It’s no secret that sleep plays a vital role in your overall physical health. It facilitates the healing of your heart and blood vessels, muscle growth, tissue repair, hormone synthesisation, and so on. Recent studies even show that a night of poor sleep could lead to overeating on the following day (1). Not only is sleep vitally important, but lack of sleep is dangerous and damaging. Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, and stroke (2).
For the sake of brevity, I’ve outlined my 3 favourite sleep hacks that have made big a difference in my life. Heads up: 1 and 2 are caffeine-related, so feel free to skip ahead if you aren't a coffee or tea drinker like myself.
Facts & Hacks:
1. Fact: Caffeine has a half life of ~6-8 hours (the time it takes your body to eliminate one-half of the caffeine you put into it). Many people don't realize this, because their caffeine “buzz” has long worn off by the 8 hour mark; however, the amount of caffeine left in your system prior to bedtime directly impacts your quality of sleep (3).
Hack: Do not consume caffeinated beverages 6-8 hours before bedtime as there will still be a significant amount of caffeine in your system. Sounds obvious, but many restaurants, for example, encourage late caffeine consumption by offering coffee or tea after dinner. Just say no! Even better, give yourself a cut-off time and stick to it. Mine is no caffeine after 2pm.
P.s. In case you weren't aware, “decaf” coffee is not, as it's name implies, free of all caffeine. If you think you're in the clear by making your afternoon latte a decaf, think again. That tricky bastard...
2. Fact: Caffeine typically takes up to 48 hours to completely leave your system, meaning that unless we periodically take that time off from consuming caffeine we will start developing a tolerance (read: addiction), which can lead to requiring more and more caffeine in our system to get the desired effect. This then translates to even LESS quality sleep.
Hack: Try cycling your coffee intake. For example, have coffee during the week (Mon-Fri) and take the weekend off (Sat & Sun (48hrs)). The best part is, on Monday when you most need it, you’ll get that incredible productivity boost that coffee used to give you when you started drinking it in the first place! A truly incredible feeling.
* Note - The first time I did this I had a pretty bad headache that weekend! I didn’t realize how addicted I was, since my coffee intake had been rising due to the tolerance I built up over time. Now that I cycle regularly I no longer get any withdrawal symptoms and can enjoy a significant caffeine boost with just two cups per day.
3. Fact: Blue light emitted from electronic devices at night will throw the body's biological clock—the circadian rhythm—out of whack (4). Because of it’s similarity to to sunlight, our bodies do not biologically understand that the sun has set and that it’s time for us to start producing melatonin (a hormone required for restful sleep). Scientific research shows that every hour of blue light (CPU, LED or otherwise) exposed to the eyes before bed suppresses ~30 minutes of melatonin production. Meaning, if you are on your mobile device, watching a show before bed, or even worse falling asleep to the television and being exposed to blue light right before bedtime, you are majorly suppressing melatonin production. You may fall asleep, but you won’t be getting quality sleep.
Hack: Use Night Shift Mode (the built-in blue light filter) on your iPhone or similar programs for your Android. There’s a reason Apple forced it upon us during an upgrade... personally, I believe that it may even be a liability issue because of the horrific effects of chronic sleep deprivation. If you are falling asleep to a video or working late on your laptop, download flux; it’s free and will sync to your time zone to simulate sunrise and sunset, thus gradually reducing and replacing blue light with red light (the spectrum that most resembles fire, the only light that we would have had at night thousands of years ago).
Those are my personal top 3 tips out of a myriad of techniques and studies that help you get a full night’s sleep. I’m curious to hear yours! Let me know in the comments section below.
As always—Live Better, Longer!
- Tom Hodgins
- "Well|Sleep Poorly? You May Eat Too Much the Next Day." 2 Nov. 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/02/well/eat/sleep-poorly-you-may-eat-too-much-the-next-day.html.
- "Why Is Sleep Important? - NHLBI, NIH." 22 Feb. 2012, https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sdd/why.
- "Shawn Stevenson: "Sleep Smarter" | Talks at Google - YouTube." 22 Dec. 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fu6lbDBEnlY.
- Blue light has a dark side - Harvard Health." 2 Sep. 2015, http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side.