Health & Wellness

Sleep is good… Hacks and Advice from a Borderline Insomniac

Over the past year I’ve engaged in a lot of self-improvement projects, and one of the things I’ve come across over and over is that good sleep is absolutely essential to productive work, happiness, etc. And that’s so, so true–especially if we want to do anything intellectually difficult and/or creative.

There’s actually a lot of research showing that even those heroes who claim to function just fine on 5-6 hours of sleep are in fact robbing themselves of 20-30% of their brain power. Worse, people who sleep less than the recommended 7-8 hours may be putting themselves at greater risk for sickness, chronic disease, even cancer.

Long story short: sleep is good.

Unfortunately, I have a hard time doing it. Not falling asleep generally, but when I wake up in the middle of the night I have a hard time going back to sleep. In fact this happened the last two nights, which is why this post is again happening at 7:30pm instead of 6am (don’t worry I’ll try for an early one again tomorrow).

Anyway, despite the fact they aren’t foolproof, I have found a few methods that seem to work. Let’s start with mechanics–note: I did not discover these things on my own… these are all things sleep experts recommend and I’m merely repeating them here.

  1. Go to bed and wake up at the same time.
  2. Don’t drink caffeine after 2pm.
  3. No phone in the bedroom (I still need to do this, but it’s my alarm).
  4. No food within 2 hours of bedtime.
  5. If you wake up and can’t go back to sleep, go into another room and read with low lighting.

They’re all hard, but they all work, especially in concert. On the phone side I’ve found that if I put my phone face down, turn off notifications (except for emergencies), and don’t use it half an hour before I want to go to bed, it’s probably almost as good as not having it in the room.

Number five may seem a little odd, but the reasoning is that you don’t want your bed to become a place your brain associates with worry/wakefulness. So if you’re awake and can’t get back to sleep within 10-15 minutes, it really does help to get up and read. Just keep in mind that it won’t work immediately–it’s something you’ll have to do for several weeks before it really starts becoming effective.

Something you can piggyback on this is deliberate worry, which is the practice of setting aside a time well before bed for writing down your worries and developing a plan of action for each, so that those worries don’t bother you in bed. Check out the link if you’re interested in that–they do a much better job than I could at explaining how it works (actually I could do it, but I just don’t want to).

I would also suggest meditation, but I’ll have a separate post on that someday once I actually start doing it regularly.

OK, next, let’s look at some tricks you can use in terms of nutrition. Basically there are three I’m aware of:

  1. Take magnesium and zinc in combo before bed. These are minerals our body needs to regenerate and rebuild our cells, and most people are deficient, meaning that unlike many vitamins and minerals, we don’t get enough from what we eat.
  2. Take melatonin. Now what I’ve found is this: the 3mg dose most pills come in aren’t enough to do anything. I take either 9mg or 12mg. Now I’m not a doctor, so this is not official medical advice, but I’d recommend starting with the 3mg pill and then go from there. As with anything like this, before you do anything wild and crazy outside of what the back of the bottle recommends, consult your physician.
  3. A nighttime elixir of 2 tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar, 1 tablespoon of honey, and hot water to taste. This is something I got from Tim Ferriss, and it definitely works, even if it’s just a placebo.

So, I guess that’s it. I didn’t both saying “Today’s Nugget” because that’s all this is. Now if you don’t mind, I’m going to try to get some fucking sleep.

Thanks for reading! Cheers!


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