4-Week Plan to Improve Sleep
Sleep is an essential function of the human body, allowing it to recharge, remain healthy and stave off disease. It also has a massive impact on athletic performance. Regular, quality sleep is essential for optimal performance. Lack of sleep has myriad harmful effects including lowered sex drive, weakened immune system, cognitive issues, weight gain, increased risk of certain cancers, diabetes and even car accidents. So why then, if sleep is so fundamental to the optimal function of the human body, do so many of us struggle to sleep well?
The reasons are innumerable but include, among others, stress, bad habits/lack of regular sleep routine, anxiety, depression, physical illness, pain, medications and neurological issues. The following addresses a number of these issues and provides actionable tips with realistic expectations on a manageable timeline to get you to sleep faster, longer and more soundly through the night.
Week 1: Pre-Bed Routine
Most Americans say that they have problems falling asleep and that it leads to some form of sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation not only affects our ability to be at our best the following day, but also can have some deleterious effects on our health. A lot of the time, our inability to fall asleep is due to doing all the wrong things before going to bed. Here are a few tips to help optimize your pre bed routine and get to bed faster!
- Don’t consume caffeine or any other stimulant within at least 5-6 hours of your anticipated bedtime. Caffeine has a half-life of 5 hours (can be more or less depending on the individual) so drinking pre workout or a large coffee at 5pm when you plan to go to bed at 10pm is going to be counterproductive to falling asleep.
- Reduce Blue Light exposure from laptops/tvs/phones. Our body produces melatonin (sleep hormone) and as the sun goes down our melatonin levels rise to help initiate falling asleep. Blue light from artificial light sources can actually hinder our melatonin production and make it harder to fall asleep. Either reduce usage of these electronics, or use blue light blocking glasses.
- Start to wind down and relax at least one hour prior to bedtime. Before going to bed is not an ideal time to keep working or be engaging in stressful activities. Engage in relaxing activities like meditation, light reading or listening to peaceful music to help promote a greater environment to fall asleep.
- If necessary, use a sleep aid such as Restoration that is clinically dosed with ingredients that will not only decrease the time to fall asleep but increase the quality of sleep as well.
Week 2: Improving Sleep Quality
Following up on our pre-bed routine from last week, some individuals may actually struggle with staying asleep or having a good quality of sleep more than actually being able to fall asleep so without further ado here are a few tips to improve quality of sleep and the ability to stay asleep.
- If you are someone who wakes up multiple times a night to use the bathroom, cut back on your water intake 2 hours prior to bedtime. However, if you cut back your water at night, you need to make sure you’re adequately making up for that during the day.
- Sleep in an optimal room temperature. Naturally our bodies core temperature drops while we sleep, and it’s a significant part of our ability to fall asleep as well. Therefore, to optimize sleep, sleeping in a cool environment (68 degrees or less) is going to be critical.
- Cut back on alcohol consumption. Sure it may make you tired and help you fall asleep but it actually hinders your bodies REM sleep stage which is a critical stage to learning and increased production of proteins.
- Have a set bedtime and wake up time. By being consistent with these times you will be working with your circadian rhythm ( a set loop that tells us when to wake up and go to sleep) instead of working against it by going to bed and waking up at a different time every day. Albeit this isn’t a quick fix but being consistent will lead to greater long-term improvements in sleep quality.
Week 3: How to be more productive in the mornings
Would you describe yourself as a morning person? If not, it may not be mornings it may just be your morning routine holding you back. If you hit the snooze on your alarm multiple times instead of getting yourself out of bed you aren’t starting out on the best foot. Then when you do wake up, if the first thing you do is grab your phone and scroll through social media you’re getting yourself even further behind. Here are a few tips to get you on the right track each and every morning to set yourself up to successful.
- Don’t have your alarm or phone near where you sleep. This will make you get up to turn it off and decrease the odds of laying around in bed.
- Make your bed! It may sound small, but by making your bed you will have already completed one task, therefore setting you up to complete more tasks throughout the day. (See Adm. McRavens speech on youtube)
- Instead of scrolling through social media, sit down and write down a list of things you need/want to accomplish that day.
- Spend some time reading and/or learning something new. Reading stimulates the brain and will help expand your mind.
- Don’t overload on caffeine. Nothing sets you up for that afternoon crash by drinking a whole pot of coffee every morning. Try taking a non stimulant nootropic like Ascend to help improve focus and concentration to increase productivity.
Week 4: What to do when your morning coffee doesn’t get it done anymore.
“My cup of coffee just doesn’t do it for me anymore.”
“I take 3 scoops of preworkout and don’t feel anything.”
I am sure we have all heard it or have even said it ourselves. But what goes without saying is that it’s a serious problem usually swept under the rug. Abusing caffeine and other stimulants will wear out your adrenals, causing you to develop a significant tolerance. Here are some tips to refresh your adrenal glands and not need to rely on stimulants to exist.
- Get better sleep. Should seem simple but the biggest reason you are probably so tired is due to poor sleeping habits.
- Significantly cut back on caffeine consumption or don’t use it at all. While it may not be an enjoyable time, cutting back on stimulants is important to be able to give your adrenals a break and return to normal.
- Look into using adaptogenic herbs like ashwaghanda and rhodiola rosea to help mitigate stress and cortisol levels which may be elevated due to increased stimulants.
- Look into replacing your normal caffeinated beverages with non stimulant options such as Ascend to help provide focus and concentration even without stimulants.