How To Get Better Sleep While Spending Less Time In Bed


February 2, 2010   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

There are two gifts I want to give you right now: more time and better sleep. To do this I will need your complete attention and an open mind. It’s really not that hard but it does require a little self discipline, some patience and a willingness to make a few changes in your life.

Many people believe that the more time you spend sleeping, the more rested your body becomes. Well, this is often not the case. Our body sleeps in multiple cycles throughout the night, each one essential and each one very easily interrupted. Every time you find yourself tossing and turning, waking up to go to the bathroom or just being woken up, you are interrupting one of these sleep cycles and detracting from their effectiveness. So the key is not MORE sleep but BETTER sleep.

There’s no doubt that you need a certain amount of sleep every night to be healthy. 3 hours of even the best sleep would not be enough for any human being. But what if I were to tell you that you could feel more rested than you ever have before and, here’s the kicker, knock 30 minutes to an hour off of the time you spend ‘trying to sleep’. It’s one of those ‘best of both world’ scenarios but, as I stated before, it will require you to take action and make the changes necessary to obtain this precious gift.

So let’s get to it. Here are the elements you will have to consider:

  1. Diet
    Eating a well balanced, healthy diet will not only help you live longer but it will help you feel better throughout the day. You should eat a good balance of complex carbs, meat and vegetable protein (of course no meat if you are a vegetarian) and fruits and vegetables. Try to eat light meals with small snacks in between. Adjust according to your activity level but try to keep it on the lighter side if possible.

The 3 meals a day idea is outdated. Too much time between meals allows your blood sugar to drop too low and leaves you hungry and craving simple carbohydrates like sugar and white flour. When you finally eat the meal, you will end up eating too much. Depending on when you eat dinner and when you go to sleep you may benefit from a light snack about 1 to 1 and a half hours before bed. They should be foods with a balance of carbs, fat and protein. Some examples are an apple with peanut butter, celery with peanut butter or light yogurt (light on sugar as well as fat) with a little granola. Try this if you think your blood sugar might be crashing in the middle of the night.

  • Blood Sugar
    Your blood sugar plays a crucial role in helping you not only sleep better but have a consistently positive outlook. You blood sugar is mostly affected by simple carbs.

If you eat a bunch of sugar, your blood sugar will spike and you will have a quick burst of energy; this is short lived. Anywhere from 30 minutes to a couple of hours your blood sugar starts to quickly drop and you will feel tired. You may even start to feel irritable and/or depressed (This is why maintaining a consistent blood sugar level is crucial for a positive outlook). This is called a crash and it is something that often happens to people in the middle of the night. Do you ever wake up in a hot sweat. Or do you ever wake up at an odd hour and feel wide awake. Chances are this is the result of you blood sugar crashing.

  • Hydration
    Water to our bodies is like oil to an engine. It keeps everything running clean and smooth. First thing in the morning is usually when our bodies are the most dehydrated so it is important to drink a glass or two of water right when you get up.Many people skip breakfast because they’re not hungry or don’t have time. This lack of hunger is usually the result of dehydration. And since breakfast is the most important meal of the day it is important that you eat and drink before you start your day. If you can, stay away from sodas and other ‘water alternatives’. Loaded with caffeine, sodium and sugar, these drinks do the opposite of hydrate. Stop drinking fluids at least 4 hours before you go to bed. This might sound hard to do but if you are staying hydrated throughout the day you should be just fine. The purpose of doing this is so you don’t have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. 
  • State of mind
    Your state of mind plays a big role in being able to sleep deeply. If you go to bed with any kind of worry, anxiety, fear, sadness, even positive stimulation, you will have a hard time falling into a deep sleep. I find that reading a light book 30 minutes before you turn out the lights is a great way to ‘turn off’ your brain. You may even find that your eyes grow heavy as you try to read. The goal is to go to sleep quickly and you can’t do this if you try to go from a stimulated brain to the pillow without down time in between. 
  • Exercise
    One of the absolute best things you can do for yourself as well as your sleep is to exercise. Even a 15 to 20 minute jog or brisk walk everyday will not only improve your ability to sleep soundly throughout the night, but it will enhance your mood throughout the day. Depending on your fitness level these numbers may be different so adjust accordingly. If you don’t exercise on a regular basis you cannot expect to get the kind of sleep that we are talking about today. 
  • Bed time – Wake time
    Try to go to be and get up at the same times everyday. Over time this will set your internal clock so you will be tired when you should be tired and wake up when you want to wake up. As you decide when to sleep and wake you can look at the possibility of cutting down on sleep time. Using myself as an example let me explain what I mean. 

I used to ‘need’ 8 hours of sleep each day. Even then I felt tired during the day. After I started doing the things listed here I was unable to sleep for more than about 7 hours a night. Yet I would have much more energy and feel better than ever. What I determined was that those 8 hours were not 8 SOLID HOURS of sleep. Whereas the 7 hours I’m getting now are a FULL 7 hours of sleep. THIS IS THE KEY!

  • Environment
    Having the right environment to sleep in is also very important. Try to block out as much light as possible (make sure the sun doesn’t wake you up before you want to get up.) Make sure that you aren’t too hot or too cold. Have a little ‘white noise’ if necessary (my wife an I sleep with fan blowing all night). Even consider ambient music. We also play a ambient CD in the background every night and it helps set the mood for rest and relaxation. 
  • Routine
    They say it takes 21 days to create a new habit. Give this at least a full month before you make any decisions of whether or not you want to continue. It will also take some time to completely adjust to the specific sleep patterns and whatever else you change because of this list. But once you adjust you should be able to fairly easily maintain it and reap the full benefits. 
  • Satisfaction
    Make sure you are enjoying the benefits that come from having more time and more energy. Take advantage of the extra time and use it to do things that you used to only wish you could do. Work on a project, set some new goals, or just relax and have some ‘you time’. The more you appreciate this new routine the more likely you will continue to do it. 
  • Helping others
    The final step and a great way to ‘keep it up’ is to help others do the same. If you find that this information really helps you sleep better, feel better and have more time during the day, than the best thing you can do is to share this with others. As you help other people learn these steps you will strengthen your resolve to continue them yourselves. At the same time you will be helping someone else experience the same benefits.

I hope you really read through these steps and gave them some thought. It’s a lot to take in and may require a lot of changes. If the end result is a healthier, happier, more productive ‘you’ then it will be well worth it.

Written on 8/25/2008 by Eric Hamm, a technology consultant with a passion for helping others improve their lives through his blog Motivate Thyself. Republished 2/2/2010. Photo Credit: Betsssssy

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