Step #1 – Admitting You Might Have A Problem
I’ve never slept well.
I always figured it was in my genetics.
Growing up, my mom would wake up in the middle of the night to do something productive around the house. I am not much different. I would get up and start working. Or work late and get up early. Heck, even if I partied all night, I would still wake up early. I never paid attention to sleep and whether it affected me in any way.
That all came to a halt in 2018.
I was out with some friends in Austin. At dinner one of them asked me if I was getting enough sleep. I snapped back, “of course, I am.” But even after a night of drinks and fun, the next morning I couldn’t forget what my friend had said. It echoed in my mind. Was I looking that bad these days?
It’s not the first time someone commented on how tired I looked. My dad has told me similar things throughout the years. My excuse was that I was always “overworked” and “busy.”
My internal dialog always re-affirmed the tiredness… “this is just part of the life I chose.”
But that was bullshit. I knew plenty of other people with businesses and stress just like me, but they weren’t walking around looking tired. Why am I like this?
With a respected friends voice ringing in my head, I set out on a goal to fix my sleep. It’s amazing what a little peer pressure can cause someone to do.
Step #2 – Track Your Sleep – Do You Even Have a Problem?
I’m a data guy at heart. I love seeing trends and looking at the details. This attitude transferred over into my new little sleep project.
I quickly spent $300 on an Oura Ring – a state of the art ring that tracks your sleep. The problem was that it wasn’t going to arrive for months… 5 months to be exact. Apparently, I missed the part that mentioned they still had to produce it as I was checking out.
I couldn’t afford to wait. I needed the answers now. As soon as the plane touched down back in Vegas, I immediately went to Wal-Mart and got a Garmin Vivosport bracelet. This tracker will work until I get my fancy ring, I thought.
I set it up and went to sleep. The next morning I was eager to see the results. Unfortunately, it didn’t have any results for the first night. Damn it.
It needs a day to calibrate. Should have known.
In the months that followed it was clear that my sleep was not the greatest. It wasn’t the worst either. Even though I was working with only a little bit of data (my Oura Ring was still being produced in Finland), I knew there was room for improvement.
Step #3 – Fixing Your Sleep
There are things you can do to improve your sleep that cost $0.00. That’s right — free ninety-nine. So, let’s start with these.
- Lower the damn temperature. Your body will fall asleep much quicker if you keep your temperature around 67 degrees Fahrenheit. Why it took me 29 years to realize this, I am unsure. But it works.
- Never Allow Your Phone in Your Sleeping Environment. Remember when the bedroom just used to be about those two sacred things? Me neither. The fact is your phone is the biggest threat to your sleep. Stop using it 45 minutes before sleep. By stop using it, I mean plug it in, put it down and do not look at it.
- Block Blue light On All Devices. Your circadian rhythm matters. Your phone, your laptop, tablet, and TV are fucking that all up. They are fucking it up BIG TIME. Luckily, most tech companies realize this, and they all natively have blue light blockers that will help you sleep. On Apple its called Night Shift. Microsoft calls it Night Light. Google calls it Night Mode. Have your devices aligned with when the sun comes up and when the sun goes down. You will be amazed at the result. Don’t freak out when you start feeling tired at night again – you are supposed to!
- No Caffeine After 12 PM (or whenever 10 hours before you go to sleep is). According to 23 and me, I am sensitive to caffeine. It only takes a little bit for me to be off the wall and fry my adenosine receptors. Many hidden sources of caffeine will upset you – dark chocolate, green tea, black tea, and decaf coffee. The rule applies to all of these.
- If Your Drinking Alcohol, You Won’t Sleep Well. I understand that you are going to have special events and nights where you will be drinking. Is there a way to sleep well after a night of drinking? No. I can only recommend a couple of things – limit the number of drinks and do not eat until the next day. I haven’t been able to do these things, so I don’t expect you to either. Both alcohol and marijuana will help you fall asleep but will destroy the quality of your sleep. I wish it were not true, but it is.
- Avoid Huge Meals Before Bed. Most of us eat huge meals after a night of drinking. This ties in with the previous point. Simply put if you are drinking alcohol and eating a pizza, you are going to sleep like shit.
- Exercise. This one is cliche, but it is still true. The body is made to move and be on the hunt. Go for a short run, long walk and lift some weights. If you are physically tired at the end of the day, you will fall drift off into dreamland much easier.
Ok, those are your free options. If those don’t work than you can try these powerhouse options, they will cost money.
- Take CBD Sublingually (under the tongue) Before Bed. While the THC in marijuana hurts the quality of your sleep, CBD helps it. It enhances your sleep cycles. Most importantly, a high dose will help you fall asleep easier. If you are a regular night-time weed smoker than it probably won’t help you as much. A high dose of CBD might make you feel groggy in the morning, which is why I usually only take it on the weekends.
- Magtech Magnesium + Gaba Brain Food. Most of us are deficient in magnesium. This really messes up our sleep. Taking a supplement like this helps some people more than others. It depends on how deficient you are. I combine Magtech with Gaba Brain Food. It pretty much knocks me out. These two supplements are both can be found at Natural Stacks.
- Sleep Phones With White Noise. I have a new found love for white noise. It works. You can buy a white noise machine on Amazon that has a headphone jack. Connect the sleep phones and boom; you won’t disturb anyone.
- Turn On Your Fan (or buy one). If you have a ceiling fan, try turning it on the highest setting. A fan seems to help a lot of people fall asleep, including me. Of course, if you don’t have a fan, you can always resort to the last bullet point or buy one.
- A New Bed. I dropped $1500 on a bed last year. Saatva Luxury Mattress – The firm option. Before that, I was sleeping on a Casper mattress. What people want to ignore about foam mattresses is that they get hot. I don’t care what kind of cooling foam bullshit is in the marketing…. doesn’t work. If you read the above, you will understand that temperature matters. If you want to fall asleep and stay asleep, then it must be cool. So while the first few weeks you may be telling your friends how comfortable your mattress is, any foam mattress will very likely hurt your sleep in the long run.
- Smart Lights for Hacking Circadian Rhythm. I bought this Phillips Hue system that auto dims the lights at sundown and turns them on in the morning with the sunrise. You can set them to whatever times you want to fit your sleep schedule. I do not even use an alarm to wake up; the lights wake me up. When they begin to dim in the evening, they also make me tired and get me in the sleeping mode.
Sleep Shouldn’t Cause Anxiety
Listen, I got anxious about my sleep, so hopefully, you do not have to. If you think you are not getting good sleep than verify this by getting a good sleep tracker. There are tons of sleep trackers now. I finally received my Oura Ring a few months ago and have since been using it religiously. It works.
Start with the stuff that doesn’t cost any money above. More than 90% of you will fix your sleep without spending a dime. I have a small project I started called SleepKid. I don’t know where it will go, but I do know I plan on educating millions of people on sleep and helping them get quality shut-eye as well.