13 Tips for a Better Quality Sleep

///13 Tips for a Better Quality Sleep

13 Tips for a Better Quality Sleep

Improve the Quality of Your Sleep Now

By: Robert Eilers | NightOwl.FIT Community | December 11th 2017

Sleep Tips

I have spent the year researching and trying to understand every aspect related improving the quality of my sleep. After working night shift going on 9 years at the time of this writing I have gotten pretty obsessed with sleep. After spending quite a few sleepless days trying to get sleep I decided to try and hack my own sleep. Though I work night shift all of these sleep tips are not night shift specific. If you adopt literally any of them you can improve the quality of your sleep wether you are sleeping at night, or during the day.

These tips are an accumualation of a years worth of research into some of the best tips I have found to improve your sleep. Be sure to also check out our other posts related to sleep by checking out my other related sleep tips posts.

This is a quite a long post so be sure to bookmark it and come back

Sleep Tip One: The Value of Sleep

There is nothing quite like getting a good nights sleep. But, unfortunately, we don’t sleep at night, we work, unlike the rest of the world. Most of us on night shift understand the value of sleep, without actually getting it. The reality is most sites you go to these days will give you all the tips in the world about how to get a good nights rest. Never actually taking into account the millions of us that aren’t fortunate enough to know what that is like.

Sleep for us will always be something unescapable. The reality is even though we know we are tired, sleep just isn’t always in the cards for us. But we have to start somewhere.Over the next few weeks I will gather all the research I can in order to get you started.

The first step to a quality sleep is first understanding the value of sleep. It isn’t something we just want, it is something we need. Your body basically exists in two states, either catabolic or anabolic. These may not mean much to the every day person but to your body it is very important.

Being in a catabolic state  your body basically wasting away. Three factors contribute to a catabolic state. Not working out. Not eating enough good healthy food. Not getting sufficient rest.In a catabolic state you run the risk of your body cannibalizing muscle. Sleep is actually an elevated anabolic state, heightening the growth and rejuvenation of the immune, skeletal, and muscular systems. Basically, sleep rebuilds you and keeps you youthful.

High quality sleep fortifies your immune system, balances your hormones, boosts your metabolism, increases physical energy, and improves the function of your brain.

Being in a catabolic state isn’t all bad. Our bodies are constantly breaking down the food that we eat throughout the day. We are also in a  catabolic state when we are exercising. However at some point our body will need to recover. This is where the value of sleep comes in. Sleep is an anabolic state where our body is allowed to recover. This is especially important during shift work as our bodies have spent the night in a heightened level of stress, our cortisol levels have raised, and our hormones are off. We are the definition of an uphill battle.

This is why understanding the value of sleep is so important. If you think of your body as an engine we are already running on limited amount of oil and gas, without sleep you might as well just be running on water. Sure you can last a little, but in the end the damage you do to your body can be very dangerous.

So close your blackout curtains, don your face mask, and turn up your white noise generator. And sleep.

Sleep Tip Two: Caffeine Cut Off Time

Whether you are talking about our sacred coffee or the many other forms of caffeine available to us, setting a caffeine cut off time is vital to our sleep. We have all been there. You pull yourself into the office, or wherever else happen to be, you didn’t sleep well, and now you drag yourself over to that pot in hope something, anything, will give you that extra kick to make it through the shift. Having coffee isn’t the problem, having coffee all night long is. That is why having a  coffee cut off time is vital.

Caffeine is a powerful nervous system stimulant. So by having coffee past the caffeine cut off time, you are lighting up your nervous system, and you can forget about getting high quality sleep. What we don’t realize is that our coffee habits, even in the earlier part of the night, can affect us in the later part of the night. “But coffee doesn’t affect me” Trust me I have heard it, I have said it. Coffee does affect you, whether you realize its impact or not will become more noticeable when you attempt to sleep. This is why it is vital to have a caffeine cut off time.

Caffeine itself has a half life in our body of 1 hour up to 6 hours. What this means is the time taken for the body to eliminate one half of the caffeine. The caffeine cut of time also does not, according to recent studies, seem to be affected by age, or regular coffee consumption. What is does seem to be affected by is diet, as well as if you are pregnant the caffeine metabolic rate can jump up to 15 hours. That means depending on your bodies ability to metabolize your caffeine it may still be in your system when you are attempting to sleep.

So how does this really work, without all the science. Depending on when you start your shift, mine starts at 9:00 pm, you will need to set a caffeine cut off time of at least 6 hours before you plan on falling asleep. Each night I have found that I can consume, at the most, two cups of coffee, and then no later than 12:00 pm. Though do keep in mind that caffeine consumption is not limited to coffee.

Caffeine content of drinks and foods

Drinks/Foods Volume Caffeine (mg)Mean (range)
Filtered coffee 125 ml 85 (60-135)
Espresso 30 ml 60 (35-100)
Soluble instant coffee 125 ml 65 (35-105)
Decaffeinated coffee 125 ml 3 (1-5)
Tea (leaves or bag) 150 ml 32 (20-45)
Iced tea 330 ml 20 (10-50)
Hot chocolate 150 ml 4 (2-7)
Caffeinated soft drinks 330 ml 39 (30-48)
Sugar-free caffeinated soft drinks 330 ml 41 (26-57)
Energy drinks 330 ml 80 (70-120)
Chocolate bar 30 g 20 (5-36)
Milk chocolate 30 g 6 (1-15)
Dark chocolate 30 g 60 (20-120)

Alternatives to Coffee

  • Tart Cherry Juice: Researchers from Louisiana State University found that drinking Montmorency tart cherry juice twice a day for two weeks helped increase sleep time by nearly 90 minutes among older adults with insomnia. Tart cherries are a natural source of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle.
  • Chamomile tea: This herbal tea has a fruit-like flavor similar to apple and besides being delicious, has a number of valuable therapeutic properties. Chamomile is widely regarded as a mild tranquilizer and sleep-inducer. Sedative effects may be due to the flavonoid, apigenin.
    • I personally love the Twining teas and have used them for years, I will sometimes use Earl Grey in replace of coffee but the Chamomile tea is great right before bed.
  • A glass of Milk: Milk contains tryptophan (the amino acid is best known for being in turkey), which when released into the brain produces serotonin—a serenity-boosting neurotransmitter.
  • Almond Milk: It has calcium, which helps the brain produce melatonin, as well as magnesium, which is important for sleep regulation. If you don’t like almond milk, try taking a magnesium supplement.
  • Cardamom milk – an ancient Ayurvedic remedy to promote tranquility.
  • Reishi Mushrooms: For over 2000 years Reishi mushrooms have been recognized by Chinese medical professionals as a valuable remedy. Its Chinese name Lingzhi means “spiritual potency”. Reishi mushrooms are regarded by the Chinese as the “Medicine of Kings also called as “mushroom of immortality” and has been used as a tonic and strengthening medicine for thousands of years. Uses in traditional healing include increasing intellectual capacity and memory; promoting agility and lengthening the life span. These active extracts and fractions are useful for inhibiting tumor growth, modulating the immune response and increasing hematopoietic activity and so on. This paper reviews the significance of Reishi mushroom and its medicinal properties. I personally use Four Sigmatic not only for their coffee but their Organic Mushroom Elixir Mix before bed tops most.
  • Kava Tea– This is a slightly newer one to me but it has been shown to be stronger and more powerful than Chamomile.Definitely something worth looking into. kava has an active compound, called yangonin. This chemical is likely the one that makes some people compare it to marijuana since it affects the same brain receptors as THC — the chemical responsible for marijuana’s psychological effects.

Sleep Tip Three: Avoid the Screen Before Bed

Most people may not realize this but sitting in front of a screen can be detrimental to you health. Not only does the simple fact of sitting there do damage to your mobility. But the screen itself can wreak havoc on your sleep. This is why it is vital that you learn to avoid the screen.  Screens themselves emit an artificial blue light. Computers, tablets, and televisions alike are all emitting a this spectrum of blue light from their screen that will cause major sleep problems. What is happening is that tiny spectrum of light is actually causing your body to produce day time hormones that tell your body it is time to be awake. Now these hormones are not strictly “day time” they can be produced at night. What they do is tell your body it is time to be awake. Hormones like cortisol. The reason they do this is because the sun itself emits this blue light. The sun being the obvious indication that it is time to be awake, or when it goes down, time to be asleep. Sitting in front of your devices is similar to giving yourself artificial sunlight, hence telling your body that it is time to be awake.

Cortisol is typically referred to as the stress hormone. But cortisol isn’t all bad. During a typical day shift you would want your cortisol levels to be high, which would then have the impact of waking you up. So in theory working night shift you would want it to be high at the beginning of your shift, and then lowered towards the end. In theory. When your cortisol levels remain high, as they are stimulated by the blue light, it makes it difficult for you to relax and fall asleep. Cortisol can be raised for any number of reasons, not just the blue light, so it is important to keep it in mind.

The simplest solutions is to simply avoid the screen by implementing a tv curfew. In our house devices and television are typically cut off an hour before bed. Working the night shift this become a bit easier because as I arrive home I am helping everyone get out the door. So television is usually not an issue for me. However one sneaky little culprit is the sun. The sun happens to emit a blue light spectrum all on its own. Hence how day time people seem to know its time to be awake, and then know when its time to be asleep. Unfortunately we don’t have such luck. So we have to find artificial means.

Tips to Avoid the Screen

  • Blue Light Blocking Goggles
  • iPhone Night Shift Mode  (Filters the Blue/Green Wavelength)
  • f.lux app for mac (Filters the Blue/Green Wavelength)
  • Turn off the TV (At least 1 hour)
  • Get more sunlight during the day and less at night( Not to mention the melatonin and vitamin D benefits)
  • Use Dim Red lights for night lights instead of LED bulbs which emit more blue light

Remember as you arrive home from your shift you are going to want to avoid as much as possible all forms of blue light emitting devices, up to an including the sun. Depending on when your shift ends the sun may be the hardest to avoid. That is why investing in a  decent pair or blue light blocking glasses would be beneficial. When you arrive home it might be tempting to check your email, hop in front of the tv, and watch netflix on your tablet in bed. If you have an app on your devices this may be okay. But if you don’t, sleep quality will suffer. So remember, avoid the screen.

Sleep Tip Four: Stay Cool

Anyone who has ever spent the day tossing and turning while trying to asleep can already understand the benefits of staying cool. However most people don’t know why it is important to stay cool. Being efficient myself I tend to try and keep the temperature in my house as close to as high, or low, as humanly possible depending on the seasons. Since moving into our new home it has been easier to shut off the downstairs unit, while keeping upstairs unit at 70 in the winter, and 78 in the summer. Some people may look at these numbers and laugh, thinking, I can handle much colder or warmer, either way. But do you know the optimal temperature is actually a cool 68 degrees. It is why those of us burdened with night shift might find it easier to sleep during the winter. That and the sun doesn’t come up and emit its blue light rays to mess with us. The point is keeping cool while asleep is important, either in the winter or the summer.

Our bodies go through a process called thermoregulation which influences our sleep cycles. What happens is as you lay down your body automatically drops is core body temperature to help bring on sleep. If the temperature in your room is to high your body will struggle maintain the balance. Therefore it is important to stay cool when you are trying to get a restful day’s sleep. Anything above 75 or below 54 will interrupt your bodies ability to stay cool. Keep in mind as well that heat rises. So while you may be trying to save on your utility bill, you may not being saving on your sleep.

This is why understanding the value of sleep is so important. If you think of your body as an engine we are already running on limited amount of oil and gas, without sleep you might as well just be running on water. Sure you can last a little, but in the end the damage you do to your body can be very dangerous.

So close your blackout curtains, don your face mask, and turn up your white noise generator. And sleep.

Tips to Stay Cool

Sleep Tip Five: Use Magnesium for Sleep

Those who have been in or around a gym for a while may or may not have heard of a supplement called ZMA. ZMA is simply Zinc, Magnesium, and B6, yeh I don’t understand it either. However, for the purposes of the quality of our sleep I would like to talk about Magnesium. Magnesium is a bit of a powerhouse in our bodies functions. About 300 to be exact. The one we are primarily concerned with is how we can use magnesium for sleep. Check out the list below to see all the benefits of magnesium

Use Magnesium for Sleep

  • Magnesium helps produce hormones like serotonin. Which are helpful in calming the brain and causing us to relax
  • Magnesium helps optimize circulation and blood pressure
  • Magnesium relieves muscle aches & Spasms
  • Magnesium can help prevent Migraines
  • Magnesium can help with anxiety or depression
  • Magnesium can help with Restless Leg Syndrome(RLS)

80% of us are not getting enough magnesium, and with it being so important to so many functions it is hard to use magnesium for sleep if you aren’t getting enough! That doesn’t mean you should run out and get a bottle of magnesium right now. Truth is so many supplement companies are getting caught using filler content, or not even containing what they say they do. The easiest way to ensure you are getting enough of anything is to make sure you are getting enough of something in your diet. You should always start your meals with dark leafy greens, which are rich in magnesium.

  • Spinach — 1 cup: 157 milligrams (40% DV)
  • Chard — 1 cup: 154 milligrams (38% DV)
  • Pumpkin seeds — 1/8 cup: 92 milligrams (23% DV)
  • Yogurt or Kefir — 1 cup: 50 milligrams (13% DV)
  • Almonds — 1 ounce: 80 milligrams (20% DV)
  • Black Beans — ½ cup: 60 milligrams (15% DV)
  • Avocado — 1 medium: 58 milligrams  (15% DV)
  • Figs — ½ cup: 50 milligrams (13% DV)
  • Dark Chocolate — 1 square: 95 milligrams (24% DV)
  • Banana — 1 medium: 32 milligrams (8% DV)

If you decide to go the supplement route here is a list of a few products I have personally tried. Since the digestion process loses some of the magnesium the ideal form of magnesium is transdermal. However this may not always be idea. But remember magnesium for sleep is important, so make sure you are getting enough.

Sleep Tip Six: Natural Sleep Aids

Sleeping is vital to our function and survival. We all know it, yet I can attest many of us are not getting enough of it. While lifestyle changes are the preferred method to increasing not only the duration but the quality of your sleep sometimes we want a shortcut. This isn’t the preferred method to improving your sleep but natural sleep aids do have their place. I would not however recommend that you use the barbiturate style sleep aids prescribed by a doctor. While these will certainly help you sleep they also are not natural. As well many of us know waking up during the day is an almost common occurrence sometimes. These type of non natural sleep aids can not only suppress your nervous system but can cause dependance, grogginess, as well as sedation. Natural sleep aids on the other hand have very little dependency and none of the side effects.

Natural Sleep Aids: Tea

  • Chamomile Chamomile is one of the oldest, most widely used and well documented medicinal plants in the world and has been recommended for a variety of healing applications.Traditionally, chamomile has been used for centuries as an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, mild astringent and healing medicine.Chamomile is widely regarded as a mild tranquillizer and sleep-inducer. Sedative effects may be due to the flavonoid, apigenin that binds to benzodiazepine receptors in the brain. Be sure to check out this brand for a high quality tea.
  • Valerian-The extract of the root of valerian (Valeriana officinalis), a flowering plant, has been widely used to treat sleeping disorders in Europe for decades. Valerian has been shown to have similar affects on the nervous system similar to other medications which bind to GABA  receptors. GABA receptors in the brain have the ability to either calm you or make you more anxious. Natural sleep aids like valerian typically have a more calming affect. I love Rishi for this as well.
  • Green- While some versions of green tea have caffeinated properties, it still has its place on this list. Green Tea contains theanine which has been known to cause EEG brain waves to smooth out. Typically I will reach for a green tea throughout my day as well as water and then have a cup of valerian mixed with Chamomile before bed. All of which are great natural sleep aids. For an upgrade with matcha which is even better then plain green try this tea. 

Natural Sleep Aids: Kava Kava

In addition to its ceremonial uses, kava is best known for its relaxing qualities. Kava is said to elevate mood, well being, and contentment, and produce a feeling of relaxation. Several studies have found that kava may be useful in the treatment of anxiety, insomnia, and related nervous disorder. Though also possible to be prepared in tea form it is included separate from the other natural sleep aids as it isn’t something I have taken before. However from my research it has been shown to calm muscles, reduce anxiety, and help aid in sleep quality. As far as natural sleep aids go those three things top my list for improving sleep.

Natural Sleep Aids: Essential Oils

A while back a photography client of mine recommended to me a natural oil that I could try that has been shown in double blind studies to improve sleep quality. Now to be honest when I first heard of natural oils as natural sleep aids I really didn’t think it was worth its salt. Though when you sleep during the day like we do any added improvement in sleep quality is beneficial. What she recommended to me was DoTerra Serenity. It comes in both a pill and an oil form. I ordered both.

Here is what it contains:

Lavender Flower, Cedarwood, Ho Wood Leaf, Ylang Ylang Flower, Marjoram Leaf, Roman Chamomile Flower, Vetiver Root, Vanilla Bean Absolute, Hawaiian Sandalwood Wood

I can honestly say after a day of sleep from taking the oil and the pill I had the best sleep that I have had in a very long time. Natural sleep aids typically work wonders because they don’t have any of the toxic side effects. Serenity is no different. I woke up feeling like I had actually slept for the first time in a whileNatural

Sleep Aids: Essential Oils

Previously I have covered using magnesium as a natural sleep aid but I couldn’t leave it off this list. You can go back and see the article here for more in depth information.

  • Magnesium helps produce hormones like serotonin. Which are helpful in calming the brain and causing us to relax
  • Magnesium helps optimize circulation and blood pressure
  • Magnesium relieves muscle aches & Spasms
  • Magnesium can help prevent Migraines
  • Magnesium can help with anxiety or depression
  • Magnesium can help with Restless Leg Syndrome(RLS)

I have intentionally left melatonin off the list as using melatonin can suppress your bodies ability to make its own. Also melatonin is a hormone and therefore should not be included with natural sleep aids. Should you decide to take melatonin, as I once did, know that it works, but it easy to us too much of it. Also don’t become dependent on it. Natural sleep aids are always the way to go if you want natural supplementation without any side affects on your body. But as stated before these are still supplementation to natural lifestyle changes that should happen in your life.

Sleep Tip Seven: Benefits of Sunlight for Sleep

Too much sunlight has generally been associated with being bad, for good reason. Though to be honest getting too much sunlight isn’t something that we typically have issue with on night shift. But truthfully it is important that we are getting some sunlight. But the benefits of sunlight go beyond just their sleep benefits. As you will see.

Benefits of Sunlight: Serotonin

Exposure to sun is thought to increase production of the hormone serotonin. Serotonin production has been shown to have a calming effect on the brain. Much like that effect we get when we experience that first cup of coffee. Not from the coffee itself but the experience of that first cup of coffee. It can be quite relaxing if you don’t work in a high stress job. But I digress.

If the body does not get enough sunlight it can cause your serotonin levels to drop in the body. This has been shows to bring on the SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, or simply Depression. For those of us that may or may not be taking anti-depressants as a way of dealing with night shift, just think of the benefits of sunlight as natures own anti-depressant.

There are special receptors in the retina that when light hits them will cause a release of serotonin. Personally I would of for the natural benefits of sunlight over hormone laden medicines.

Benefits of Sunlight: Melatonin

The science behind melatonin production isn’t as well researched as the science behind it for day shift workers. Hence NightOwl.FIT. To break it down typically when an individual wakes up and is exposed to the sun it kicks of their biological clock. Their biological clock tells them it is time to be awake.When the light goes down Melatonin production kicks in and tells the body to slow back down it is time to get ready for some good rest. However as we know on Night Shift, we really aren’t supposed to be awake. It isn’t biologically natural. But we are either way.

So when you wake up initially you will want to expose yourself to some sunlight, while the effects of melatonin production will be limited we can still enjoy them. What you will want to try to do as the end of your nigh approaches is limit other light sources. It has been shown in studies that most night shift individuals actually are going to sleep 3 hours before their melatonin production kicks in during the day. That means if you are going to bed at 5:00 when your shift ends, your melatonin production might not even be starting until 8:00. To keep it simple, get the benefits of sunlight early in your shift, and then limit it, and all light sources near the end.

Benefits of Sunlight: Mental Health

One of the treatments for SAD is light therapy, which is also known as phototherapy. A doctor can recommend a special light box designed to stimulate the brain to make serotonin and reduce excess melatonin production. Be careful using these on night shift as some studies vary on the level, the direction, or where the photo receptors on the skin need to be stimulated in order to have positive affects. Be sure to discuss this with your doctor. However, why go see a doctor when you have a big giant light box right outside, sometimes you just have to wake up early enough to see it.

Other benefits of sunlight mentally include a reduction in anxiety disorders, panic attacks and non seasonal depression.

As your night begins to come to an end you will want to attempt to limit your exposure as much as possible to light. This may not always be possible but if you drive home as the sun is coming up you will want to ideally avoid this light.

Benefits of Sunlight

Benefits of Sunlight: Vitamin D Production

While sunlight over the years has gotten a really bad wrap you can start to see that in reality there are quite a few benefits of sunlight. So many of our essential vitamins must be received from foods, but with Vitamin D you can get a quick dose of it from the sun. Vitamin D can be synthesized in the skin through a photosynthetic reaction triggered by exposure to UVB radiation.

30 Minute of sun exposure to individuals will make the following vitamin D levels bearing in mind that this is affected by clothing, weight, and skin pigment:

  • 50,000 international units (IUs) in most Caucasian people
  • 20,000 to 30,000 IUs in tanned people
  • 8,000 to 10,000 IUs in dark skinned people

Skin pigment is thought to have developed as a biological adaptation to the need for sun exposure. In cooler climates where individual were shown to wear more clothes for sun exposure, the heavier thicker pigment wasn’t able to get as much sunlight. Even still doctors for generations have actually recommended sun lamps as a way to ensure proper levels of vitamin D to prevent weak bones. However it is possible to get some level of vitamin D from your foods as northerns cultures for generations have know that essential fatty foods and fish contain high levels of Vitamin D.

Sleep Tip Eight: Blackout Curtains for Better Sleep

A few years ago we lived in this rental property that had this gorgeous back sun room, tile floors, wall to wall windows, simply beautiful. Then one day we had this bright idea, no pun intended, to make that room our bedroom. My two eldest kids, before my little one, needed to have their own room. So we decided to move our bedroom into the sunroom. However with with eight windows this created a problem. How do I get sleep during the day with eight windows giving me the full effect of the sun? Blackout Curtains. Lots of them.

Out of all the tips I have listed this is hands down the number one tip I have found to instantly improve your sleep immediately. When I first started on night shift my boss told me that when she started she came home from work and instantly opened up the blinds and let the sun in. Her idea was that if she was going to embrace the night shift she would have to be all in. However, light when you are trying to sleep during the day is the enemy. Any light.

Blackout curtains serve one purpose if you hope to sleep during the day, elimination of light. However, just blackout curtains may not be enough. My wife loves to tell me that I am obsessed with light. The reason she says this is because in our bedroom I have gone above and beyond to eliminate all light. By why?

We have discussed on this site the science behind what light does, essentially when you are awake your sleep clock tells you it is time to be awake, and then when it is time for sleep melatonin production kicks in and it is time to sleep. But how does your body know it is time to be awake? Light. Light from any source, the sun, your lamps, even the led on your alarm clock, all of these are telling your body in some way it is time to be awake. When your body thinks it is time to be awake it will limit melatonin production. Making it harder for you to sleep.

For centuries our ancestors did not have to worry about chasing the darkness. It was natural. The invention of electricity however provided ample sources of unnatural light, which began to have a huge impact on our sleep quality. Working night shift though we have to contend with the biggest light source their is, the sun. The sun is the most natural way to tell our body it is time to be awake. Hence the need for blackout curtains. With blackout curtains you stand the best chance of increasing your sleep quality.

I want to stress though blackout curtains aren’t the end all solution. The goal through all of this is the elimination of light in your room. Blackout curtains are the start, not the end. In order to eliminate all light from your room you will need to get your windows completely dark. There are plenty of methods to do this that we will eventually cover, or review on this site. For now I can give you a brief overview of what I have done in my room to eliminate light.

  • Blackout Curtains– Don’t skimp, high quality blackout curtains like what hotels use are harder to find, but they are worth it.
  • Second set of curtains- these don’t need to be blackout curtains but they will act of some level of decoration, and also help to fight side light.
  • Blackout roller shades- This is actually the first level of sun fighting protection. I personally have roller shades, blackout curtains, and decorative curtains
  • Door Sweep- For side light I feed the side of my roller shades into draft guards that i have attached to she side of the window frame. You are looking for the kind that slides on, that way you have a part that will attach to the frame, and a part that will block the light. Something like this here.
  • Valance- this is a curtain, or covering of some kind that goes over all of your curtains towards the top. This will stop top light leakage.
  • No TV- get this out of your room, your room is for sleep, and maybe some other things, but not tv.
  • No Electronics- make a deal with yourself that if you want to sleep better, your room will be a device free zone, if it emits light get it out.

Sleep Tip Nine: Create Your Own Sleep Sanctuary

A simple tip for creating the optimal sleep is to create your own sleep sanctuary. A sanctuary is usually considered a term associated with a shrine or a sacred place. For our need your sleep sanctuary is your place of inner peace, your temple, your sacred sleep place.

One of the major issue that I have seen when it comes to sleep, wether it is for night shift or for day shift, is that people think their bedroom should be for anything other then sleep. If you walk into most people’s bedrooms you will find an overload of electronic equipment, alarm clocks, phones, laptops, and the major criminal a television. All of these devices turn your bedroom into something it is not.

We have talked previously about blue light that interrupts you sleep. To touch on it briefly again this light is the same light spectrum emitted from the sun that tells your body it is time to be awake. When you are in bed, trying to sleep, the last thing you want is your body thinking it is time to be awake. It is hard enough when you have the light of the sun itself high in the sky, why add to that with devices.

The point I want to touch on here is neuro-association.

From the great Tony Robbins “Have you ever found yourself in the early stages of accomplishing something, then destroying it? This kind of self-sabotage is usually the result of mixed neuro-associations associating pain and pleasure to the same situation.”

Guaranteed he isn’t talking specifically about sleep itself but the concept stands. Your bedroom needs to be associated with sleep. Your mind needs to believe that when you go to bed it is time to go to bed. There is only one other activity that you should be doing in your bed beside sleep, but when you come home from work after a long night, it usually isn’t be best time. That one activity is sex. But we will touch on that later.

For the purposes of your sleep sanctuary your mind needs to believe that the moment you enter your shrine to sleep it is time to begin the slow breakdown to sleep. The never ending cycle of letting your mind and your body recover after the night shift. I think refereeing to your sleep sanctuary as a shrine, or a sacred place, helps stress the importance of what should be happening in the bedroom. Sleep.

I have posted enough articles on here so far for people to understand what happens when you don’t get enough sleep, and how you can remedy that through lifestyle changes as well as diet. However if you aren’t creating a space, or sleep sanctuary,  for you to actually sleep in your mind still will not let you sleep. Your mind is the ultimate barrier that will hinder your sleep. We will touch on that in another sleep tip, quieting the mind.

Your sleep sanctuary needs to be your sacred place of sleep, your temple to the sleep gods, if there was such a thing. In summation, get your tv out of your room, your tablet and phone too. There should be nothing in your bedroom that causes you to associate that space with anything other then sleep. Bear in mind I personally use my phone as my alarm clock. However to minimize its effect my phone is placed in nigh shift mode, do not disturb mode, and is set on my night stand not to be used. I do not browse Facebook with it to check in before bed, I do not check my email, all of this happens when I wake up.

Create a sleep sanctuary, not a workplace.

Sleep Tip Ten: Wear Socks to Bed

Today’s tip might seem like a an overly silly one but in truth depending on the individual this may actually help you. For a very long time I was unable to wear socks to bed but once I ran across this sleep tip from the sleep foundation I decided to give it a try. Usually I cannot have anything on my feet, however as my wife likes to point out I usually wrap myself in a cocoon. I can tell you if you can get over the feeling of something on your feet, or you have no problem with it anyways, it works.

So here is the science behind why it works. One of the important parts of being able to sleep, and stay asleep, is blood circulation. The quickest way to interrupt blood circulation is to have cold extremities. The quickest way to ensure your body is getting enough heat throughout your body is blood circulation. As your feet or hands warm your body will be able to circulate blood properly.

The process of warming your feet causes vasodilation, which is the process that opens up the blood vessels to allow blood to circulate more easily. In fact, some research has shown that the more vasodilation in the hands and feet, the less time it takes to fall asleep.

Advice from Sleep.Org

  • Layer extra blankets on top of your comforter, over the bottom portion of the bedspread, to create extra warmth for your feet.
  • Invest in a basic hot water bottle ($10 and up at drugstores) or a heating pad ($15 to $85 at drugstores) to use to warm up the foot of your bed before bedtime.
  • Splurge on luxurious plush footwear, such as cashmere, to wear in bed. A pair of cashmere socks start at about $20.
  • Test out slippers: Wear some cozy, insulated ones before bedtime to help prep yourself for sleep.

Sleep Tip Eleven: Have an Orgasm

When I first started writing these sleep tips I discussed how the bedroom should only be used for two things. The first of those is the obvious sleep. The second of those is an orgasm. These are the only two things you should be doing in your bedroom. If you were doing anything else, using your phone, watching tv, you are interrupting your bodies ability to get good high-quality sleep. Having an orgasm is like taking a full-on sedative before trying to crash. But why does this work? Let us dive into the science(as if you needed a reason).

Insert sciency stuff here:

  • Oxytocin– known as the bonding hormone, counteracts stress hormones, which helps you fall asleep. Oxytocin counters the effects of cortisol, which is the known as the stress hormone. Like other sleep tips is has the ability to give off a calming effect which will leave you feeling more tranquil, and therefore sleep better.
  • Serotonin– help the body cycle through REM and deep non-REM sleep cycles. First, serotonin comes in to help facilitate deep nonREM sleep.
  • Norepinephrine– After serotonin kicks in and runs is cycle norepinephrine will kick in to facilitate REM sleep. Helping to maintain your sleep cycles.
  • Vasopressin– help the body cycle through REM and deep non-REM sleep cycles. Vasopressin has also been shown to reduce cortisol as well as eliminating the interruption of getting up to go to the bathroom every couple of hours, and allowing you to sleep.
  • Prolactin– Historically human beings naturally slept in two distinct phases, with a period of wakefulness separating the two phases. After this first phase is typically when many of our ancestors would h. During have sexual relations. During this intimacy is when the hormone prolactin is released. The release of prolactin is linked to the feeling of sexual satisfaction, and it also mediates the “recovery time” that men are well aware of—the time a guy must wait before “giving it another go.”

All of these are released during an orgasm. The good news for those that are single is these effects can be achieved solo. Though the big “O” is always better with a partner.

Sleep Tip Twelve: Train Smarter

In case you haven’t already noticed each week we have been building up to one ultimate plan to improve your sleep quality. There is a reason for this. Without sleep, none of the other advice that I provide will have the impact that you hope to achieve. If your sleep issues are not corrected your diet, your training, your life will be completely off track right from the start. I was hesitant at first to even approach the subject of training as without sleep it makes training irrelevant. However, if you are already training, looking at training, or just want to read about it without actually doing it, ha, then it is important you learn to train smarter.

When to train is less of the issue here, and honestly something I am still figuring out myself. What you do when you train is equally if not more important than when you train. Training itself even when you are on day shift is about efficiency. Getting the most amount of bang for your buck as they say. I hate to say it but most people don’t actually know where to start. So they go into the gym hop on to the first electronic or pulley machine and just plod away without any real plan. While I commend these people for simply showing up, there is a way to train smarter. Over the years I have tried a myriad of routines each with their own benefit. There was a period where I was doing long distance running mixed with some sort of weight training routine. When it came to sleep I was sleeping great, but it all eventually took a toll on my body.

Here are some of the routines that I definitely recommend for training smarter:

HITT/Tabatha Training: The research is definitely clear when it comes to cardio LISS(Low Impact Solid State) training is simply not as effective as high impact training. That isn’t to say that LISS training doesn’t have its place. But it isn’t as efficient as HITT training. In my running days I learned very quickly that in order to increase my aerobic capacity, my ability to run farther faster, I needed to incorporate bouts of higher intensity into my running. When running this would mean a cycle of standard jogging following by a cycle of sprinting or faster running. Though not everyone wants to run. So HITT routines have become quite popular. Simply hop on youtube or browse workouts online for these. In order to train smarter though the cycle where you are going faster should be all out. It isn’t just walking than jogging, though in the beginning, this may be all you can handle.

5/3/1 Routine: This is a great weight training program for building strength. It is also very time conscious. The idea behind the workout is that you focus on the 4 main lifts squats, deadlift, bench press, and shoulder press. These are your staple lifts when building strength. And with only 4 main lifts all you need to train is 4 or even 3 days per week. Unless you like me and like to add in a couple cardio days in the mix with some HITT or Tabatha. If you choose 4 days each day you will focus on one of the main lifts followed by 2 accessory moves for that body part. The nice thing is that if you only have time for the main lift then you can just do that and then head home.

Here is how the 5/3/1 Breaks down. You will need to know your max for a specific lift, and probably how to do the lift as well, in order to complete a cycle.

Each training cycle lasts four weeks, with these set-rep goals for each major lift:

Week 1     3 x 5
Week 2    3 x 3
Week 3    3 x 5, 3, 1
Week 4    Deload

  Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4
Set 1   65% x 5   70% x 3   75% x 5   40% x 5
Set 2   75% x 5   80% x 3   85% x 3   50% x 5
Set 3   85% x 5   90% x 3   95% x 1   60% x 5

Percentages are percentages of your max. But you need to tax your max first and only do 90% of that. So for example, if your deadlift is 360 first take 90% of that 324. This will be the actual max you plug into the chart. For a more in-depth explanation check out this article. 

Hybrid Training: I call this hybrid but for me this means Crossfit. CrossFit is constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity. Crossfit isn’t for everyone and considering some of the technicality to perform some fo the movements it might be best to actually attend a Crossfit gym. However, if you have the time you can learn most of these on your own. Years ago I discovered CrossFit and it has been a cure for my gym boredom. I have very bad ADHD, so your standard weight lifting routine, or LISS cardio, is rather boring to me. Crossfit is a cure for that. Crossfit is made up of Olympic lifting moves, gymnastic moves, and other high state cardio moves such as the box jump or the burpee.

What I like most about these three training routines is the amount of time you have to commit to each. HITT training requires the least amount of time followed by the 5/3/1 routine, and then finally Crossfit. Each of these, starting with your warmup, can be completed in under and hour, with some workouts coming in under 10 minutes. The importance with all of these is that you only push as hard as you are capable of. I can tell you though that learning to train smarter gave my sleep a huge bump. After a good Crossfit routine by body wants nothing more than to curl up in bed and recover.

Sleep Tip Thirteen: Snacking Before Bed

We are actually beginning to approach the end of our sleep tips. Hopefully, if you have been following along each week you have seen an improvement in the quality of your sleep. If not maybe the last few tips are just what you need to start sleeping better now. As I started doing the research for this diet I hit a ton of misinformation that frankly can be very unhelpful for those that work the night shift, let alone someone who is just trying to get good information. Snacking before bedtime is really just the tip of the iceberg for some of us. The reason I say this is that quite a few individuals choose to workout right after their shift ends. Ideally, in my own opinion, the best time to workout would be shortly after waking up. More on this later.

To dive straight into snacking before bed first, for those that don’t always want a long drawn out conclusion, ideally, you should avoid any carbs before heading down for sleep. The reason behind this is carbohydrates will cause an insulin spike in your system. The intensity of this spike will depend upon they type of food you eat. To understand which carbs do what you have to familiarize yourself with the glycemic index. Most people don’t want to dive into the science of figuring all that out so I will give you a quick idea of what I am talking about. Low glycemic good, high glycemic bad. What happens is that when a food creates a spike in your insulin or blood sugar, it will inevitably also lead to a crash when your system runs through the blood sugar, and if you happen to be asleep when this hypoglycemia hits it will make sleep all the more difficult. As a precursor to this list, I follow along with a more paleo style diet but some of these things are not paleo, but it is meant for everyone to follow. Even those that don’t want to follow along with paleo.

LOW GLYCEMIC CARBOHYDRATES

Here is a preferred list of some of the foods that are “Low Glycemic”, and are recommended for sustained energy levels (slower absorption, lowered insulin response):

  • Nuts
  • Legumes
  • Fructose (Basic sugar found in fruits)
  • Pasta (Boiled 5 min.)
  • Dairy ( Ice cream, skim milk, whole milk, yogurt)
  • Fruits (ONLY-plums, peaches, apples, oranges, pears, grapes, grapefruit)(contains fructose)
  • Rice (polished), or brown
  • Sweet potato
  • Oats
  • All-bran
  • Most Vegetables ( exceptions- carrots, corn, root vegetables

HIGH GLYCEMIC CARBOHYDRATES

Here is a list of some of the foods that are “High Glycemic”(quickly absorbed, high insulin response)

  • Sugars (from high to low: Maltose, Glucose, Sucrose)
  • Honey
  • Puffed cereals (white rice, wheat, corn, rice cakes)YES! RICE CAKES
  • Potatoes ( regular russet, instant, mashed)
  • Candy
  • Bread (especially white bread)
  • Instant products ( instant: rice, oatmeal, wheat, grits)
  • Carrots, corn, peas
  • Flaked cereals (corn flakes, etc.)
  • Corn chips

Ok, so we covered that eating high glycemic carbs before bed is bad. But what is good? Protein. If you are going to eat anything before bed then you should be eating protein. Also be aware that protein rich foods can also contain carbohydrates. Such as milk. The lactose found in milk is actually a simple sugar, which is a carbohydrate. This is just one example.

Protein will not create an insulin spike like high glycemic carbs and will also help with making you feel fuller.

  • Cottage cheese
  • Salmon
  • Greek Yogurt with Flax Seeds
  • Canned Tuna
  • Casein Protein Shake, low sugar
  • Beef Jerky
  • Hard Boiled Egg
  • Almonds

Now to get into timing. Depending on your schedule you should honestly try to keep any meals or snack outside of a 90-minute window before sleeping. I know many times as soon as I get home after work I would immediately ingest a protein shake, which will sometimes include 6oz of Bolthouse Green Goodness. I never really realized that this was actually bad for the longest time. Getting into some of the science. Studies have been done that show that most people who work night shift actually fall asleep before their ideal melatonin window kicks in. If you have read any of my previous articles you know that Melatonin is the sleep hormone. If you fall asleep before it reaches its high point then you are going to have trouble sleeping. What that means is if you can manage it with your schedule you shouldn’t be going to bed immediately after getting off your shift. Some people won’t be able to help this I know. Another thing that I misunderstood for years is the myth that was pushed is the anabolic window. This is the magic 30-minute window in which you are supposed to ingest something high protein, preferably fast digesting like whey, within 30 minutes of any weight training. As I workout directly after my shift this makes my window conflict with my bedtime eating window.

A recent study from the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition examined this phenomenon. When it came to building lean muscle mass, protein timing wasn’t a factor. Across all the studies, groups that gorged on protein immediately after exercise fared little better than those who simply ate the same amount of protein throughout the day.

To keep is simple for those that don’t want to dive into everything above. Eat a high protein snack before your bedtime. Keep your snack outside of a 90-minute window. And try to wait at least 90 minutes before sleeping after your shift to allow your melatonin to reach its highest levels.

By | 2017-12-11T13:35:47+00:00 December 11th, 2017|Health, Sleep Tips|0 Comments

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