You can sleep when you’re dead.”
“There is no rest for the weary.”
In today’s society sleep is totally underrated. In fact, sleep deprivation is almost worn as a badge of honour. I hear people bragging about how they pulled an all-nighter or get away with sleeping 4 hours a night all the time. I used to be one of them.
But the truth is, in order for you to perform to the best of your ability you need to get deep, restorative rest every single night. The average person needs between 7-8 hours of rest each night, and the mountain of studies proving this fact is undeniable.
If you get consistently good night sleep, you will have the mental, physical and emotional energy to deal with the challenges that we face on a daily basis in our modern world. I don’t know about you guys, but I become a cranky biatch if I don’t get my beauty sleep. Oh and I start getting really clumsy, forget things and omggg those food cravings are real (but more on the science behind that later)!
Because of this, I personally have made sleep a top priority in my life and have tried almost every trick in the book to hack my sleep. I have to admit, I’m already a really good sleeper (only once I hit about 15 years old, before that I used to sleep horribly) and almost never have issues sleeping well, but quantity has definitely been an issue in the past.
One non-negotiable for me is my 7-8 hours of sleep. Now, I’m only human, and quite often I don’t hit that exact number (as you’ll see in the screen shots below), but I do make a conscious effort – I will skip social engagements in favour of sleep and I will drop everything and everyone past 10:30pm because I know I will regret it the next morning if I don’t.
But the thing is this – sleep is a question of quantity just as much as it is of quality. Just because you’re in snooze mode for 8 hours, doesn’t necessarily mean you are getting the restorative sleep that your body requires to function at it’s optimum level.
I recently heard someone say that you should start thinking about your sleep from the moment you wake up, and I couldn’t agree more! So let’s have a look at how you can bio hack your sleep!
Get some rays in the morning
Vitamin D is inversely related to melatonin, our sleep hormone, so getting some sunlight in the morning is known to help against daylight sleepiness. So get up early and catch ’em rays!
Get active every day (in the morning)
Exercising has the power to completely transform your sleep. There’s a noticeable difference in my sleep on the days I exercise versus the days I don’t. I pretty much hit the pillow and I’m out within minutes. No surprise there – exercise has been shown to improve sleep quality, reduce stress and anxiety which in turn helps us to fall asleep quicker at night. The best part? Physical activity increase deep sleep – the sleep phase in which your body does all the magical healing work.
Ideally you want to get active in the morning – not only because exercising close to bedtime can make it harder to fall asleep, but also because morning workouts boost your metabolism, increase productivity throughout the day and people tend to stay more on track with their diet if they knock out their exercise in the AM.
Get a PhD on your sleep
Ever since I got gifted a Fitbit last year, I have been obsessed with tracking my sleep. If you don’t have a smart watch yet, I highly encourage getting one just for this reason. Here’s a couple of things I’ve learnt about my sleep since tracking it
- I don’t get as much sleep as I thought I’d do.
- Having even just one alcoholic beverage throws my sleep cycle completely off whack and my REM sleep decreases.
- On days where I go too bed all riled up with a million thoughts running through my head, I notice that I am awake much more throughout the night (PS everyone wakes up several times at night, most of us just don’t notice it).
Rise and shine at the same time
This is the bread and butter of it all, kids. The ultimate goal is to get into a sleep pattern where you go to bed at same time each night and NATURALLY wake up in the morning around the same time, sans alarm clock! This is so that your sleep runs through your sleep cycle as it should and your body gets the best possible recovery – a sleep cycle is approx. 90 minutes, and during that time we move through five stages. The first four stages make up our non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, and the fifth stage is when rapid eye movement (REM) sleep occurs.
Yup, this also means not sleeping in on weekends and not trying to catch up on lost sleep after a long night. That might sound harsh and seems hard to do, but it’s actually a lot better for your circadian rhythm and sleep routine in the long run. Sticking to a bedtime and a wake time also has the benefit of encouraging you to prioritise your sleep and make sensible decisions to support it!
And you know that saying “Every hour of sleep before midnight is worth two after midnight.”? It’s actually been debunked as a myth, BUT I still swear by it and definitely feel A LOT better if I sleep from 9pm-5am than if I sleep from 11pm-7am.
Invest in a high quality mattress
We spend at least ⅓rd of your day in bed sleeping. We think about what we eat, what exercise we do, what products we put on our body, but rarely do we ponder about the bed we sleep on. I think especially young people like myself don’t think about the quality of our mattress, because, well, most of us don’t have any back issues YET and as long as our mattress if comfy, we’re happy.
But just because it’s comfortable, doesn’t mean it’s necessary good for your back. The top layer of the mattress must be comfortable as this will help you get to sleep initially but the core layer must be supportive to maintain a good level posture throughout the night. I personally prefer firm mattresses – the firm the better!
In fact, Phil and I just recently got a new high quality foam mattress from SleepX and while he got the medium firmness, I went for the hardest one. It’s called the Duo:Medium/Firm and I believe SleepX is currently the only retailer in the market with a ready-made customised mattress for couples with different bedding needs. Phil gets the softer side, I get the firmer side, but it’s still one seamless mattress, which means no falling into mattress cracks when cuddling 😉
Apart from the fact that they’re obviously super comfortable, their their mattresses are made in Australia from high quality foams, are anti-bacterial and have been given the environmental tick of approval by Good Environmental Choice Australia (GECA). Yipee!
Some mattresses can be really warm and make you sweat unnecessarily at night, but SleepX mattresses are a perfect hybrid of memory foam and high-resilience foam, which means that any body heat dissipates through the night, leaving you and your mattress a comfortable temperature. Something I find especially important during summer living in Sydney, with no AC.
Melatonin is our sleep hormone. In cave man times, when the sun went down, our melatonin levels would rise indicating our bodies it was time for sleep. At sunrise, our melatonin levels would decrease, telling our bodies it was time to wake up. These days we are bombarded with artificial light long into the night tricking our brain into believing it’s still daytime – no wonder our poor melatonin levels are confused!
- This is why it’s so important to dim lights at least 30 minutes before slumber time. Turn off whatever lights you don’t need, maybe you have a dimmer you can use. I love to turn on my sea salt lamp and turn on a couple of candles and it helps me so much to physically wind down before bed. Salt lamps have a nice, soothing quality, and they emit warmer, red-hue light that’s less likely to wake up your brain.
- I hate to be a be party pooper, but for a good night’s sleep you really need to get rid of your phones. And laptops and any other tech devices for that matter. Now, look, I’m the first one to admit that I SUCK at this, but it really does make a difference to your sleep quality.
- If turning off tech devices one hour before bed time isn’t an option, there are some ways to at least protect your poor eyes and melatonin levels a little.
- Wear blue light – blocking glasses like these ones from Baxter Blue
- Put your phone on night shift mode to dim the light
- Install Flux on your computer, an app that helps adjust the display’s colour temperature according to time of day
Think of your rom as a cave
- Make sure the temperature in your bedroom is cool – the ideal temperature is 18.5ºC. I pretty much always sleep with the windows open, or at least open the windows 30min before bed time to cycle out stale air. Phil hated me for this when we used to live in Switzerland and it was -10ºC outside in winter, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!
- You also want it to be pitch black, so invest into some blinds, heavy curtains and eye mask if you need. The aim is to not be able to see your hand in front of you when the lights are out! That again means NO tech in the room. We only have our sun lamp alarm clock from Philips, that’s it, and already that I’m annoyed at for having a digital display that stays on all night. I’m not going to lie, we do often keep our phones in the room at night, and I’m very well aware of how bad that is and that we should change that habit PRONTO. Note to self: walk the talk more.
Magnesium is your friend
Research has found that magnesium supplementation helped improve all the major physiological markers associated with insomnia. 50-90% of people are magnesium deficient, so almost everyone can benefit from supplementing with this vital nutrient.
You can take magnesium in the morning and/or evening, however, if you want to capitalize on its calming effects, taking it right before bed is best since it relaxes muscles and boosts GABA (a calming, restful neurotransmitter) levels to help lull you to sleep.
Magnesium is the one supplement I pretty much take all year round anyways – but since coming back from the Go Healthy retreat in Byron Bay , I’ve upped my dosage. Peta, Go Healthy’s naturopath that we each got to enjoy an individual consultation with, recommended for me to take their GO Magnesium 800 High Strength, 2 in the morning and night for 2 weeks and then 2 morning daily to deal with general stress and help with muscle recovery. I’ll keep you updated on Insta if I notice a difference from the increased dosage!
Lavender essential oil on your bed sheets
Lavender is my favourite essential oil for night time – it’s calming, smells incredible and reminds me of my childhood. When I was younger, my mom would put a couple drops of lavender on my pillow when I couldn’t sleep, and I still do it to this day. I even travel with it, I’m literally obsessed.
Showering at night
Showering raises your body temperature and then quickly drops it, which is exactly what you want to happen right before sleeping. This, paired with a cool room, is the perfect condition for a good night’s rest. More ephemerally speaking, I love showering at night because it helps me wash away my day, both literally and figuratively. I sometimes even add a couple drops of lavender to my shower and OMG it’s the most soothing experience ever.
Can you tell I am passionate about sleep? I could go on and on…there’s so many ways to improve your sleep and make sure you’re getting quality z’s…I didn’t even touch on foods that help with sleep or the timing of your meals, all which can have an effect on your sleep. Or have you ever looked into feng shui? Things like where in the room you position your bed or what type of pictures you choose to put up, all apparently can have an impact on your sleep. I haven’t looked into the latter myself, but would be curious to hear if any of you have.
In the end it comes down to this: begin to proactively and conscientiously make sleep an integral part of your routine, just like cleaning your teeth, taking a shower and eating three meals a day. If you’re sleep is currently off whack, choose one or two of my suggestions above and go from there. Your body will thank you for it.