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Sleep or die. In eleven days or less. That’s the world record for not sleeping. Sometimes our sleep is so bad we want to die. Our sleep needs to feel like we died and were born again. We should feel excited from the moment we wake up or at least when the first drop of coffee hits our tongue. Sleep is the foundation. That’s why it’s the first. If we sleep better, everything gets easier. The snowball builds into an avalanche.
Imagine if you were alone on a desert island. No caffeine. Darkness at sunset. Cooler air. Waking at sunrise. Would you sleep more? Recreate that world as best you can and inhale your morning cup of coffee.
- SET A COOL ROOM. Set your room temperature to 68 degrees F, then tweak up or down to find your ideal temperature. If you’re still hot, consider buying technology to keep your mattress or blanket cool. Your body temperature goes down as you go into early deep sleep. Help a body out. Be cool.
- GET SUN EARLY. Get ten minutes outside within 1 hour of waking or as early as possible. Drink your coffee outside, go for a quick walk, drive with all the windows and roof open, cook breakfast on a grill, work outside. Early sun helps us get the signal to fall asleep earlier.
- NO CAFFEINE AFTER MID-DAY. Stop ingesting caffeine 8 hours before bedtime or longer (12+) if you have trouble falling asleep. Make exceptions for special events, but every workday is not special.
- KEEP CONSISTENT TIMING. Go to bed and wake-up within the same 30-60 minute window every day (ex. 10-11pm bedtime and 6-7am wake-up time). Make exceptions as needed. If you’re excepting every Saturday and Sunday, stop the exceptions. Consistency helps avoid morning grogginess and falling asleep more easily.
- REDUCE BRIGHT LIGHTS AT NIGHT. At night, turn down or turn off overhead lights to signal your body to get ready for rest. Limiting screen time in the hour before bed is ideal. Watching passive, relaxing tv from far away beats engaging social media on a phone 6-12” from your face.
When You Have An Hour
SLEEP FOR AN EXTRA HOUR. Try sleeping an extra hour for a week. Turn off the tv and phone early or push back your morning activities and sleep in. Do you feel better at the end of the week? Are you faster, sharper, more productive? Keep at it. If you’re tired, groggy, slow, unfocused, or irritable in the morning (after your coffee) you may need to sleep more. You may think you don’t have the time. Run a one-week experiment. You may find you recoup the time invested with increased speed, better decisions, and fewer mistakes everywhere else in your life. Try it. It’s only a week.
GET PHYSICALLY TIRED. Many of you tired people out there are knowledge workers, desk bound, or just don’t move enough each day. Go to the Move section and implement those tips. Walk often. Lift well then lift heavy. Then add the Zone 2 workouts described in the hour-long Move habits. If your mind is racing at night, make your body so tired you can’t stay awake. How many construction workers can’t sleep at night?
CONSIDER SUPPLEMENTS AND MEDICATION. If you want to skip the other sleep habits, stop and implement them first. Some people might need medication or supplements. It should be a doctor telling you that, not me. Work with a doctor, a sleep specialist, on diagnosing your issue. You can get a polysomnography (PSG) study. They can measure your cortisol. A therapist can guide you on mental health. Work with medical experts. This won’t just take an hour. It will take weeks, and months, a year of experimentation. Work with experts to reduce that timeline. I keep a list of supplements that helped me at mattdever.com/sleep. I experimited for three years to find what worked for me. What worked for me won’t work the same for you.
Ways to Make Time
- See the wake-up and wind-down routine questions above. Wake up or wind down faster and you have more time to sleep.
- If you have kids, alternate days to sleep in with your partner. Aim to stay within an hour of your regular wake-up time. Sometimes, you just need all morning.
- If you need hours of tv, social media, or another low-value activity at night, ask why? Is your day stressful from work? Do you feel cheated by how you must spend your day? Are people driving you crazy? These are hard problems to fix. Improving them buys back time to make life better.
- nights per week with 7-9 hours per night (duration)
- days feeling “refreshed” after morning caffeine (sleep quality)
- days per week needing an afternoon nap
- days per week falling asleep in ideal 1-hour bedtime window (ex. 10pm – 11pm)
- days per week waking in ideal 1-hour wake-up window (ex. 7am – 8am)
- days per week with no/minimal caffeine after mid-day (ex. 12pm – 3pm)
- days per week with 10 minutes outside within 1-hour of waking up
If you have a consistent sleep issue, get medical help. Nothing is more fundamental. Don’t go insane. Get help.
Sleep or die. Death comes between one night and eleven nights, the world record for most nights without sleep. In between are hallucinations, paranoia, and psychosis. Not good. We’re not at-risk of conjuring a real Alice in Wonderland in our waking hours. But if we master sleep we flourish. Everything is easier. Life is better. We are happier. Start the snowball. Sleep and thrive. Sleep well and thrive.