Thirteen tips for getting better sleep

I go through stages of having issues sleeping. I usually find it easy to go to sleep, but either dance around like a fish out of water or wake up between 2 am and 4 am and then don’t get back to sleep. If you sleep like a baby, ignore these and keep doing what you are doing, but one or more might help if you have issues like me.

  1. Have a sleep routine: go to bed and get up at the same time each day, even on weekends to take advantage of your natural circadian rhythm.
  2. Sleep for between six and nine hours every night: The amount of sleep you need is dependent on several factors, set a fixed wake-up time and move around your sleep time depending on how you feel each morning until you find the duration you need.
  3. Get as much sleep before midnight as possible: research suggests that this is when the best quality sleep happen. Set your bedtime between 9:30 and 11:00 pm.
  4. Get light outside for at least 30-60 minutes per day: Getting out right after you get up will help anchor your master clock that controls your circadian rhythm. A lack of Vitamin D affects sleep, so supplement if you don’t get exposed to a lot of sunshine, particularly in Winter.
  5. Don’t eat anything after 8 pm: Leaving time between eating and going to bed will allow your insulin levels to get back to normal.
  6. Have a wind-down routine: have a hot bath, write a todo list to get things out of your head, do some light relaxation stretches, listen to relaxing music, read a book (use a Kindle Oasis with no blue light)
  7. Avoid screens for at least an hour before you go to bed: blue light from screens will trick your brain into thinking it is daytime and make it harder to get to sleep.
  8. Don’t drink coffee after 1 pm: Caffeine can affect people for up to six hours after a coffee. If you can, only use coffee for those times when you need a cognitive boost.
  9. Make your bedroom a cave: keeping your bedroom dark, quiet, and at a cool temperature (between 18C and 24C) to help you get to sleep quicker.
  10. Eat more protein during the day and carbs at night: Protein is a mild stimulant and carbs activate the orexin pathway that makes you sleepy. 
  11. Take a ZMA supplement 30 minutes before sleep: The magnesium specifically aids sleep but prepare for some strange dreams the first few nights. 
  12. Exercise but not too much: Staying active throughout the day is essential for your general health and insulin responsiveness, but training twice per day or long and intense cardio sessions will negatively affect sleep. Consider regular movement breaks if you work at a desk all day and strength training three times per week between 3 an 6 pm.
  13. Track your sleep and monitor things that affect its quality: I wear my Garmin running watch at night to monitor my sleep duration and quality during periods where I don’t sleep well. I find I get good sleep duration but low quality with minutes of deep sleep in the single figures. Tracking your sleep will help you learn which of these tips you can ignore and which you need to follow.

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