17 Ways to Improve Your Sleep

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by Mark Sisson: Taking
Stock of 2010: Your Annual HealthReview



Like last
week’s stress post
, I’m not going to delve deeply into why sleep
is so important. I’ve done
it before
, and doing so again would simply take up valuable
space that’s better used for action items — for actual sleep hacks
that you can put into effect immediately. Just rest assured that
it’s crucial to health, longevity, immunity, recovery from training,
cognition, aptitude while operating vehicles and/or machinery, insulin
sensitivity and, well, do I need to go on? If you want to enjoy
your limited time on the planet, you better get your Zs.

the long list of health benefits, sleep is one of those things that
people skimp on, whether by necessity (work, traffic, kids,
busy schedules) or because they figure they can simply “power through
it." The supposed ability to lower our sleep requirements through
sheer will is pervasive. “Tough it out” is a popular slogan, as
are “Sleep is for the weak” or “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” Then
there’s Virgil’s “Death’s brother, Sleep” (or, alternately, Nas’
“Sleep is the cousin of death” — thanks, Worker Bee). What we end
up with, then, is a nation of overworked, overly fatigued men, women,
students, and even children shambling through days dotted with Starbucks
Ventis and ridiculous
energy drinks
. If you count yourself among their numbers,
or perhaps you just want better sleep, read on for some tips and

Light Issues
— The Usual

Our circadian
clocks govern our sleepiness, and circadian clocks are extremely
responsive to — and even dependent on — environmental light. Managing
your exposure to light, especially blue
throughout the day and night can help you get to sleep
at a normal time. The hormonal flux that controls our sleep schedule
is complex, but sticking to ancestral light exposure norms should
take care of most of it:

Sleep in a
Dark Room

Total darkness
is best. That means turning off the blinking DVR, using a towel
to block the light streaming in under the door, flipping your alarm
clock around, and drawing the blinds. If these aren’t doable, think
about wearing an eye mask or draping a dark cloth over your face.
You may find that such drastic measures aren’t totally necessary
(the moon’s light doesn’t seem to bother me, for example), but it’s
definitely worth pursuing if you feel your sleep is lacking.

Read Before

Instead of
reaching for the laptop or the remote, why not grab a book? For
one, the blue light streaming from the laptop or LCD screen will
suppress your natural melatonin production, and for two, reading
is a relaxing activity that nonetheless requires active engagement
of your cognitive skills. Working your brain can be tiring, while
watching something is usually just passive.

Embrace Candlelit

Candlelit dinners
aren’t just romantic; they actually promoted
better sleep and more recovery from workouts
for reader JD Moyer,
who found that ditching all artificial lighting after dark (including
computers and TV) in favor of candles made an enormous difference
in both his and his wife’s lives. This is likely due to the fact
that fire, especially the tiny flames lighting up a simple candle,
emits little to no blue light. You know how candle light is “soft”
and somehow soothing? There’s a physiological reason for that.

Get Some Exposure
to Blue Light in the Morning and During the Day

When you get
up in the morning, head outside and greet the day — and the blue
sky overhead (if the season permits). Go for a walk at lunch for
a bit more exposure. Thankfully, some offices are beginning to employ
blue light-enriched overhead lights, which has been shown to increase
worker alertness
. This is more about normalizing your circadian
rhythm and preparing for the rest of the day, rather than using
light to fix sleep deprivation-induced fogginess, but it’ll help
there in a pinch.

Install F.lux
on Your Computer

is a free program
that, when enabled on your computer, reduces
blue light emissions.

Wear Orange
Safety Goggles

Orange safety
goggles may look silly, but they filter out blue light. Might be
worth trying if nothing else is working.

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