The Most Important Thing You Did Today…

Sleep. Yes, it is that important.Our ultimate focus should be on creating the most efficient and effective sleep possible. What does efficient and effective sleep look like?

Mighty Good Monday to YOU!

Sleep. Yes, it is that important.

Increasing the amount of quality sleep you get on a nightly basis is the single most beneficial thing you can do to positively impact your memory, focus, body weight, mood, energy, performance, and immune function. Who doesn’t want to improve in all of these areas?!

What’s the catch? Usually, to get more sleep requires a trade. You must give up perhaps your most priceless possession, time. It appears this is how our country got into this mess to begin with.

The average American sleeps only 6.2 hours sleeping each night according to a survey. And if you consider that this was a survey, and that Americans are some of the worst in terms of sleep efficiency (actual time asleep verses time in bed), it is probably far less than sleep than that. In some ways, sadly, little sleep has almost become a sign that you are a hard-worker. It’s that “hustle” or “grind” mentality that businesspeople seem to take pride in. Do you think you function well on 5 hours of sleep? Maybe you have adapted a bit and are doing OK, but you are far from thriving.

My time is just a precious as yours, trust me, I get it. Before we start going to bed at 8:30 PM or sleeping in, our first goal should be to create the most efficient and effective sleep possible. What does efficient and effective sleep look like?

  1. Fall asleep fast, but not too fast.
    • The sweet spot that I’ve found is between 12-15 minutes. If you are dozing off in less than 5 minutes, it is a sign that you are sleep deprived.
  2. You have to be ASLEEP for it to count as sleep.
    • As a general rule, spending 85% of your time in bed asleep is an acceptable score.
    • I always push my clients to expect 90% or more each night.
  3. Spend as much time as possible in the REM and Deep stages of the sleep cycle.
    • REM is short for rapid eye movement. This is the stage of your sleep that is associated with dreaming, but also with memory consolidation, learning and creativity. On average, adults spend 20-25% of your their time asleep in REM. I push my clients, and myself, to expect greater than 25% each night.
    • Deep sleep, also known as slow wave sleep, is the most restorative and rejuvenating stage of sleep. This is the stage where your muscle repair and growth takes place, your body is relaxed, blood pressure lowers, and it’s also harder to wake you up. On average, adults spend 15-20% of their total sleep time in deep sleep. I push my clients, and myself, to expect to spend 25% or more in deep sleep.

I track my sleep every single night using an Oura ring, and I have every client that I coach wear one as well. Every morning, I wake up and can analyze exactly what my night of sleep looked like. These 3 photos give you some insight into how my sleep looked from last night. Not bad, really. Especially considering we have a 3-week old baby sleeping in our room that wakes up to nurse every 3 hours.

Even at 90% sleep efficiency, I was only actually asleep fo 7 hours and 21 minutes of the 8 hours and 10 minutes that I spent in bed. Even so, I will take 90% efficiency given our current sleep situation all day long! Digging deeper, we see that I I achieved 22% REM and 27% Deep. Looking at the third photo, you can even see at what point during the night you are in each sleep stage. I, along with most people, get the largest chunk of our ever-so-important deep sleep during our first few hours of sleep. This is why setting the stage for sleep is so critical. If deep sleep is the most important stage, and we are getting most of it in the beginning hours of our night of sleep, then we need to do everything possible to ensure those first few hours are uninterrupted.

These are 5 simple steps that I take each day to give myself the best opportunity for long initial periods of deep sleep:

  1. Exercise
    • Exercise during the day (not too close to bedtime) helps you to fall asleep fast.
  2. Dim the lights
    • Once the sun sets, dim the lights in your house. If you don’t have dimmer switches installed (I highly recommend it), then use lamps to light your home.
    • At night, we use incandescent bulbs on a dimmer switch to prep our family for a restful night of sleep. See the picture of our nighttime lighting in our bedroom…
    • Make sure you are using black out shades or curtains to block any light coming from the street.
  3. Shut off your devices
    • Screens that emit blue light can disrupt our bodies natural preparedness for sleep. Enable “night mode” on all your capable devices.
    • Take advantage of “Do Not Disturb” on your phone and set this function up so that it makes sense for you. My phone automatically goes to “Do Not Disturb” after 10:00 PM each night and will only accept calls from a few people.
    • Beyond that, you should disable your apps. ALL my apps are disabled from 10:00 PM until the next morning.
    • Sometimes, yes even me, you just want to turn on Netflix at night. In these scenarios, I wear red-tinted glasses that block 100% of the blue light being emitted from the TV.
    • We even put a timer switch on our Wifi router. It automatically turns off between 10:00 PM-6:00 AM each day. This helps to keep us off our devices but also, research shows that the Wifi signal can disrupt sleep.
  4. Eating nothing within 2 hours of bedtime.
    • Food can negatively impact your first few hours of sleep when consumed right before bed.
    • If you feel hungry, these foods and supplements I have found to actually have a positive impact on my sleep:
  5. Turn the thermostat down
    • Studies reveal that the optimal temperature for sleep is between 62-65 degrees Fahrenheit. I know what you’re thinking, if you live in Texas like me, that sounds expensive.
    • We set ours at 68 degrees each night in an attempt to be somewhat economical.
    • A ChiliPad could be a good option for you if you are a hot sleeper and your partner isn’t. These things work great.

Tracking and understanding your sleep using an Oura ring is important, even just beyond looking for Sleep Efficiency, REM sleep, and Deep sleep. Following this data helps you learn which lifestyle behaviors are positively and negatively impacting your sleep. For example, what does your sleep look like when you have 2 drinks before bed verses no drinks before bed? What does your sleep look like when you eat a snack in bed verses no food within 2 hours of bedtime? What does your sleep look like when you go for a run that day verses lift weights?

We need to change our mindset around sleep. You shouldn’t feel tired when you wake up. It’s totally acceptable behavior in our society to wake up and be a completely non-functioning zombie until you get your morning cup of coffee. Why is that? This is not how our body’s should feel in the morning!

Sorry if you’re a fan of quick-fix solutions; improving your sleep quality requires a multi-faceted approach. The good news for you is that this multi-faceted approach will lead you down a path to not only better sleep, but also a better you.