Three Decisions That Will Make or Break a Good Night of Sleep
If there is one keystone habit that affects almost every other area of my life it is simply SLEEP.
It seems so simple but yet such a challenge on any given night.
I was the guy who could stay up late and be ready to go in the morning. To everyone else, I was on my game but internally, I was exhausted and not my best.
And sadly, the average person brags about their lack of sleep as if it’s a contest that really matters like how busy we really are in our lives.
But do we want others to brag about and just get by on as little sleep as possible? I fly a ton. Do I want my pilot sleeping far less than what he needs to be effective and alert like everyone sleeping on his plane during the flight?
There is a reason why there are mandatory regulations of why a pilot or surgeon have mandated periods of rest before they can legally fly or operate.
Or the teacher who teach my kids or the semi-driver on the highway next to my car? Need I go on?
Tom Rath’s research shows four hours of sleep loss is equivalent to a staggering blood alcohol level of 0.19 which is double most legal limited. Holy Drunk Insomnia, Batman!
If you truly want to be an effective professional, sleep must be a high priority.
For me, since it affects so many other key areas of my life, it’s at the top. I’ve come to that reality and as a result, I must be discipline to maximize its results like anything else of value.
For example, when I don’t sleep well, I’m more likely to have a lousy workout or even miss a workout entirely. I’m more likely to be running late and lazy on my nutrition choices.
I’m simply far less productive. According to a Harvard Medical School study, the American economy loses $63 billion a year in lost productivity.
The reality is we know WHY we need to sleep and WHAT are the benefits of a good night sleep. But what truly needs to change each night to make a difference in our days with how we sleep at night?
Here are Three Decisions That Will Make or Break a Good Night of Sleep
1. The Quantity of Our Sleep
Many of us know of the study that discuss elite performers need 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to reach levels of expertise or greatness.
But did you know in that same 1993 study, professor K. Anders Ericsson references another factor that influenced peak performance: SLEEP.
On average, the best performers slept 8 hours and 36 minutes. The average American, for comparison, get just 6 hours and 51 minutes of sleep on weeknights.
What if we viewed ourselves with the same mindset of professionalism?
According to a Gallup poll, in U.S. we get 40% less than the recommended amount of sleep. We can argue HOW much sleep the average person needs, but you need to decide for you YOUR SLEEP NUMBER. What is your magic sleep number to perform at a high level?
Tom Rath in his book, Eat Move Sleep, suggests adding 15 minute increments each night until you find yourself fully rested the next morning. You may be surprised where you ultimately land on the time but it’s a must to find the right amount of sleep for you.
You may not know how sleep-deprived you actually are in your life. Try the 15 minute experiment to add sleep to your night.
I’ve changed my mindset in this area and increased my quantity of sleep to eight hours and what a difference it’s made. As a result, I could determine the 2nd decision…
2. Setting a Consistent Bed Time and Arise Time
This sounds so remedial but it’s amazing how random most people’s bed time is each night. But it’s critical for consistency sake.
If I allow myself more time to be up later in the evening, I will by nature fill it with anything and everything which pushes my bedtime even later.
Yet if I know I need to be in bed by a certain time, I magically seem to get everything done anyway. Imagine that.
According to Time, a recent study from Frontiers in Psychology found that the phenomenon, which the authors define as “failing to go to bed at the intended time, while no external circumstances prevent a person from doing so,” was related to insufficient sleep.
This is actually named a BedTime Procrastinator. I used to be one and now in recovery. How about you?
You know yourself. Are you a night owl or early riser? What routines do you need to do to set your bed and arise time? I’ve gone from a night owl to an early riser due to the overwhelming benefits. One of the main benefits is the early morning quiet to read and write. Who knew, right?!
In order for me to consistently get my 8 hours, I must plan 30 minutes of dead mental space before I sleep.
Personally, I need 30 minutes in bed before I usually fall asleep. And this cannot count towards actual sleep time. This means going to bed at 9:30pm so I’m sleeping between 10pm – 6am.
A consistent bed and arise time are a discipline that must be pre-determined and a priority.
3. The Quality of Our Sleep
Just because I’m in bed for eight hours does NOT mean I actually slept for that amount of time.
In bed does not mean quality sleep. I struggle in this area because I’ve not done a good job right before bed.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, more than nine in ten of us use electronic devices before sleep. Two problems:
- the lights from the electronic device (TV, computer, iPad, phone)
- our minds don’t shut off – ever read an email, tweet, watched a show that kept your mind active?
Are either or both of those part of your current routine? They sadly have been mine for way too long and I’ve recently changed them to begin slowing my mind down for bed.
Research also shows your sleeping conditions dramatically affect the quality of your sleep and three specific areas:
Darkness – having a completely dark room helps you relax and fall into deeper sleep longer
Temperature – a cooler room relaxes the body
Noise – some need it perfectly quiet while others need white noise such as a fan to block out all of the other sounds. I find this particularly true when I travel and in a hotel.
Personally I’ve had to experiment with how late I can eat or have a drink before bed since it affects my quality of sleep. I encourage you to try the same experiment.
The point is really thinking through what distractions you can remove and what elements you could add to enhance the quality of your sleep. These are decisions that only you can make and what a difference some intentionality can make if implemented.
We need sleep to keep us sharp the next day. We need to be fresh emotionally and physically. And we need to be ready to attack whatever the day ahead presents to us.
But this doesn’t happen naturally or by osmosis. It requires choosing and sticking to a consistent time and arise time. Lock it in.
I challenge you to try these three decisions for a week and measure your results. You may be amazed at the outcome.
What do you need to CHANGE TONIGHT to improve the quality of your sleep?