Transform your sleep
The scientific way to energize your body, sharpen your mind, and stop hitting snooze.
It’s only 9 a.m., and you’re already disgusted with yourself.
You planned to go for an early run, but when your alarm sounded, you hit snooze. Then you hit it again. After the third time, your partner told you to “shut that damn thing off!”
Now here you are: About to embark on yet another over-scheduled day and you’ve blown your one chance for some exercise.
And you’re left wondering:
“Why can’t I get motivated to work out in the morning?”
Research says, repeatedly hitting the snooze button has nothing to do with motivation.
The real problem: You’re just not getting enough sleep.
This probably isn’t a revelation, of course. People complain about needing more sleep all the time.
The good news: Getting a truly restorative night’s rest is within your reach.
Let’s get right into it, how to get that Sleep Right.
Optimize your natural 24-hour sleep/wake cycle, so you can feel more energetic, mentally sharp, and emotionally strong—every waking hour of your day.
Question #1: How long will you sleep?
Each day, our brain and body accumulate a need for a certain amount of sleep. This isn’t the same for everyone, but the vast majority of healthy adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night.
To figure out how many hours you personally need, consider the routine you tend to settle into after a few days of vacation. How many hours do you usually get when you don’t bother to set an alarm clock—and when you wake feeling rested? That’s the number of hours you’ll want to shoot for every night.
Question #2: What time will you (consistently) wake up?
If you want to reprogram your sleep pattern, this question is crucial.
That’s because the strongest signal to your biological clock is when you wake.
There’s another good reason to start with your get-up time: You have less control over it. Based on your daily responsibilities, there’s probably a limited range of possible rise times. Once you choose one, you can then work backward to figure out your bedtime.
If you’re a “night owl,” a 5 a.m. run might not be the best plan. On the flip side, if you enjoy mornings, getting up for a workout might be a great start to your day.
In any case, don’t try to make a drastic shift all at once.
Start with your current usual rise time—that is, the time you actually get up. Then move it a half-hour earlier every three to four days. This approach makes it less likely that you’ll have trouble falling asleep at your new bedtime.
Once you’re awake, expose yourself to light right away.
If you tend to feel sluggish in the morning, combine the light exposure with some movement. It doesn’t need to be a full workout: Walk your dog around the block or just do some simple chores.
Question #3: What time will you go to bed?
After you’ve established your planned wake-up time, think about how much sleep you need.
Take the number of hours of sleep you need to feel fully rested, and count backward from your planned rise time. Let’s say you plan to wake at 5 a.m., and you know you need 7.5 hours to feel rested. That means your bedtime should be 9:30 p.m.
If you get to this point, and think, ‘Are you kidding me? This bedtime is impossible!’, go back to Question #2, and reconsider your rise time.
For example, let’s say you need eight hours of sleep and want to get up at 5 a.m. But there’s a problem: You have to late night meeting until 9 p.m., so this doesn’t work.
You now have two choices: Cancel the meeting, or set a later rise time. While getting up later may not be ideal for your goals, it may be the practical trade off you need to make.
And if you still can’t make the math work? The truth about naps gives you another option. We will talk about naps a bit later.
Question #4: What can you do to make your bedtime a reality?
When making decisions about how you spend your time each evening, think about how your choices impact your sleep. Remember you are winding off.
One hour before bedtime
Avoid activities that get you energized or “amped up.” For most people, this isn’t the best time to pay bills or read the news.
On the other hand, folding laundry, closing the kitchen or even tucking in your child are probably fine.
Note: If you plan to use a device during this time window, consider blue-light blocking lenses (or using “night mode” on your devices) to limit blue light exposure this close to bedtime.
One half-hour before bed
Develop a routine for winding down and putting the day to rest. You might choose any of these activities:
· Change into your pajamas
· Brush your teeth
· Talk to your partner
· Read a book
· Listen to music
· Set out your clothes for tomorrow
· Prepare your next day’s lunch
This sends your brain and body a message that it’s time to “disconnect.” During this window, avoid technology as much as you can.
Question #5: Can you stick to this schedule 6 out of 7 nights?
We all make exceptions to our healthy habits. We enjoy cake on our birthday, enjoy an extra drink with a friend or cant say 'no' to Diwali sweets.
None of this means we have “bad eating habits.” The most important factor is consistency over time. Think about sleep in a similar way.
If you can stick to your plan six nights a week, it’s okay to make exceptions for a late night out, a sunrise hike, or lounging in bed on Sunday mornings.
But if you find yourself struggling to follow your plan even three or four nights each week, you’ll need to adjust.
Because there’s no point in setting yourself up for failure, try the following exercises before you start.
Question #6: Who will be affected by your plans?
Most of us don’t live (or sleep or work) alone. As a result, our decisions about sleep habits and routines impact others. What’s more, their routines impact our ability to sleep.
Start by thinking about your partner and family. If you plan to change your schedule, how will it affect them? And how will your partner’s sleep schedule affect yours?
For example, if you go to bed an hour before your partner, what can you both do to ensure your partner doesn’t wake you up? And if you get up an hour before, what can you do to ensure your partner continues to sleep?
If you have kids, how does your plan align with their schedule? Will you really be able to go to sleep at 9:30 if your toddler sometimes goes to bed at 8:30—but wakes up multiple times.
This can be challenging
One way to approach this issue is to share the reasons you’re making these changes. Try saying this:
“I’ve been feeling pretty tired lately, and I think part of the problem is my sleep habits. I don’t consistently get enough, and it makes me [grumpy, frustrated, miss workouts]. I want to try making some changes to my routine for a couple of weeks, and see if it helps. Could you work with me on this for the next two weeks, and then we can re-evaluate?”
Once everyone is on board, you can brainstorm a range of solutions, such as:
If you go to bed first, maybe your partner agrees to use the flashlight feature on their phone to guide their way to bed rather than flipping on the lightswitch.
If you get up earlier than everyone else, perhaps you quietly close everyone’s bedroom door before you go about your morning. Maybe you also gather up your work clothes the night before—so you don’t have to loudly search for them in the morning while your partner is trying to sleep.
You might agree to take morning toddler duty if your spouse handles bedtime, or vice versa.
If one of your children struggles with sleep, they might benefit from a good sleep plan, too. Perhaps you can make this a family habit change?
Often, paying more attention to your sleep habits and routines, then making small sustainable changes, will be enough to get a better night’s rest.
Credits: Precision Nutrition (PN1 Certified)