1: 1: Getting better at getting better is what RiseWithDrew is all about.
Monday through Thursday, we explore ideas from authors, thought leaders, and exemplary organizations. On Friday, I share something I am working on or we are doing at PCI in our quest to earn a spot on Fortune magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work For.
“I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” That was something I used to say as a teenager and young adult. There were things to do. Work to be done. Fun to be had.
Turns out that is one of the more stupid things I’ve ever said.
Getting enough sleep impacts our memory, our ability to learn, the likelihood of losing our temper, and the odds of getting cancer or Alzheimer’s disease,” sleep expert Matthew Walker writes in his powerful book Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams.
2: This week, we’ve been looking at some of his recommendations on how to improve our sleep. Many people set an alarm clock to wake up in the morning. Matthew recommends setting an alarm to remind us when to go to bed.
“If there is only one piece of advice you remember and take,” he writes, “this should be it.”
Establishing a consistent sleep schedule is his #1 recommendation for improving the quantity and quality of our sleep: “Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. As creatures of habit, people have a hard time adjusting to changes in sleep patterns,” he writes. “Sleeping later on weekends won’t fully make up for a lack of sleep during the week and will make it harder to wake up early on Monday morning.”
Suggestion #2? Have a dark, cool, gadget-free bedroom. “Get rid of anything in your bedroom that might distract you from sleep, such as noises, bright lights, an uncomfortable bed, or warm temperatures,” he writes. We “sleep better if the temperature in the room is kept on the cool side.”
A television, cell phone, or computer in our bedrooms not only serves as a distraction depriving us of needed sleep, but exposure to the blue light from our screens makes it harder to fall asleep and reduces the amount of REM sleep we get.
Matthew also advises taking a hot bath before bed. A bath not only helps us relax and feel sleepy but also aids with lowering our body temperature. “Relax before bed,” he writes. “Don’t overschedule [our] day so that no time is left for unwinding. A relaxing activity, such as reading or listening to music, should be part of [our] nighttime ritual.”
Exercising regularly is important, but not too late in the day: “Try to exercise at least thirty minutes on most days but not later than two to three hours before [our] bedtime,” he recommends.
Another suggestion: Avoid naps after 3 p.m. “Naps can help make up for lost sleep,” he writes, “but late afternoon naps can make it can make it harder to fall asleep at night.”
We also should pay attention to what we eat and drink before bedtime, avoiding caffeine and nicotine: “Coffee, colas, certain teas, and chocolate contain the stimulant caffeine, and its effects can take as long as eight hours to wear off fully. Therefore, a cup of coffee in the late afternoon can make it hard for you to fall asleep at night.
“Nicotine is also a stimulant, often causing smokers to sleep only very lightly,” he notes. “In addition, smokers often wake up too early in the morning because of nicotine withdrawal.”
Minimizing alcoholic drinks and large meals before bed is another wise decision: “Having a nightcap or alcoholic beverage before sleep may help [us] relax, but heavy use robs [us] of REM sleep, keeping [us] in the lighter stages of sleep,” Matthew observes. “Heavy alcohol ingestion also may contribute to impairment in breathing at night.”
We also want to pay attention to the amount we eat: “A light snack is okay, but a large meal can cause indigestion, which interferes with sleep,” he writes.
Exposure to sunlight is another key to regulating daily sleep patterns. “Try to get outside in natural sunlight for at least thirty minutes each day,” Matthew recommends. “If possible, wake up with the sun or use very bright lights in the morning.”
If we are having trouble sleeping, we will want to talk to our healthcare provider or pharmacist to see if any of our prescriptions might be contributing to our insomnia. “Ask whether they can be taken at other times during the day or early in the evening,” Matthew suggests. “Some commonly prescribed heart, blood pressure, or asthma medications, as well as some over-the-counter and herbal remedies for coughs, colds, or allergies, can disrupt sleep patterns.”
Finally, don’t lie in bed awake and avoid watching the clock. If we find ourselves “still awake after staying in bed for more than twenty minutes or if [we] are starting to feel anxious or worried, get up and do some relaxing activity until [we] feel sleepy. The anxiety of not being able to sleep can make it harder to fall asleep,” he notes.
3: One of my goals for 2022 is to take Matthew’s recommendations seriously and improve my sleep. I’ve been prioritizing being in bed for seven hours. Last year I began wearing an Oura ring so I can track how much sleep I get each night. In the first three months of this year, I averaged 6 hours 52 minutes in bed and almost doubled the number of nights I’ve turned in before 11 p.m. vs. the last three months of 2021. Progress!
Rather than sleep when I’m dead, my goal now is to get plenty of sleep while I’m alive to flourish in the years I have left!
More next week!
Reflection: Am I getting enough sleep? If not, which of Matthew’s recommendations can I try out?
Action: Do it.