Hacking Your Sleep
Very few of us get enough sleep each night, and it can affect us all dramatically. Jack Edwards investigates the art of sleep hacking and offers some insight into how you can do it too…
For many years now I’ve personally struggled with getting decent quality sleep and enough of it at that. I had major insomnia at different points in my life and it’s driven me to fully master my sleeping cycle. In the process of doing so I have come across many crazy stories of the successful and their eccentric sleep methods, including many very easy techniques. Sleep is one of those subjects that’s so often neglected. From an early age our bedtimes are seen as a constraint that reinforces your infancy and naivety to the world. You spend your whole childhood waiting to grow up and eat what you like and stay up late, yet when you finally have the privilege, all you want to do is eat pizza and sleep as much as possible to hide away from the growing responsibilities.
So this is the reality of maturity, sleep is an essential part of life. So how can we master it to waste little time sleeping yet still feel fully rested and able to perform best?
Surprisingly (or not), those who’ve been considered the biggest successes credit their achievements to their eccentric sleep habits. Salvador Dali utilised a creative strategy called “slumber with a key”, a method devised by Capuchin monks. The technique enabled him to take a one second nap by making himself comfortable in a chair and holding a key in his hand above an upturned plate. As soon as Dali drifted off to sleep deep enough to let go of the key, it would drop to that plate and cause a clang that would instantly wake him back up. While Dali’s technique may have worked for his specific needs, it’s not one I’d recommend. So what are some sleep hacking techniques that don’t involve changing your lifestyle to achieve, or starving yourself of your recommended amount of hours per night?
How to achieve great sleep
o F.lux is a fantastic app if you regularly spend a lot of time on your computer before going to bed. Why? The bright blue light the screen uses to create a white image blocks your body’s production of melatonin, your sleep hormone. Without it, you don’t feel sleepy. What does F.lux do? (https://justgetflux.com)
Amber tinted glasses
o These are similar to F.lux but have a more direct approach. Wearing these glasses stops the amount of blue light from your phone, computer, TV and LED lamps, ultimately helping your body to create your sleep hormone. It’s best to wear them an hour or two before wanting to fall asleep.
o Caffeine is a powerful drug that most of us utilise for an extra boost of brainpower during the day. Energy drinks and coffee offer us that much needed caffeine fix, however due to our digestive system taking on average around 6 hours to process what’s in our stomachs , the latest we can consume coffee and not still feel the effect at bedtime mid afternoon.
o Not only is sugar before bed bad for your teeth, it also gives you an immediate energy boost that will disrupt your body’s natural process of becoming sleepy, To play it safe, try to cut out having any sugar at least 2-3 hours before bed.
o Exercise is a great tool for using up your body’s excess energy and bringing on helpful fatigue. If your body hasn’t exerted enough energy, it struggles to find a reason to need rest, which means although mentally you feel exhausted, physically you aren’t that tired. Exercise in the morning and at around 6pm is optimum for encouraging your brain and body to rest. Don’t exercise any time after two hours before bed, as that will trick the body into waking up again and becoming alert.
o Now we’ve been told this our whole lives by our parents and it is the most frustrating to maintain but it turns out that having a good sleeping routine is a great way of ensuring that when you go to sleep you drift off swiftly and that when you wake up, your body naturally does so without leaving you feeling still half asleep.
o After finishing dinner in the evening, turn the lights in the room you’re sitting in down halfway to trigger your bodies circadian rhythm.
These are the safe and healthy ways of hacking your sleep, but there are far more extreme methods out there that people use to get the most of their sleep and to make it fit in with their busy schedules. I’m not going to recommend any of those to you because I don’t want any of our readers dying from sleep deprivation. Don’t laugh – it’s a very real thing. Before you think that staying up for three days straight to get your essays finished before the deadline, consider the very real side effects of not giving your body enough sleep such as:
– Diminished cognitive and motor performance
– Impaired memory
– Blunted alertness
– Increased risk of injury
– Increased chances of depression and anxiety
By regularly depriving your body of the necessary amount of sleep it slowly encourages the likelihood of these side effects forming. Think of it this way: if you miss a nights sleep you feel horrific the next day and struggle to perform to a high enough standard that you usually would by having slept fine. If you continue to fall short of the right amount of sleep each night you are slowly building up that same effect of having missed an entire night, which ultimately leaves you just as useless.
So moral of the story kids is, get some sleep, put the energy drinks and smartphones down before bed and for sleep’s sake read a book…
Do you have any of your own sleep hacks we should know about? What’s your usual sleep routine? Let us know on Twitter at @rifemag