8+ Tested Tips for a Better Night’s Sleep
Do you have trouble sleeping? Do you feel like your lack of sleep is preventing your fitness progress?
You may be right. Research has linked poor sleep to making it more difficult to lose weight.
I used to struggle with insomnia at times. If I wasn’t finding it hard to get to sleep I found it hard to stay asleep.
I was a zombie during the day and what was supposed to be a natural and easy part of being a human was now affecting the rest of my life.
There are so many things to do, places to be, and people to see for us to have to worry about sleep on top of all that. It can feel overwhelming.
But, unless we sort out our sleep, everything else we do suffers.
We all know there are few things worse than a terrible night’s sleep. When we get less sleep we’re not at all we can be. Though there are a lot of benefits to sleep, many of us are not experiencing them because many of us can’t seem to get it right.
And while it’s important to emphasize sleep quantity, it’s also important to make sure you’re getting quality sleep. More does not necessarily equal better.
I know there’s still room for improvement, but after years of trial and error experiments I can now say; I’m getting the best sleep of my life, and I’m better because of it.
9 Ways to Get Better Sleep
Exercise is such a basic discipline it’s often overlooked for getting a good night’s sleep. It can contribute to both the quantity and the quality of sleep we get.
Surprisingly not all experts agree on this and that’s fine. For me, I feel it helps a lot, and personally, I can’t see any downside to someone regularly exercising.
Tip: It should be mentioned that exercising right before bed can negatively affect your sleep, so ideally keep it to the morning or afternoon.
2. Watch Your Caffeine Intake
There is a direct link between caffeine consumption and how you sleep at night.
I went through a stage period a few months ago where I felt I was back to square one. I couldn’t get to sleep. It wasn’t until I realized that a change of my routine meant I was now having coffee later in the day.
This is such an easy thing to fix yet many people I know are having caffeine late in the day and wondering why their sleep sucks.
Tip: I’ve found I can’t have any caffeine after 4pm. Your time might be different. Do some testing and figure out what works for you. Find out how much caffeine you are consuming here.
3. Have a Routine
You may have thought having a “bedtime” was just for kids, but having a set time to hit the sack can be a great habit to have.
Your body has a natural rhythm and we have to learn to listen to it.
Having a regular schedule, like when you eat and sleep, affects your body’s hormones. When it comes to having a pre-sleep routine it can also be a psychological cue to get sleepy.
Tip: I try to get to sleep around 10 pm so my pre-bed routine starts around 9:15 pm. I try to wind down, get into bed and do some reading before it’s lights out.
4. Avoid Artificial Lighting
Artificial light, particularly “blue light” that’s emitted from electronics, can dramatically affect your sleep.
Melatonin forms part of the system that controls your sleep-wake cycle. Exposure to light can suppress your body’s natural melatonin release, which in turn, affects the quantity and quality of your sleep.
Tip: The best way to avoid this is to not look at computer, smartphone, or tablet screens within an hour of going to bed.
Alternatively, you can download f.lux for your computer, iPhone, or iPad. It makes the color of your computer’s display adapt to the time of day: Warm at night and like sunlight during the day. (Most newer Apple products have this feature built-in.)
5. Try an Ice Bath
I first read of ice baths in Tim Ferris’ book, The 4-Hour Body.
Not for the faint of a heart, an ice bath is exactly what it sounds like: A bath full of ice (with some cold water, for good measure).
Though it seems barbaric and uncomfortable, an ice bath can dramatically affect your time to get to sleep.
Ice baths can have other benefits too, but I’ve tried it a few times for sleep and it worked. I found it to be exactly as Tim Ferriss said: “It’s like being hit with an elephant tranquilizer”.
Tim prescribes “2-3 bags of ice from a convenience store ($3-6 USD) put into a half-full bath until the ice is about 80% melted.
Tip: Beginners should start with immersing the lower body only and progress to spending the second five minutes with the upper torso submerged (fold your legs Indian-style at the end of the tub if you don’t have room).”
Can’t take an ice bath? Sometimes taking a cold shower can help too.
6. Almond Butter before Bed
Have you ever awoken in the morning and felt like crap without any clue as to why? This all too common feeling can be due to low blood sugar.
Another helpful tip I picked up from The 4-Hour Body is having two tablespoons of almond butter before bed. According to Tim correcting your blood sugar level can really increase the quality of sleep you get.
Such an easy fix that it’s worth the try.
Tip: Only buy 100% natural almond butter and avoid brands that add in sugar and other oils.
7. Change How You Wake
Despite having done all of the above, I still found I sometimes woke up feeling terrible. I didn’t realize there were different phases of sleep and my alarm often woke me when my body was still in a deeper stage of sleep.
I discovered an app called Sleep Cycle and it has changed how I feel when I wake up.
Sleep Cycle is an alarm clock that analyzes your sleep patterns and wakes you when you are in the lightest sleep phase. Since you move differently in bed during the different phases, Sleep Cycle uses the accelerometer in your iPhone to monitor your movement to determine which sleep phase you are in.
Tip: Just costing around $1 (depending where you live), Sleep Cycle’s effectiveness speaks for itself as it is one of the top paid for apps around the world.
8. Supplements For Sleep
I’ve mentioned before I use supplements sparingly. For the most part, I always try find solutions with diet and exercise first.
However, I recently read about a supplement combo that boasted great sleep benefits and so I gave it a try. I wasn’t disappointed. The combo is Magnesium and Zinc. Both are inexpensive and can be found at most health stores (or online). This is also supported by scientific research.
Just remember to take these supplements about 30 minutes prior to bedtime and zinc may upset your stomach a little.
Learning how to meditate is also a great way to calm your mind and fall asleep faster. It also helps you fall back to sleep if you awaken in the middle of the night and the wheels of your mind start turning.
Meditation comes in different forms like prayers, breathing exercises, and even counting backward from 40 over and over.
Here’s a great guide on good meditation techniques.
I encourage you to try some of these better sleep techniques and find the ones that work best for you.