I know what you’re thinking, “BOOORRRRIIIIINNGG”.
I wholeheartedly agree, I wish that I never had to sleep and I loathe that at some point, someone decided that it would be a good idea to force everyone to lie still for hours on end just to feel normal.
However, there is no closer equivalent to a total system reset than the change in mindset you experience between being sleep deprived and being well slept.
Below is a fantastic TED talk by Professor of neuroscience, Russel Foster, showing the effects of sleep deprivation go further than we realise:
Hormonal and metabolic consequences aside, not getting enough sleep is quite simply rubbish.
You interact with the world like a car with the handbrake left on, no matter how much throttle you give you’ll never reach top speed. You tend to focus on the negative, use a pessimistic interpretation of your environment and have a reduced ability to reason and rationalise.
“Errr…speak for yourself Jonny, I get like LOOOAADS of sleep”
Well, ask yourself these questions:
1. Do I consistently get between 7-9 hours of (largely) uninterrupted sleep?
2. When I wake up, do I feel good and energetic?
3. If I had to watch a 4 hour lecture on the history of the British political system, would I be able to stay awake throughout?
Usually, the answer to these questions if mainly “no” and if this is you, your sleep needs work. If not, go be smug and well slept somewhere else please.
A sure-fire way to be bad at anything and everything is to get insufficient sleep. You should be getting enough sleep such that during daylight hours you feel awake and alert. In fact, a common test for sleep deprivation is the subject participants to mundane tasks requiring little to no dynamic thought, if the participant falls asleep, box ticked, they’re sleep deprived.
Lets look at the variables:
The sleep we get has insufficient duration, intensity and/or routine
1) We have social or work commitments that impede our sleep
2) We are surrounded by sources of instant gratification and procrastination (TV, Facebook, instragram etc etc)
3) We are able to drive with the handbrake and mask tiredness through caffiene and stimulants
You may have read articles suggesting that you need to wake up at 5am everyday and that you need 9 hours of sleep in a cave otherwise you’ll wake up a pre-diabetic mess. Yea, no problem, I’ll do that and then hunt for my breakfast in the woods using my bare hands, cook it on a man-made fire and wash in a mountain spring…..all before I finish this report that I need to present at 9am.
We need to be realistic here, people are busy..very busy and usually commitments take precedence. How fantastic would it be if you could arrive late for work on the justification “sorry guys, I had to get my 8 hours in” – if only
“sleep as much as you can without getting fired or divorced” Robb Wolf
As James Clear points out, we can only control 3 things:
So, this considered, we’ve compiled our favourite tips that address each of these factors:
1. Control your environment:
Make your bedroom cool, as dark as possible and as quiet as possible. Mattresses are a touchy topic: while mattress salesmen will have you think that you need to spend £1000+ to achieve a good night’s sleep, this is overkill. There’s a major placebo component to this.
I even slept on the floor for 1.5 years… for science.
The main takeaway is not to sleep on an overly soft surface, and to replace your mattress every 10 years, particularly if you suffer from chronic pain.
2. Ringfence some time :
if you’re rushing all evening and then take a running jump into bed, expecting to fall asleep straight away you’re killing your chances of a restful night. Set an alarm 30 minutes to one hour before you want to get into bed and be strict, when the alarm goes off, do what you need to do to unwind, this could even just be watching TV with love ones, don’t work/be active right up to lights out (we recommend just doing step 7 in its entirety)
3. Manage your screens
You don’t have to have use an EMP to shut down electronics but we suggest at least limiting your exposure to artificial light:
– in your last hour, phone off, you selfie likes will still be there in the morning.
– TV off
– where possible, limit artificial light in the house, don’t pretend its World War Two, just use don’t have lights on unneccesarily.
– limit yourself to just your laptop/computer and use F.lux
– Initiate step 7 (with vigour)
4. Supplement intelligently:
Here are our favourites:
Alternatively, you can use the magnesium body spray for tight muscles.
Full recommendations here
5. Stimulate with care:
Be mindful of the fact that caffeine’s half-life means it will still be in your system for some time after you stop consuming it.
Pretty simple rule, after lunch (or around midday) either stop drinking coffee/tea/diet coke or switch exclusively to de-caff. Even if you aren’t cognisant of caffeine’s effect on your sleep, it is still not a sensible decision to drink it later in the day. Unless you’re pulling an all nighter (and hence contradicting every single word you’ve read so far) then be sensible with your caffeine intake.
Another sensible guideline is to not exceed 500mg per day (in total, not all at once, you mentalist) where possible.
How to break your caffeine addiction:
6. Hit your total sleep volume
Just as you might do a quick gym session on Sunday if you missed some exercises during the week, if you’re tired during the week and miss your 7 hour minimum each day, grab a power nap or two at the weekend:
How to nap (we’re sorry for how incredibly patronising this sounds)
– 20-30 minutes in total, use an alarm and don’t allow your nap to extend to several hours – this will only reduce your chances of a good night’s sleep that night.
– set up the room as if it was your normal bed time if possible
7. The Propane Sleep…tocol…
In an ideal world, before any of the below, you would re-enact this replacing “Power rangers” with “Propane rangers” as appropriate, and ideally shouting PROPANE SLEEPTOCOL with decent frequency. We find that re-enacting the scene in its entirety seems to help also:
With that our of the way, prepare for the deepest sleep ever:
1. Brain dump: On a piece of paper, write a list of everything that you need to remember/take with you tomorrow and also list anything on your mind that you’re worrying about and what you need to accomplish tomorrow, leave this piece of paper somewhere you can’t miss it (middle of the bedroom floor is a good idea, it’ll be the first thing you see when you wake up)
4. have sex (or equivalent 👀…)
5. Warm shower (feel free to combine 2 & 3 for supercharged effect)
6. Apply recovery spray to recently trained body parts
7. Eat high carb snack (marshmallow mousse)
8. Thank us later
Pretty simple really, time is time and we NEED a certain amount of it to be sleep, so, fancy sleep tips aside, if you’re not getting at least 7 hours of sleep you’ve got a lot of capacity you’re leaving on the table. See 7 hours as the concrete minimum. Sure, some can get by on less, but “getting by” shouldn’t really be the goal.
Remember that quality sleep can only ever be a % of the time you’re actually in bed. You’ll likely wake up a few times during the night and it will always take at least some time to fall asleep. So, if you want 7 hours, you really need to be in bed for 7.5-8 hours. Not possible every night? We know, aim for this as an average and use power naps as needed.
For most people 15-20 minutes is enough time to fall asleep so you want at least 7hr 20 minutes of time in bed. So, initiate the Sleeptocol 8 hours and 20 minutes before you need to wake up, be MILITARY strict with this.
This primes the canvas for duration and intensity, if we don’t have some kind of routine in place, it’s hard to get a handle on duration and a consistency routine can improve intensity on its own.
Routine is actually the most important element in the sleep equation and the one we have the most control over on a day to day basis.
After-all, you may be in bed for 9 hours but only actually get 5-6 hours of sleep duration and the sleep may be really light intensity, however, you can 100% determine when you get into and out of bed.
As we discussed in duration, we know that ideally, we want to be in bed, head on the pillow, 7 hours and 20 minutes before when we need to get up. One better than this, is making sure these times are the same every day (or as often is possible, think of these times as your average sleep and wake times)
There is an art-form in making this routine as simple as possible, you should be able to stick to it with good consistency and you also want it to be as flexible as possible. Flexible in this case means that it should be able to work very efficiently such that you waste as little time as possible pre/post bed.
Here’s what we mean:
Your wake time is dictated by two things:
1) the time you need to leave the house, after that you’re at the mercy of either traffic or public transport, this is fixed
2) the volume of tasks you need to accomplish before you leave the house, this can be changed
Chances are, first thing, you’re a stumbling, bumbling, clumsy mess. A mess that is sincerely trying its very best to get everything done in the most timely manner possible. Now, the goal is the reduce the amount of time needed between waking and leaving without impacting on the things you need to do.
What most people do, is wing it. They wake up, take 10 minutes to wake up, then plod through their tasks at snail pace and try their best to remember all the things they had to do before work. “Bollocks, it’s bin day isn’t it” – sound familiar?
Make a list
You’re asking yourself to function optimally when you’re at your least efficient, give yourself a checklist. Leave a piece of paper and pen on your bedside with a numbered task list for the morning. Pretend that you’re 9 years old:
1. Walk to bathroom, use toilet, shower, dry off
2. Get dressed: specify the clothes and lay them out the night before
3. walk downstairs, make omelette (lay this out the night before too)
4. pick up car keys, wallet and phone, walk outside
5. put bins out
You’ll feel stupid every time you do it, but at 7am when you struggle with even the shower controls, you’ll be thankful. The aim here is to give you as much possible time in bed. If you can reduce your morning tasks from 60 minutes to 20 minutes, thats an extra 40 minutes in bed. Ever woken up and thought “What I would give for an extra 5 minutes in bed!!” Well, here’s your chance, get over yourself and write that bloody list!
1. Control your sleep environment (dark, cool, quiet), use neuro-chill, limit caffeine and follow the sleeptocol
2. You need to spend at least 7 hours and 20 minutes with your eyes closed, head on the pillow, more if time allows
3. Make yourself a morning routine list and make it so that a monkey could follow it, become as efficient as possible with your morning tasks so you get as much sleep as possible.
Get a handle on your sleep duration, routine and intensity and become the ultimate sleep warrior.