Sleep is complex. Our brains are never fully awake or asleep, instead, its assorted parts are dampened or firing always. So when you feel like you are asleep, you actually are in a way; and at different times dreams and reality can converge, for instance in the memory of a dream which feels real or vice versa experience being remembered in a dream. (No memory is a memory of an event either; it’s a memory of a memory.) All that considered by comparison getting some wholesome sleep, though statistically rarer now, should be easy. Here are some ways.
These are facts from Why We Sleep, The Organised Mind, The Third Chimpanzee:
- Sleep in a room at 18.3 degrees. Use a thermometer: adjust room temperature. There is wisdom to the ‘leg out the covers’ feeling.
- Have a warm bath before sleep as it induces your body temperature to lower, you will feel sleepier.
- Sleep in a room with no light. Exposure to light of any kind, not merely blue, will impair your sleep-inducing biology. Even before you’re set to ‘go to bed’, which may mean not sleep for hours. Remember we evolved for sunset = sleep time. And in evolutionary terms, Homo Sapiens is at 11:54 of our existence scaled to a day! The previous hours contribute more to how we work than we could ever choose or want, including being bound to equatorial sunrise and sunset.
- Consume no alcohol, caffeine (‘decaffeinated’ still has some caffeine), few drinks (don’t wanna wake at night to pee), and no sleeping pills (they’re a hoax).
- Sleep with absolute silence or lulling music. Some people enjoy white noise but this may not be as restive in fact as it feels in intuition.
- Exercise during the day; but not within four hours of bedtime. (Around 5 pm, if you wake at 9, is when your muscles are most supple.)
- Keep a notebook or cards besides your bed to record thoughts and cut the “worry circuit” so you can genuinely rest easy.
- Sleeping routinely at the same hours (lame but necessary) is key and learnable; a bedtime and wake-up ritual of some drink and book, say, or any habit, can help your body harmonise and ‘automate’ the routine.
Waking up halfway through sleep is ok, evolved even rather than a cultural product. Evidence from historical documents speak of “two sleeps” rather than one, indicating we evolved for biphasic sleep, around four hours of sleep, then awake an hour, then four hours of sleep. However, changing your sleeping pattern to fit may be hard. We may have evolved to sleep in that pattern — we did before light technology — but our experience is of the obviously healthy seven to nine-hour chunks.
So there you have it, eight proven ways and some cool facts. Basic as it is sleep is vital, and in the analysis of geniuses’ routines, the early bird (before or at 9 am) does fare better in terms of prize (Nobel and Pulitizer) winning. Time to make a change.