What’s more important for your health, food or sleep?
It might surprise you to read this here, but sleep is easily more important. Like waaay more important. Think about this: you would die from sleep deprivation long before you’d die of starvation. Even the best diet in the world, no matter how chock full of organic fruits, veggies and superfoods it is, doesn’t make up for poor sleep.
Sleep is fundamental to your health.
You’ve probably heard this before. And you probably agree with it in principle - who hasn’t accidentally slept in and felt like a million bucks? - But the chances are you haven’t really internalized the value of sleep, it’s so important that few people have. And that’s understandable. There are two reasons why sleep is a blind spot in people’s health strategy.
The Missing Piece
The big problem with paying attention to sleep is that you aren’t ever there to see what’s going on. Sleep is tricky like that.
Being asleep is completely different to how we are in our waking lives. And the waking world is so full of sounds, sights, obligations, and distractions that it’s really difficult to make plans for your sleep. It’s like cooking an elaborate dinner for someone you’ve never met.
And because sleep is subtle, there really aren’t any products or businesses that make it significantly easier to improve your sleep.
Sure, there are loads of sleep tracking apps and devices available, but none of them can do the hard work for you. Products can give you information, but unless you decide to change your habits you’re in the same position you were before. Except now you know exactly how much you aren’t sleeping.
The only way to seriously improve the quality, and consequently the benefits, of your sleep is to give it the attention it deserves. You’ll need to make sacrifices, but oh boy are they worth it!
The phrase “sleep hygiene” is becoming more and more popular as a way of describing the routines, habits, and behaviours that maximize the benefit you get from sleep. The basics are simple but powerful.
It might sound weird, but cutting down your exposure to artificial light greatly improves your sleep. Blue light from TVs, smartphones, and computers disrupts production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. When I installed f.lux on my phone and laptop I found it much easier to get to sleep at night. Better yet, just stay away from screens for 2 hours before you go to bed. Easier said than done, that’s why f.lux is great.
If you’ve ever been woken up by an early dawn in the summer, you know the value of blackout blinds. Similarly, tossing and turning under too many blankets shows how being too hot can ruin your sleep. Keeping your bedroom cool and dark helps restful, regenerative sleep. Get an eye mask, blackout blinds and cover all led lights. Simple.
Finally, having a consistent “bedtime routine” is a great way of letting your body know it’s time to sleep. As much as possible, try to do the same things in the same order before you turn in for the night. Around 80% of the time I shower, brush my teeth, and spend 10 minutes listening to my breath before I lie down. That’s what works for me, experiment and see how you like to ease into rest.
Sometimes fun things go on at night or flights leave early in the morning. That’s life.
Just be aware that missing sleep has a cost for your health. An awesome concert or reunion old friends is probably worth a late night. But how about another 20 minutes trawling twitter? Except, of course for Subi’s twitter, @get_subi - ALWAYS CHECK OUR TWEETS BEFORE BED (lol, jk).
Investing in your sleep is one of the most profound and rewarding things you can do for yourself. And even small changes make a big difference in the long run. Remember - the better you sleep, the better you wake!