same as drinking half a cup of coffee. The radio waves excite the brain. It isn’t a huge change, but still worth keeping in mind if you have trouble going to sleep.

  • bucky

    i used to have KILLER sleep problems and tried every pill out there

    exercise and a gallon of water a day do a wonderful job . . . much better than those pills that would make me get up in the middle of the night and do laundry without knowing it

  • http://www.cindysense.com Overcoming Lifes Obstacles

    I used to have a very difficult time going to sleep. My husband always told me just turn your brain off – easier said than done. Then I began listening to relaxation cds prior to going to sleep. Worked like a charm.

  • http://www.balancedexistence.com Stephen – Balanced Existence

    Thanks everyone for your comments. I hope you all found something useful in my article.

    @bucky – I couldn’t agree more. Taking pills to get sleep it not going to be the answer in the majority of cases.

  • http://www.doozieup.com emdoozie

    This is really good advice and I appreciate it, but I grew up scared of the dark LOL, so complete darkness kinda freaks me out a little still. Another problem I have is the fan I have is one of those tower versions that has bright lights on it that light up the room a little. It sort of serves as my night light, but now after this article I may need to rethink that. I don’t think I am still scared of the dark, but I’m just used to having some sort of light at this point. I need to get over it, I am a grown man LOL…

    -doozieUP!

    • http://www.balancedexistence.com Stephen – Balanced Existence

      Hey emdoozie. We certainly each have our own particular fears. I think approx. 1 in 10 Americans suffer from serious fear with many more suffering from mild anxiety.

      Recently I went by myself on a road trip to a property in the Australia outback. Despite being someone who is relatively strong and very capable of handling myself physically (I teach boxing and wrestling) it was still an exercise in facing fear.

      I wrote about the experience and the realisations I had while out in the wilds on my blog and called it – Fear, Hate & Letting Go. You can find it here – http://www.balancedexistence.com/fear-hate-letting/

  • Sophie

    It always takes me ages to get to sleep, and then i wake up ridiculously early, I live right next to a main road and the glow of the street lamps somehow manages to pierce through my blind, which I never really payed much attention to, but after reading this article i went to bed with a blindfold on and slept like a log!
    It’s strange how a tiny bit of light makes such a big difference.
    Thanks for the advice!

  • http://rebelzen.com Seamus Anthony

    Tip 5 – speaking from experience – don’t make babies ;-)

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  • http://myyearwithout.blogspot.com myyearwithout

    These are excellent sleeping tips. I was having such horrible sleep issues I figured I was narcoleptic, and went in for a sleep study. The sleep aid told me to do some things that have changed my sleep habits dramatically. The fan in the room works awesome. At the time, I lived near train tracks AND a fire station. The fan blocked all those noises. Also, using an eye mask is great because it blocks the light, but it’s also a little uncomfortable so I put up white vinyl sheets over all my bedroom windows. During the brightest summer day, I can close my bedroom door, turn off the lights, and it is PITCH black. I have never slept so good in my life. Also, though you hear that wine can help you sleep, it’s not true–for me, at least. It dehydrates me and makes me wake up several times a night with a dry mouth. I really like drinking herbal teas before bed that have sleep aids in them like valerian or chammomile or hops. One cup and I always KNOW that I will sleep better.

  • http://www.aromahand.com aromahand

    #5

    Use an “aromahand”

    Thanks for the wisdom

  • http://www.gtdagenda.com DanGTD

    Another thing that helps you sleep well, is if you know you did something productive that day, or at least learned something new.

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  • http://www.2knowmyself.com farouk

    i really like this post

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  • Richard Hansler

    Good advice. I’d add one more. Block blue light from your eyes for an hour or more before bedtime to allow melatonin to start flowing before going to bed.This helps to fall asleep quickly and sleep more soundly. Maximizing melatonin has many health benefits besides great sleep, even reducing the risk of cancer.

  • http://none Adam Cousins

    Thanks for writing this post,I’ll try this technique tonight or this morning..
    I Didn’t know about the electrical stuff within 4 ft,I have a tv by my feet if that counts,I’ll move it tonight.

  • http://www.herbaljunky.com Steve

    My friend told me about this site

  • Girlyworly

    wow thanks for the info :D ;)!!!

  • http://www.flashgameport.com flashgameport

    Thank you very much for your contributions.

    Flash game

  • http://www.howtowakeupearly.org/ How to Wake Up Early

    First, the clear mental slate during those first few moments of consciousness is, I think, more impressionable to external emotional cues. Waking up to euphoric music instantly triggers a positive emotional response before negative thoughts can take over. This is a great way to start the day.

  • BenchMark

    This is a great pieces on how to get better sleep, that’s for sure, though I think it’s missing one critical element in the ‘Optimal Sleeping Environment’ bit. It seems that most better sleep blogs miss the importance of mattress comfort for quality sleep. Personally I sleep on a memory foam mattress (Ergoflex) and find it to be the key ingredient in regenerative sleep during the night: http://www.ergoflex.com.au/sleepcentre/can-my-bedroom-environment-help-me-sleep

  • Biophysicist

    I’m currently researching the effects on magnetic fields and the human body (more specifically neurons and the big cluster of neurons we call a brain). Unless your alarm clocks, cellphones, and tv/computer/laptop is more than 2 decades old (tv’s), computer screens is debatable 5+ years (non-LCD), and much older for cell phones and clocks, there isn’t enough current to produce an EM field that affects you. You need magnetic fields in the Tesla’s of range (MRI machines – 200,000 times Earth’s field) to affect the brain or the neurons in the body. There is no mainstream scientific proof otherwise. No offense, but the electronics part is only for the Neophoic and Panphobics out there.