“Sleep baby sleep. The day’s on the run. The wind in the trees. Is talking in tongues” -Leonard Cohen
Sleep: that mystical part of our lives spent in an altered state of consciousness. Our brains tending to secret activities that we are only dimly shown through memories of dreams. I am one of those people equal parts blessed and cursed who gets to remember a fair number of my dreams. I’m often still drunk on a dream for hours before the morning tries to dissolve the emotions of it.
But besides the fantastical dreams and far away worlds we are offered while we sleep, why sleep is so vital to us, and exactly what happens while our brains marinade in our subconscious, has been speculated upon for millennia. I’m a ‘facts’ guy and it’s on the firm ground of facts where we’ll land here.
I’m Difficult to Sleep With
When I was very young, my parents would still go out to house parties as they were themselves still in their early 20’s. It was the late 70’s and I’d get dragged along, but the reason i didn’t really mind, was because I had a secret weapon. I could fall asleep anytime, anywhere within seconds. Even if i was left next to a big speaker, I could sleep like the dead, nothing would disturb me.
Fast forward a few decades and things are very different. The conditions I now require for sleep are mirrored only by those found in the womb. I need total darkness, total silence and a cool room, which means i sleep with ear plugs an eye mask and climate control, like a giant baby. Even with all of these sleep aids, I still become annoyed with someone else sleeping on the bed if I can hear them breathing or if they make the slightest movement.
I can say, with all confidence, that it would be accurate to describe me as difficult to sleep next to, but I promise I don’t do it on purpose. Life got stressful and full of pressure and my brain decided to stop playing the “i can sleep anywhere game” somewhere in my mid 20’s.
I didn’t notice it at 1st but, when I began struggling to sleep, everything else took a turn for the worst too.
My memory was terrible, I became unproductive and combative at work and I began to make less gains in the gym and, most alarmingly, in the heat of battle my soldier refused to salute. It was a sad and desperate time my friends. I honestly thought I had some type of illness.
But a visit to a doctor mate of mine uncovered that I was just sleep deprived. I began addressing my sleep issues in different ways and when i was able to sleep for a solid 8 hours a night again, my whole life changed for the better, much to my relief.
The value of sleep
Imagine how much you would pay for a tonic that had been scientifically proven to:
- slow aging
- prevent diseases
- heal you physically and mentally
- improve memory
- make you happier
- help you lose weight
- improve your relationship with your partner
- prevent car crashes
What would such a boost be worth to you? We need only look at the facts to answer this. Men spend billions of dollars annually on diet fads, detox concoctions, vitamins and supplements all to feel more alert, remain healthier, improve sex drive and stay in shape.
We collectively part with billions each year but very few of us are getting enough sleep. It’s the height of folly.
A Global Analysis
There is an intercontinental experiment that is conducted on 1.6 billion people twice a year. This experiment is called “daylight-saving”. In the spring, when we lose 1 hour of sleep, we see the number of heart attacks in men increase the very next day by 24%!
In autumn, when we gain an hour, we see the number of men having heart attacks decrease by 21% the very next day. Just let that sink in for a moment.
Matthew Paul Walker of Harvard (an English scientist and professor of neuroscience) goes on to tell us that, on these two days of the year, car crashes and suicide rates also rise and fall significantly along the same lines, This means that just a single hour of sleep is the difference between life and death for millions of people.
Chocolate, Sex and Car Crashes
Studies show that people who get too little sleep have diminished will power, leaving them less able to say no to sweets, chocolate and other “comfort foods” causing weight gain. Extra marital affairs too are higher in those who are sleep deprived due to the same diminished will power.
People who sleep too little argue more with their partners and family and tend to be at far higher risk of on-the-job injury and accidents in general (which cost businesses and insurance companies billions each year).
Fewer hours of sleep over a prolonged period can cause decreased immune systems and sex drives, in both men and women, and has actually shown to cause men’s testicles to shrink. Some men studied were found to have testicles and sex drives comparable to men more than 10 years their senior.
Studies have also shown that driving while sleep deprived (less than 7 hours) is the same as driving while drunk. We would never drive with our children in the car when intoxicated but we’re happy to drive while tired or navigate our way through traffic as we walk our kids to school while impaired from lack of sleep.
People who think that they function just fine on 5 to 6 hours of sleep a night might feel normal, just as drunk people feel great too but, like drunk people, sleep deprived folks lack the ability to realize their own diminished capacity. You’re effectively too tired to realize how tired you are.
A recent Gallop pole in America indicated that, a staggering 40% of people are getting less sleep than they need to function properly. That’s almost half the population operating with diminished capacity.
It is also important to understand that you cannot catch up on sleep. You can’t accumulate a debt and catch it up at a later time. If you spend your weekends indulging in too much ‘Push Pineapple Shake the Tree’, you will pay for it with your health, wealth and mind, and this damage can never be undone.
The Elusive 8 hours
According to the National Sleep Foundation, American adults currently average 6.9 hours of sleep per night compared with the 1940’s, when most American adults were averaging 7.9 hours a night, or one hour more each night. In fact, in 1942, 84% of Americans got the recommended seven to nine hours; in 2013, that number had dropped to 59%.
Fitbit, in January 2018 announced results of a study it conducted of 6 billion nights of its customers’ sleep and reported that men actually get even less than women, about 6.5 hours.
Chronic health conditions
Studies by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) in America show that men who were short sleepers (less than 7 hours per 24-hour period) were more likely to report 10 chronic health conditions compared to those who got enough sleep (7 or more hours per 24-hour period)
Fortunately, it’s not all doom and gloom, there are some simple ways to ensure we get that extra hour and improve almost every aspect of our lives. Below are some practical tips to help you sleep better and for longer.
The Most Searched for Terms on Sleep Today
At first glance, many of the below search terms seem comical to most of us. But you can imagine in some of the searches, a desperation in the minds of the people searching these terms. A great deal of these searches happen very late at night when the person is at the end of their tether and have turned to the internet for help. It really is no laughing matter.
I have tried to ensure that I have covered as many of the search terms or questions as i possible could. The ones I have ignored have been ignored on purpose because I find them to be, quite frankly, a little silly. Questions like, “how can i fall asleep instantly” aren’t really worth me exploring.
Here are (in no particular order, the most searched for terms on the web, around sleep:
how to sleep instantly
sleep anxiety treatment
anxiety and sleep deprivation
can’t sleep due to anxiety
sleep anxiety definition
sleep anxiety reddit
can’t sleep anxiety stomach
sleep anxiety attack
sleep anxiety in children
how to sleep through the night without waking up
remedies to sleep well at night
natural sleep remedies for elderly
home remedies to fall asleep quickly
herbal remedies for insomnia
insomnia home remedies honey
how to fall asleep wikihow
how to go back to sleep wikihow
how to sleep fast in 40 seconds
how to sleep early wikihow
how to fake sleep wikihow
how to sleep less wikihow
how to sleep faster
how to feel sleepy wikihow
how to sleep fast in 5 minutes
how to sleep fast at night without thinking
how to sleep fast when your not tired
how to sleep wikihow
how to fall asleep fast military
how to fall asleep fast for kids
how to fall asleep fast reddit
how to get to sleep fast
how to fall asleep when not tired
how to fall asleep in 2 minutes according to the us navy
As I mentioned, these searches highlight the desperation some folks feel around trying to get to sleep. It’s a global problem, we will all suffer from insomnia at some stage in our lives, for some of us it’s far worse than others.
Meditation for sleep
What is meditation for sleep? The phrase has been popping up more and more lately and I did some research which I thought I would share with you here.
Meditation for sleep, like most meditation techniques, is a system that more and more folks are using to train themselves to be less in our head and more aware of the present moment. The mind’s tendency to get caught up in thoughts is perhaps strongest at bedtime, when we suddenly stop and be still.
Meditation for sleep is a specific, guided experience that offers a natural sleep aid all on its own, allowing us to let go of the day—everything that’s happened and everything that’s been said — so that we can rest the mind while simultaneously resting the body.
While working through a Guided meditation, you may discover new tools and techniques to help relax the body and mind and let go of the day, easing into restfulness. Feel free to grab the app, “Guided Meditation by HeadSpace“. Jump on it and experience it for yourself. It’s really a game changer.
20 Tips for Better Sleep
1. Switch off all electronic devices
Switch them all off an hour before bedtime. The light from your TV, tablet, cell phone or any other light will cause your brain to think it’s daytime and it will be more difficult to fall asleep. This includes the ‘night mode’ on your device that filters out the blue light, switch them all off completely before your bedtime, you won’t miss the old habit once you start. Guys, if you’re single and enjoy a little lurk through the pages of PornHub every now and then, make sure you do it before bedtime.
2. Ensure your room is kept cool
Tips on how to sleep through the night typically start with this one. Men and women have different metabolic rates and therefore slightly different body temps, so there is always a bit of tug-of-war around this one. I’m certainly not suggesting your room be kept so cold that penguins begin to turn up but your body needs to drop its core temperature by about 2 degrees Fahrenheit during sleep. Also ensure that your room is well ventilated. 2 people breathing all night in a closed room will leave both of you with headaches or puffy eyes.
3. Don’t have any coffee before bed
People often want to know how to sleep better at night naturally, ie: in place of using sleep aids, but a lot of these folks are having a cup of tea before bed and tea, in some cases, has more caffeine than coffee. Home remedies for good sleep have been passed down through the ages but there is little substitute for staying away from stimulants. All stimulants should be avoided. Also try to avoid fruits and sugars as these tend to increase your chances of being more stimulated than is ideal (apples supply you with more energy than a cup of coffee, so unless you’re planning a marathon love making session, try avoid these)
4. Have a light, healthy dinner
I am often asked many of the same questions around diet and sleep. There are no sleep inducing foods or an exact food for good sleep but there are ways of eating that can assist. A light meal with protein and vegetables with fewer carbs are foods that can help you sleep through the night. They should also serve to promote muscle and cell regeneration while you sleep. Most of a bodybuilder’s muscle growth comes overnight while they’re kipping, so don’t skip the protein but don’t go mental and eat half a chicken either. Excess protein is turned into fat, so keep it sensible.
For some ideas, try 7 Ways: Jamie Oliver’s Easy Ideas for Every Day of the Week
I think it goes without saying that chocolate and other sugary crap are foods that prevent sleep. Foods that help you fight insomnia just don’t exist, but avoiding eating crap will help. Fruits for sleep should also be avoided due to their sugar content. I personally have never put much stock in healing foods for insomnia, always seemed like a bit of mumbo jumbo to me. Same goes for Indian home remedies for sleep or home remedies for deep sleep in general. The secret on how to get to sleep fast or how to get to sleep when you can’t is less of a silver bullet type cure and more of an overall strategy.
5. Seek help if you suffer from depression and/or anxiety
This is an important one fellas. How to sleep better with anxiety is firstly to try and reduce the cause of the anxiety. Depression and anxiety are exacerbated by lack of sleep and it becomes a vicious circle. If you can’t afford therapy, there is literature online or Call 1-800-273-8255. Talk to a friend or reach out to someone, but don’t suffer in silence. I know a little about these conditions myself so please feel free to reach out if you’re struggling.
I explore types of depression from some of my own experiences in 10 Types of Depression which many have found to be helpful, not just as a shared experience but also in helping loved ones appreciate what depression is like.
6. Sleep in another room if you snore
There have been cases where men have murdered by their partners over snoring. One can assume that the murder didn’t take place the very first time a snore was detected. It was likely the result of an accumulation of years of poor sleep mixed with a loose connection that sent the offending party into a rage. In any case, sleep in the other room if you snore guys, it could save your life.
7. Schedule your sleep for the same time
“How to sleep better wikihow”, “how to sleep better and faster” and “how to get to sleep in 5 minutes” are some comical search terms popular on the web today. But the folks asking these don’t seem to have a routine which trains their brains to become tired at the same time each evening. Set a sleep alarm that tells you when it’s time to begin your routine for bed. The CDC has suggested that all shift work should be classified as hazardous occupations, such is the importance of a strict sleep routine.
The reason you always feel so terrible on Monday’s is that you’re effectively suffering from a jet lag effect. You stay up late on a Friday and Saturday night, sleep late the following days and then expect your brain and body to magically be happy with you waking up 2 or so hours earlier on the Monday again.
8. Have a bedtime regimen
Whether it’s a bath, then a glass of warm milk and some meditation before bed, or just brushing your teeth and folding down the covers, do the same thing every evening at the same time so your brain and body know that sleep time is coming.
People who have a TV in their rooms struggle because their brains associate the bedroom as a place of entertainment and not sleep. Bedrooms are for sleep and sex, not to work on your laptop, watch telly or eat a ham sandwich.
9. Invest in a large, comfortable bed
If your partner is a restless sleeper or, like me, has a bladder the size of a baby sparrow, then your sleep is being disrupted by moving the mattress and covers. The idea scenario, for me anyway, has always been to sleep on a different bed.
As you can imagine, this garners no favor from partners over the years (I have no idea why I’ve always dated women who want to cuddle while asleep). A year or so ago, I managed to find the best of both worlds with the Tempur Mattress.
It looks like a normal bed but it’s like sleeping on a tongue. It caresses me in ways I never imagined possible. Honestly, if I could teach this thing to cook, I’d never date again. You can cuddle till your partners wee heart is content but once they’re sleeping and you move to your side of the bed, they could be wrestling with a kangaroo and I’d be non the wiser.
It cost far less than my last holiday (and MUCH less than marriage counselling or a divorce would cost) but it will last decades.
10. Don’t drink too much water before bedtime
Just as there are no foods for deep sleep, there aren’t and drinks for deep sleep either. But, there have been studies that show cardiovascular benefits of drinking a glass of water before you go to sleep, and if you are worried about your heart then do this (I happen to have a heart condition and I have to ensure I drink a big glass of water before bed). In most normal cases though, getting up to pee 5 times will kill you faster than your heart will in the long run. Moderation here is the key, if you feel thirsty, drink some water.
Exercising really hard within 3 hours of your bedtime can interfere with falling asleep, but other than that, exercise is wonderful. Weight training, Yoga or Cardio training are all great activities to do at any stage of the day. Besides the obvious health benefits of exercising, your body will be more tired at the end of the day and sleep will come more easily.
If getting to a gym is challenging because of distance or time constraints, here are 23 Exercises You Can Do at Home.
12. Don’t sleep with pets
Pets are wonderful. They are loving, they make you feel good and they are fun for the whole family. However, interrupted sleep can sometimes be as bad as very little sleep. Having your cat decide to smother you in the wee hours or waking up at 3 am with Fido humping your leg are both unhelpful in the pursuit of a restful night in the land of nod. So, keep the pets out of the room, they can sleep all day, you cannot.
13. Keep it quiet (but not too quiet)
Strange noises will certainly disturb your sleep, but if you’re used to a little ambient noise during the night, like your fridge moving into second gear or your ceiling fan whirring above you, then you’re less likely to be disturbed by other noises. If you’re used to music-studio type silence when sleeping, then not only will every tiny noise wake you, but it will be very difficult to go on holiday and achieve the same level of quiet you’re used to. There is an app called “Noise Generator” that you can set on different levels of white or ambient noise to help you sleep. Give that a try if you feel it might help.
14. Keep the room dark
Through most of human evolution we lived on the plains of Africa where the difference between sunrise and sunset throughout the year differed by only a couple of hours. Now days though we have vast differences in sunrise and sunset so a nice thick set of curtains is a must, or even an eye mask if need be. Also ensure all digital clocks are covered while sleeping. The light from these might seem benign during the day, but in the dead of night can seem like an old school mini interrogation.
15. Don’t waste your time with fads and gimmicks
Some of the most searched phrases today are “How can I fall asleep instantly” or “How do I fall asleep in under a minute”, and my answer to these questions is, “who cares?!” Get yourself to bed at a decent hour after a helpful regime, close your eyes and sleep will seek you out. Whether you can fall asleep in 60 seconds or 15 min makes no difference. People who search for these terms are usually those who overindulge or work too late and then get to bed and think they can short circuit the system with a weird hack. Keep it simple.
16. Read before bed
Some folks find reading before bed calms and quiets their minds and that’s fine, but if reading tends to cause you to want to “get through just one more chapter” and stay up later than you originally intended, then leave the reading to before your bedtime regimen.
17. Don’t listen to loud music before you go to bed
Music, believe it or not, can act like a stimulant on the brain and, even rather gentle music, can cause the brain to become excited and keep you awake. My caveat here though is that meditation music does seem to help some folks nod off so, use it if it works. I think it’s safe to say though that songs like “Thunderstruck” by ACDC are likely going to work against calming you down.
Meditation, in general, has the power to change your life in immeasurable ways no matter what time of the day you practice it. I will devote a blog post to it at a later stage, but for now, let me just say that, 20 min, 15 min or even 5 min of mindfulness meditation before bed can do wonders for sleep and general well-being. Sam Harris has an app called “Waking up”. It’s not free but it’s the best I’ve ever experienced. For more information on thing to know before meditating visit 6 Things You Must Know Before Meditating.
19. Don’t use your snooze button in the morning
If you climb into bed knowing you have your snooze button to “save you” from a definite time to awake in the morning, then you will be more likely to stay up later. And all a snooze button really does is interrupt what could be your last few decent minutes of sleep. Get your ass into bed on time and get yourself up when the alarm goes off. If you love your snooze alarm, then you’re not getting enough sleep, stop kidding yourself.
20. Have lots of sex
Like sleep, sex is a natural process that is crucial to our existence and offers us many benefits including mental and physical well-being (not to mention, it’s a great deal of fun, in case you hadn’t noticed). Sex is good for our hearts, immune systems, self-esteem, our relationships AND it promotes deep sleep. Sex once a day can drastically lower a man’s chance of developing prostate cancer and can help slow the aging process in men and women. (you’re welcome).
For the more adventurous of you who are keen to try some new and daring positions, feel free to warm up and try some Acro-Sex Positions (warning: some of these are nasty).
There just isn’t anywhere to hide from the benefits of a good night’s sleep. We go to great pains to teach our children difficult life lessons and proper ways of eating but some of us neglect one of the most important pillars of health and well-being, for us and our children. Sleep.
It’s free to all of us and easy to use. Who doesn’t want to be the best versions of ourselves, for us, our loved ones and all those who interact with us on a daily basis. Use it well, be as happy and healthy as you were designed to be. I’d love to hear from you with any comments about how your sleeping may have improved your lives in any way. And please feel free to ask any questions you may have, I will do my best to get back to as many of you as I can.
Sleep well friends..
PS: Feel free to watch Professor Matt Walkers TED talk here:
Thanks for reading..
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