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The most important foundation of optimised performance is sleep. Unfortunately, the modern world is not setup well to experience restful sleep.

Waking up exhausted has a huge impact on your performance. It reduces cognitive function, mental performance, health and so much more.

Let’s take a look at why sleep is so important and then talk about the best strategies to improve it.

In the book Why We Sleep (his book) by Matthew Walker he shares some powerful insights into the importance of sleep. This one paragraph hits home of why it’s so important.

“Routinely sleeping less than six or seven hours a night demolishes your immune system, more than doubling your risk of cancer. Insufficient sleep is a key lifestyle factor determining whether or not you will develop Alzheimer’s disease. Inadequate sleep – even moderate reductions for just one week – disrupts blood sugar levels so profoundly that you would be classified as a pre-diabetic. Short sleeping increases the likelihood of your coronary arteries becoming blocked and brittle, setting you on a path toward cardiovascular disease, stroke, and congestive heart failure.” 

If this doesn’t make you sit up and think again about sleep, I don’t know what will!

Some of the other things to think about when not sleeping well is the increase in sugar cravings the next day. You are more likely to crave junk food. You are more likely to make poorer decisions. You’ll make more mistakes and generally be a moodier human being that people won’t want to spend time with.

One of the problems is that we get used to being a certain way and that becomes the new norm. Feeling groggy, dazed or exhausted most mornings is not high performance. One of the first questions I ask new clients is do they feel rested when waking up most mornings. If the answer is no, (which it is for most people I’ve worked with) then you can be pretty sure there are some tweaks needed.

Now you’ve got some more insights into why sleep is so important. Let’s dive into the strategies to get your sleep optimised.

Here are the top 5 optimised sleep hacks to get you falling asleep fast and waking up full of energy.

1. Blue light

It’s becoming a hotter topic these days but there are still some misconceptions. When I say blue light, I mean the light that is emitted off by all screens. This includes TVs, laptops, computers, smart phones, florescent bulbs, led lights, streetlights and car headlights. The spectrum of light that these objects put out affects your biology. It signals to your body at a hormonal level. It tells your body that it’s time to wake and your body response by releasing chemicals to make you more awake.

So what do we do about it? Screen filters (Iris is great for computers) are a good first step but not good enough to reap the full benefits of blocking blue light. Your iPhone or android device has night mode as standard these days. Definitely start by making sure that is switched on.

The next best thing is to stop using your devices 1 to 2 hours before bed. Ideally when the sun goes down. I know this might seem like a stretch for most as watching TV or using your phone before bed it pretty standard these days. If you are unable to ditch the tech and switch to reading a book before bed, then blue blocking glasses are a great option.

There are a load of different types out there. Go for the red lensed versions as they block the most blue light. The orange versions are good for eye strain (checkout Foxmans Frames – use optimised to get 10% off) but aren’t adequate enough for getting the sleep benefits. The blue blocking coating you get on reading glasses don’t do anything either.

My favourites are glasses from Carbon Shades. Hi quality lenses and great customer service.

  1. Stretching

Gentle stretching before is a great way to relax your muscles and prepare your body for a restful night’s sleep. This doesn’t mean an intense yoga session think more like a gentle 5 to 10 relaxing stretching routine. This can even be done in bed if needed.

  1. Alcohol

Even a small amount (1 glass of wine) destroys sleep quality. Having tested CEOs I have seen that one glasses of red wine before bed can destroy sleep quality. Firstbeat uses an amazing device called the Bodyguard 2. It’s the only device on the planet that provides accurate data on how effective your sleep has been. It does have its limitations but when it comes to data, accurate data is the only useful sort.

So think before you have a couple of beers or glass of wine before bed. Why not skip it for a few days and see how you sleep.

  1. Sugar

Finishing off a tub of ice-cream or having that bar of chocolate might be an enjoyable experience but it’s far from setting you up for a good night of restful sleep. Loading up on sugar affects huge amounts of biological processes and can be a cause of not being able to drift off to sleep. Swap the sugar for something healthier and you’ll see a vast improvement in sleep quality.

  1. Caffeine

I love caffeine and have it most days but, it can be a destroyer of sleep. My simple rule is to have a 12pm cut off. I normally have two fatty coffees before midday then switch to some other herbal teas or just high quality water. Caffeine can stay in your system for hours and has a huge effect on sleep quality. Try the caffeine free challenge of taking one week off and see how your sleep improves.

When you implement these five hacks to have an optimised sleep experience, you’ll thank me later.

For more hacks like this head over to the Optimised Podcast.

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