We spend a third of our lives asleep. (hopefully)
There is no underestimating how important it is…
Not only for training, but for productivity, mood, happiness and mental clarity…
In my experience, every facet of self improvement has a linear relationship with quality sleep.
A few weeks back I attempted to disguise some key action points on improving sleep into a hiking gear video, but I didn’t cover as much as I wanted to.
So I want to add some extra tips and action points to that video in this blog post.
They fit into the following 5 categories.
- Consistency sleep times
- Alcohol & coffee
- Earplugs every night & mouth tape every night
- Rooibos tea & magnesium
- Sleep cycle app
1. Consistent bedtime
This time last year I was generally up late every Wednesday night, burning the midnight oil and editing the week’s video so it would be out on Thursday. Even though I knew this was detrimental to my sleep patterns I still did it for the sake of progress and consistency for my channel.
I’ve since realised this is counterintuitive. The result of that late night had a much greater negative impact on my workflow, mood & productivity the following day. So even though I felt like I was working hard, it was only serving to throw turmoil into my routine.
I’ve since decided that 10pm is my bedtime, and I made that the priority above all other things. I simply don’t tolerate feeling lousy and drowsy anymore. I have engrained this into my new personality. I am now the guy who goes to bed early.
I know this is something you hear all the time, but I just want to tell you again.
Pick a time to go to bed at the same time every night and prioritise it above all else. It really helps.
2. Alcohol & Coffee
I’ve just straight up stopped drinking alcohol and it made a huge difference to my sleep and life in general. I was never a big drinker but in the hot Spanish summer I am certainly partial to a beer in the afternoon. In the winter I would generally enjoy a glass of red with dinner maybe 1-3 times a week. Since I cut out alcohol I’ve noted higher quality and more regular sleep.
In terms of coffee, I’ll admit that it’s an ongoing battle for me. I attempted cutting back and lasted a week without any caffeine then soon enough I was back on it.
I have no real intention of cutting out coffee for good but I think there is some value in self imposed restrictions and periods of abstinence. One hard rule I have stuck to is no coffee after 3pm.
In Spain it’s very common to have a ‘cafe solo’ (espresso shot) after dinner, so I’ve been saying no to that. Decaf is a better choice in that situation but still not ideal, as even decaf coffee still contains a small amount of caffeine which can affect your sleep quality and regularity.
So should you impose the same rule? If you struggle with sleep I certainly would. Even though I’ve never experienced any difficulty getting to sleep after that evening shot of coffee I’ve realised there is much more to sleep than just falling asleep.
Keep reading to find out how I measure the quality and regularity of my sleep.
3. Earplugs & mouth taping
For about 3 months now I’ve been taping my mouth and using ear plugs. The mouth taping forces nasal breathing which results in deeper sleep, less snoring and a multitude of other factors. The ear plugs simply reduces the likelihood that you’ll be woken up.
Last night a storm passed over Barcelona which apparently blew open a window and woke up my partner. She mentioned the storm this morning, saying that it kept her awake for an hour. Meanwhile I was blissfully unaware of the storm since my earplugs had sufficiently cut out the noise and prevented me from waking up at all!
4. Rooibos Tea
This is a tip from my climbing partner Max who always brings rooibos tea on our adventures. I was never a huge fan of tea, especially in summer, but lately I’ve been making rooibos as part of my nighttime wind down routine. While reading a few pages of a book, I sip away at my tea which contains high levels of magnesium. I’ve been taking magnesium for years as a way of speeding up recovery but its benefits of improving sleep are new to me.
Thankfully there’s some science to support these claims – Magnesium was found to improve many aspects of quality sleep in this double blind placebo controlled study.
Need something a little stronger? As a more extreme measure, you could take melatonin which in my opinion is a much safer way of encouraging sleep than taking a sleeping pill. I don’t currently take this, as I’ve had no need to – but you might like to test it out.
If you currently use sleeping pills I would highly recommend trying to phase that out.
5. Sleep Cycle App
I’ve been using the sleep cycle app to help not only track my sleep but also get some data on the regularity and quality of each night’s sleep. The app works in a slightly creepy way by accessing your phone’s microphone and recording the sounds you make as you sleep.
Snoring, sleep-talking, farting …. It’s all recorded.
The app is free to use the basic functions which have been really insightful. Perhaps the most powerful feature is its ability to wake you up gradually as you exit a REM cycle. So rather than setting a hard alarm for a certain time, you select a half an hour window in which you would like to be woken up – that’s a pretty cool free feature.
I should note that this does go against a previous rule of mine which was to leave my phone outside of my room. This was a method of forcing me to get up to turn the alarm off, but also as a method of reducing light from using my phone before going to sleep.
But since I’ve been pretty diligent with not using my phone at night (particularly social media) it hasn’t been much of an issue to keep the phone by my bedside.
There are always pros and cons of using technology to improve our health – it’s up to us to experiment and find out if it’s worth it.
If you want to hear the noises you make during your sleep you have to purchase the full version but I haven’t felt the need to do that yet. There are a lot of sleep apps out there and it’s not the first one I’ve used, but so far I’ve found it useful.
Sleep cycle was recommended by a friend, I’m not affiliated with them in any way
I hope these tips help you as much as they’ve helped me.
P.S. One of the best ways to wake yourself up in the morning is with my 15 minute stretch and meditation follow along – you can find that in the Momentum Membership.