What do you seek the most at the end of a long exhausting day? Almost all of us are going to have the same answer: Sleep. Considering we spend a third of our lives sleeping, it is no wonder that the art of sleeping better is so vital for us. That is why I want to share some better sleep tips with you. Ready?
Why better sleep at night is important?
Do you think that sleep is just rest? But it is much more than that. Because when we sleep, our brain relaxes leading to many benefits:
Better sleep fosters emotional, mental, and physical well-being in adults: A good night’s rest allows our brain to refuel our creative energy. Our critical thinking and problem-solving abilities are enhanced. As a result, we learn, memorise, and understand quickly. Good-quality sleep helps in better hormone regulation. Finally, better sleep also promotes healthy repair for heart vessels and lungs. With better sleep at night, we enable our immune system to flourish and fight off bacteria and infections.
Likewise, healthy and sound sleep energises children: Good sleep helps them develop critical and creative skills. It also boosts memory retention skills in growing years. Consequently, it calms children, while encouraging good social behaviour.
Having seen why better sleep is vital, let’s bust two popular myths around how to sleep better at night.
Better Sleep Myth 1:
We can make up for lost sleep by sleeping more on weekends or catching a nap the next day.
Unfortunately, a nap in the day after a long night messes with sleep cycles. Think about it. After a night of no sleep, you rest for an hour or two in the afternoon. Later, you may not be able to sleep since your brain is still recharged from that brief burst of rest.
*Instead, it has been widely demonstrated that a short 10-20 minutes nap, without falling asleep, is extremely beneficial to our body and mind. Also, if you drink a cup of coffee straight before taking the nap, the focusing ability of your brain will increase significantly.
If you really have no choice but taking a long nap in the afternoon, at least carefully follow the human sleep cycles. The sleep cycles consist of 90 minutes of light, deep and rem phases sleep. It is very unproductive to break the sleep cycle half way. Incredibly, it is much more restoring and regenerating to sleep, for example, 90 minutes, rather than 130 or 140 minutes.*
Better Sleep Myth 2:
The older you are, the lesser you need to sleep.
Actually, adults need a full eight hours of sleep every night. The origin of this myth could probably lie in the fact that children and teenagers need even more sleep. Their growth depends on healthy sleep regimes and replenishing sleep cycles.
Hence, in order for better sleep at night, we must get our facts right. Let’s now delve into the secret (and science) of how to get better sleep.
First of all, have you thought about…
- Whether sleep functions differently for you and me?
- Is there a secret to better sleep, that others know, but you don’t?
Dr. Michael Breus, a clinical psychologist is an expert in the field of sleep and an advisor on the National Sleep Board of America. He found that each of us has a master biological clock.
Let me explain this to you in some detail. Perhaps you have always felt that you’re a night owl, or that you are most productive in the afternoon. You may know a friend who has a tough time with early morning tasks. Certainly, this is because of our unique biology. If we do not know this well, we may continue to struggle with how to get better sleep.
In the book, The Power of When, Dr. Breus gives us some answers.
Better Sleep: What Is Your Chronotype?
Dr. Breus defines four “chronotypes” or sleep animals. Each has a unique nature and sleep pattern, which mirrors the way we sleep. The four chronotypes are as follows:
WHAT IS THE DOLPHIN CHRONOTYPE
Dolphins in the wild always sleep with only one hemisphere of their brains completely asleep, therefore the other half remains active. If you are a light sleeper, the dolphin is your sleep animal. Hence, knowing the dolphin will help understand your sleep patterns:
In the morning: Light sleeping dolphins may feel groggy and exhausted. In contrast, morning is also the best time for you to get some exercise. Also, it allows you to regain endorphins and promotes calmness and healthy circulation.
During the day: Dolphins tend to skip lunch since they have many tasks to tick-off as they sleep lesser. One of the better sleep tips is to eat by setting a meal-schedule or an alarm on your phone. Consequently, you can normalise your body’s rhythm. Definitely, avoid being tempted by a nap, though you may feel like you desperately need one. Instead, have a cup of herbal tea or coffee, and take a brisk walk. Similarly, do high-energy tasks in the evening, as this is when you are very alert.
At night: Want to avoid yet another long night with patches of sleep? Stay away from the bed until it is sleep time. If you want to improve your sleep quality, ensure that no TV, phone, books or work is done in bed. As a dolphin, six hours of full sleep is enough.
WHAT IS THE LION CHRONOTYPE
Optimistic, healthy and most likely to be CEOs or leaders, lions have an early morning power routine. The flip side is that you could miss out on social events in the evening. But worry not, adapting to the below schedule can help you sleep better at night.
In the morning: Aim to get most of your work done in wee hours to improve your sleep quality. Set up your day plan, write, or strategise. As a lion, you love making a schedule or to-do list. So, use the morning to jot down those goals. Complete your major work and commitments by midday.
During The Day: For lunch, go for a low-carb, high-protein and fibre meal which continues to boost you through the afternoon and evening. Maybe by mid-afternoon, you will feel low on energy. It is the perfect time to boost your brain by thinking of new ideas and plans. Take a stroll in the sunlight to re-awaken your senses. After all, you have been up for around 10 hours or more now. You’d love to work-out in the early morning. But it’s better to keep your gym schedule set for late afternoon or early evening.
At Night: Since lions have an early rise and a long day, they may miss out on social events due to tiredness. But, you switch it up by having a refreshing carb-free meal by 8 p.m. which frees up an hour or two of socialising without making you feel lethargic. Head to bed by 10-11 p.m. for a deep, restorative sleep to end your energetic day.
WHAT IS THE BEAR CHRONOTYPE
Bears are known to be mellow, despite their vicious hunting skills. The bear chronotype indicates that you can go with the flow. Therefore, you have a higher need to sleep and replenish.
In the morning: Bears need encouragement to get up in the morning! Sometimes, you can’t help hitting the snooze button on your alarm. But resist the urge. Furthermore, indulge in a low-carb breakfast, to get over that sleepy feeling. Bears would be most active mid-morning from 10 am onwards. Hence, utilise this time to get your work done. Use your sharpened skills to get important and difficult tasks out of the way.
During The Day: Bears flourish in the sunlight. So, take a quick walk to speed up your metabolism. Though rice or pasta dishes may tempt you, go for something equally heavy in the protein and fibre department. Importantly, avoid caffeine or chocolate late in the day, and instead snack on fruit or cheese. Play a contact sport to get more exercise or run in the evening to stay active and away from sleep.
At Night: As a bear, you are an extrovert and a social person. So take this time to get together with friends and family. Socialise and get an early dinner before 9 p.m. to avoid junk food cravings. By 10 p.m., begin winding down. Now that you know how to get the best sleep, take a nice, warm bath and avoid screen time. Bears need eight hours of restful sleep.
WHAT IS THE WOLF CHRONOTYPE
Wolves remain alert throughout the night as it is their prime hunting time. As a wolf, your creative energies flow freely at night and you have an average need to sleep.
In the morning: Mornings are exceptionally difficult for you. It could be a task to even get out of bed. Take a short 15-minute walk to energise your mind. As a result, your brain will stop producing the sleep hormone melatonin.
During the day: Drink plenty of water and stay active to get yourself into peak mode. Have a light lunch and know that this is the time when your mental alertness begins to rise. Do difficult tasks and important projects by early to late evening. It is time for dolphins, bears and lions to wind down. You, in contrast, are at your mental best. Take this into account as you plan your day.
At Night: Have a late dinner to avoid midnight cravings. Utilise this time to watch TV or get together with family. After dinner, begin relaxing even though your natural instinct would be to work on a high-powered presentation or do something exciting. Follow this schedule for a few weeks using these better sleep tips. You will be able to adjust your sleep cycle to suit your lifestyle. Aim for bedtime by midnight so that you can get seven hours of sleep.
Now that you have understood which sleep animal you resemble the most, you can know how to sleep better at night. Above all, be aware and adjust your lifestyle around it, knowing when to peak and when to lie low. However, there are other vital changes you need to make to start getting your best sleep, but I promise that it will be worth the effort.
What is your sleep hygiene? How to build your sleep hygiene.
First of all, let’s understand what is sleep hygiene: sleep hygiene is the collection of your sleep behaviours, habits and schedules. A few factors determine whether your sleep hygiene is good or bad:
- your rituals before bedtime, such as a bath or seeing your phone or reading books
- the time you sleep, whether it is less, enough or more
- the quality of your sleep, sound or patchy
Good news is that sleep hygiene can be improved. Yes, you can transform your sleeping habits and sleep better at night.
How to get better sleep?
Jim Kwik calls it “LETS SnoozE formula”: an easy mnemonic to memorise how to sleep well:
- L (Lights): Sleeping with bright lights is bad sleep hygiene. Instead, make sure the room is dark enough for your rest.
- E (Exercise): One of the best sleep tips is exercise. Regular exercise during the day lets you enjoy peace at night. So keep your days active.
- T (Temperature): Ensure that the room you sleep in has a comfortable temperature, not too hot or too cold. A cool room lulls your body into rest.
- S (Sound): Avoid loud noises and disturbances. Shut your blinds and windows to prevent distractions.
- S (Schedule): Outline what you’d like to do before bedtime. Indulge in a warm shower or bath, practice meditation or aromatherapy.
- E (Eat): Skip heavy food or late-night snacks. Allow your body to settle in rather than be energised by food to improve your sleep quality.
When it comes to sleeping better at night, it is most noteworthy to know that not everyone needs eight hours of sleep.
By understanding our chronotypes and by following my LETS SnoozE formula, we can figure how much sleep you require in a night and what you can do to get it right.
I leave you with an important word though. Even if you know how to improve sleep quality with better sleep tips, remember that taking on a new sleep schedule needs dedication to succeed. Like all habits, forming healthy sleep hygiene may take time. So are you ready to give that time? What changes would you make for better sleep?
Sleeping better in my life
I would like to conclude by saying that, when I realised to ‘be a Dolphin’, I started living my life much better. I now know how much I have to, and need, exercise in the morning. This not only calms me down so much, but also gives me so much better mental clarity throughout my day. I also finally understood why I always wanted to sleep in the afternoon. Now I take a very short 10 minutes nap, every day, to help me feel energised all day long.
The only difference here is that, despite ‘being a Dolphin’, with a very busy schedule, I always remembered to have lunch, as I love to have very tasty meals (maybe because I am Italian). 🙂
I am so happy to have discovered the chronotypes, and I feel everyone should benefit from this knowledge
I am curious to know your opinion, suggestions, and ideas!
If you found this article interesting and want to go deeper into this topic, I would suggest you a great books from one of my favourite teachers and healer:
The Sleep Doctor’s Diet Plan: Lose Weight Through Better Sleep
Good Night: The Sleep Doctor’s 4-Week Program to Better Sleep and Better Health
If this article was not enough, and just made you starve for more on sleeping better techniques and tools, then you can have a look at my article on the Essential Crystals Healing Stones. There I talk about the essential crystals we should all have, including the Amethyst, a stone that makes you calmer, thus can be used as a tool to sleep better.
Enjoy your sleep 🙂