Think extraordinary health is defined by the number of hours you spend at the gym? What if you could get fitter, stronger, and healthier by spending more time asleep?
Sleep is one of the most underrated health habits, and yet quality time with our eyes shut has been unequivocally shown to improve every single aspect of our lives.
As a runner, I understand that my commitment to rest and recovery must equal or trump my commitment to putting in my weekly miles. I thought I was doing okay, but back in the fall I decided to conduct a little n=1 experiment where I kept track of the number of nights each month that I got at least 8 hours of sleep.
I was shocked to see my dismal results staring back at me in black and white. I missed the 8-hour mark eleven times in September, 9 times in October, and 7 times in November (at least I was subtly improving simply by monitoring my actions!).
Not normally the New Year’s resolution type, I decided to really up my sleep game in January, aiming to consistently sleep between the hours of 10:30 pm and 6:30 am.
Here’s the plan I followed for my 8-hours of beauty sleep:
1. Get at least fifteen mins of direct sunlight into my eyeballs every day before 2 pm to anchor my circadian rhythm (preferably coupled with low-intensity activity – hiking, jogging, walking)
2. Stay off screens in the 2-3 hours before bed. If I can’t help myself, I’ll only use screens with the program f.lux installed, which pulls out the blue light as to not interfere with melatonin production (free download at https://justgetflux.com)
3. Set a “bedtime alarm” of 10 pm to alert me to “start the process” – camomile tea, get in pyjamas, wash face, brush teeth, read in bed
4. Lights out by 10:30 pm
5. Keep sleep environment pitch black (all LED lights completely covered, dark out blinds) and cool (18 degrees C or less)
I’m happy to report that I’ve only fallen short of the 8-hour mark two days this month, they were both weekend days, and they were only by 1/2 hour. I’m also consistently waking up on my own before my 6:30 am alarm, an encouraging sign that I’m well rested and ready to kick some daytime butt.
Hilarious side note: One evening I fell asleep so early that my bedtime alarm actually woke me up at 10 pm!
Now I’d love to hear from you. Do you wake up feeling refreshed each morning? If not, what steps will you take to start sleeping your way to better health?
Like this post? Want free weekly inspiration to eat, move, and sleep your way to optimal health? As a bonus I’ll send you my e-book, Top 7 Mistakes (even) Health Conscious People Make.