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  • Luke

How to sleep better and why it matters

For many men sleep is nothing more than an afterthought, something which inevitably happens and to which very little or no strategy is applied. This is a mistake. Sleep optimization is absolutely critical for maximizing health and personal productivity.

What are the benefits of sleep optimization?

The benefits are too numerous to list in full, it would take you 5 years to finish reading this article if I were to list them all. Sleep optimization improves essentially every facet of your life, either directly or indirectly.

A few key benefits include:

- Increased testosterone

- Increased focus/concentration

- Increased productivity

- Reduced risk of depression

- Increased resistance to stress

- Increased libido

- Increased insulin sensitivity

- Improved body composition

- Faster recovery from workouts

- Increased volume tolerance

- Reduced risk of overtraining

- Reduced risk of work accidents

- Reduced risk of vehicle accidents

The list goes on and on...

Although the list of benefits is almost endless, we can reap these benefits by utilizing a surprisingly small number of sleep tips and hacks.

Make sure your bedroom is cool

The ideal bedroom temperature is around 18 degrees Celsius or 65 degrees Fahrenheit, give or take a few degrees. It can vary according to a person's body size, body fat percentage, humidity level, the type of clothing worn, blanket thickness/warmth etc.

Essentially you want the room to be cool enough so that you are not sweating at any point during the night, this is a good general rule to follow.

Although fans do not actually cool the room, they can help your body stay cool which certainly helps and the steady background noise they produce can also help improve sleep quality.

Make sure your bedroom has adequate ventilation

If your bedroom does not have adequate ventilation then carbon dioxide (CO2) will build up during the night. The brain does not like elevated CO2 and your sleep quality will suffer as a result.

You can buy a small CO2 meter to place in your bedroom in order to monitor the CO2 level while you sleep, it should never read above 1000 ppm and ideally should stay below 750 ppm at all times.

If you get readings above 750 ppm at any point during the night or upon waking in the morning then you will need to increase ventilation by opening more doors and/or windows or by opening them wider if already open.

Generally speaking you need at least 2 openings in a room for adequate airflow and ventilation, simply sleeping with your bedroom door open isn't much help unless you also have a window open. The more doors and windows you have open the better.

Some people who sleep in confined spaces such as rooms without windows, vans or truck sleeper cabins may even need to install a small fan that draws in fresh air from outside.

Having a ceiling or pedestal fan blowing on you does not help, they merely circulate air that is already in the room. If you can't achieve sufficient ventilation by opening doors and windows then you will need to install a fan that draws in fresh air from outside the room.

Use your CO2 meter as a guide, do whatever you need to do to ensure that CO2 does not rise above 750 ppm.

Make sure your eyes are shielded from light

While most sleep guides will recommend ensuring that your bedroom is as dark as possible I do not agree with this advice because it conflicts with the advice given above to ensure proper ventilation.

In order to make your room as dark as possible you must close all windows and doors and use thick blinds/curtains or shutters to keep the light out, unfortunately this also restricts airflow.

If you try to compromise by placing blackout curtains in front of open windows then every time there's even the slightest gust of wind the curtains will move and light will make its way into the room. If you instead try to pin or tape the curtains into place so that the wind doesn't move them then this simply creates an even stronger airflow impediment.

You simply can't optimize for both ventilation and light blocking by using curtains/blinds/shutters etc.

So what is the practical solution? The solution is to wear a high-quality eye mask that completely blocks light from reaching your eyes. It's not important that your bedroom is dark per se, it's important that the light doesn't reach your eyes.

One caveat I will add is that you don't want direct sunlight on you while trying to sleep, this will cause you to overheat and it will also cause UV damage to your skin. Position your bed in a manner that prevent this.

Make sure your ears are shielded from noise

In the same vein as the point above it is often recommended that your bedroom should be as quiet as possible, again I do not agree with this advice because in order to make your bedroom as quiet as possible you must close all doors and windows in order to reduce the amount of outside noise entering the room and this will impede airflow and ventilation.

There are two practical solutions that can help.

Firstly, you could simply wear ear plugs, this works well for most people.

Secondly, you could create a steady background noise by either using a white noise generator or by running a ceiling/pedestal fan at high enough speed.

Some people may need to utilize both solutions, especially if they must sleep during the day when outside noise levels are higher than during the night. People who work at night have no choice but to sleep during the day.

One important safety tip is to place your ear plugs in your ears and then activate your fire/smoke alarms to see if they are still loud enough to wake you up in case of an emergency. You don't want to wear hearing protection that's designed for an aircraft carrier flight deck.

You'll have to use common sense and your own judgement here. Do a test run perhaps, set your phone alarm for Sunday morning when you don't have work/school and see if it still wakes you up while wearing your ear plugs. Have a family member or a friend activate your fire/smoke alarm while you're deep asleep to see if it still wakes you up etc.

Avoid bright and blue light near bedtime

Bright light, especially blue light near bedtime interferes with your ability to produce melatonin which is a hormone that helps you sleep. You want your lighting to be as dim and as warm as possible in the last few hours leading up to bedtime.

Most phones, computer screens and even many televisions have night mode features that reduce screen brightness and decrease the color temperature of the light which makes it appear warmer by reducing the amount of blue light emitted.

Another piece of practical advice is to change the light bulbs in your house to bulbs that are dimmer and warmer. For example, instead of bulbs that have a brightness of 1000 lumens and a color temperature of 6500 K you could opt for bulbs with a brightness of 400 lumens and a color temperature of 2700 K.

Stick to a consistent sleep schedule

One of the best ways to improve your sleep quality is to maintain a consistent sleep schedule, this means going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning.

Different people may have different sleeping windows due to practical considerations such as the shifts they work or other obligations or responsibilities. A person's chronotype can also influence their ideal sleeping window, some people are genetically designed to be early morning people while some people are designed to function best in the afternoon.

What matters more than anything else is maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, whether you usually sleep between 9 PM and 5 AM or between 9 AM and 5 PM (or any other window) it's absolutely vital that you're consistent.

In general your circadian rhythm likes to follow the natural light cycle determined by the Sun. The most ideal scenario would be to rise with the Sun and to get to bed early enough to rise with the Sun the next morning.

This is not always practical in the modern world unfortunately. If you're able to rise with the Sun every morning then by all means do so, but for the majority of people it will just not be possible. The best we can do is keep our sleep window as consistent as possible, even if that window is not ideal on paper.

Maintain a bedtime routine

Maintaining a bedtime routine can help your brain switch over to sleep mode. It's not so important what the routine is exactly, it's just important to have one.

It could be as simple as brushing your teeth, having a relaxing shower, hopping into some boxer shorts (100% cotton of course) and reading a few pages from a book or meditating for a while.

Given enough repetition your brain will associate the routine with bedtime and you will naturally find that you start winding down and getting sleepy while going through the routine.

Be mindful what you eat and drink near bedtime

What you eat or drink in the hours leading up to bedtime could have a profound impact on your sleep quality.

Regarding caffeine my advice is to not drink coffee at all if you're serious about optimizing your sleep. If you're someone who is unable or unwilling to give it up then at the very least limit coffee drinking to the mornings only. Have a coffee when you wake up and then don't drink any more until the next morning. A double strength coffee or two regular coffees in the morning is better than a coffee in the morning and a coffee in the afternoon.

Keep in mind that there are other sources of caffeine besides coffee, you should avoid energy drinks and any other drinks that also contain caffeine.

In regards to food near bedtime there's a lot of individual variability, some people sleep terribly if they eat too close to bedtime whereas some people sleep better if they have a meal near bedtime, especially if the meal contains carbohydrate.

Personally I have always found that eating a carbohydrate-containing meal near bedtime improves my sleep quality, I suspect this is related to the effect that carbohydrate has on neurotransmitter levels. Something as simple as eating a tablespoon of honey before bed goes a long way for some people, it doesn't have to be a proper meal to benefit from carbohydrate before bed.

Some people have to limit food and/or fluid intake in the hours leading up to bedtime or else they will wake up multiple times during the night to go to the bathroom. This is obviously not ideal for maximizing sleep quality.

A few of the food/fluid related reasons why someone might wake up multiple times a night include:

- Drinking too much fluid

- Not drinking enough fluid

- Eating too big a meal before bed

- Not eating enough or at all before bed

- Eating foods that cause heartburn

- Drinking alcohol

- Ingesting caffeine outside the morning period

It will take some experimentation and trial and error for you to determine which approach works best for you, my advice is to record the number of times you wake up during the night so that you can compare and refine approaches. It's fine to wake up once during the night to go to the bathroom and/or get a drink, but if you are waking up multiple times during the night then you need to reassess your approach to food and fluids near bedtime.

Sleep alone if necessary

This might be a little controversial but often it's better to sleep alone. Sleeping in the same bed as your partner can impact your sleep quality in several ways such as:

- Waking you up by touching you

- Waking you up by stealing blankets

- Waking you up by snoring

- Causing you to overheat if they get too close

- Increasing the CO2 levels in the room

- Having to modify your ideal sleeping posture or position to accommodate them

For further information and to learn how Jason has implemented the advice contained in this article to optimize his sleep and improve his quality of life watch the video below:


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