How are you sleeping?
I thought I knew — and boy, was I wrong!
Modern technology has provided mechanisms for getting all kinds of objective information at your fingertips. While some people love as much data as possible, others can find smart device information overwhelming. The information provided can be a great tool for identifying potential issues before they become a problem or to encourage and reinforce positive life style choices.
I would have told you if I did anything well it was the ability to sleep. I never had trouble falling or staying asleep, I wake feeling good, and have generally always had reasonably good energy throughout my day.
I was excited about all of the bells and whistles and was ready to start looking at my health metrics. I took a look at the sleep data expecting it to reinforce how good of a sleeper I was.
While I managed to get enough hours of sleep without waking up just as I expected my ratio of Deep, Light, and Rapid Eye Movement (REM) was not good, and I was given an overall “Poor” rating.
I was not, in fact, a good sleeper!
Deep sleep was the area I was consistently not getting enough of is critical, because it’s when your body repairs, replenishes the nervous system, and the immune system is most active. This stage of sleep, marked by a specific brain wave pattern, is one of the most critical for overall health.
I was not spending enough time in the area and therefore my inflammation, repair process, and mental acuity was far from it best. What I found out from working to improve it was that any form of screens prior to bed time, my nutritional status, water intake, and taking a few minutes to clear my mind and to breath deeply before bedtime made positive changes in my sleep stage ratios and that I felt better when they were closer to ideal.
Without the smart watch giving me more detailed information about what was actually happening when I was sleeping, I wouldn’t have known I was experiencing a deficit. By experimenting with what I could do to impact my ratios I learned more about myself and I was rewarded for making better choices because I could see the cause effect relationships.
The key and what I encourage is to have a mechanism for evaluating and checking in with yourself. To build awareness and intuition for monitoring different areas of the health, mental, and emotional state on a regular basis. And to compare and cross check their insight and what they feel with objective data provided by smart devices.
The objective data is not a substitute for your own internal information but rather a method of adding to it and tracking it. What gets measured and tracked gets better, which is the whole point of building a foundation and improving over time!
If you want to be more healthy, heal from an injury, improve your fitness, or to have energy and feel your best it all starts with a great night sleep!
You can learn more from Clarke and Cody in this video on improving sleep quality, or read the following sleep quality tips below.
Sleep hygiene tip #1: Stick to a sleep schedule
Set aside no more than eight hours for sleep. The recommended amount of sleep for a healthy adult is at least seven hours. Most people don’t need more than eight hours in bed to be well rested.
Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, including weekends. Being consistent reinforces your body’s sleep-wake cycle.
If you don’t fall asleep within about 20 minutes of going to bed, leave your bedroom and do something relaxing. Read or listen to soothing music. Go back to bed when you’re tired. Repeat as needed, but continue to maintain your sleep schedule and wake-up time.
Sleep hygiene tip #2: Pay attention to what you eat and drink
Don’t go to bed hungry or stuffed. In particular, avoid heavy or large meals within a couple of hours of bedtime. Discomfort might keep you up.
Nicotine, caffeine and alcohol deserve caution, too. The stimulating effects of nicotine and caffeine take hours to wear off and can interfere with sleep. And even though alcohol might make you feel sleepy at first, it can disrupt sleep later in the night.
Sleep hygiene tip #3: Create a restful environment
Keep your room cool, dark and quiet. Exposure to light in the evenings might make it more challenging to fall asleep. Avoid prolonged use of light-emitting screens just before bedtime. Consider using room-darkening shades, earplugs, a fan or other devices to create an environment that suits your needs.
Doing calming activities before bedtime, such as taking a bath or using relaxation techniques, might promote better sleep.
Sleep hygiene tip #4: Limit daytime naps
Long daytime naps can interfere with nighttime sleep. Limit naps to no more than one hour and avoid napping late in the day.
However, if you work nights, you might need to nap late in the day before work to help make up your sleep debt.
Sleep hygiene tip #5: Include physical activity in your daily routine
Regular physical activity can promote better sleep. However, avoid being active too close to bedtime.
Spending time outside every day might be helpful, too.
Sleep hygiene tip #6: Manage worries
Try to resolve your worries or concerns before bedtime. Jot down what’s on your mind and then set it aside for tomorrow.
Stress management might help. Start with the basics, such as getting organized, setting priorities and delegating tasks. Meditation also can ease anxiety.
Sleep hygiene tip #7: Relaxed breathing exercises
Spend 5-10 minutes focusing on relaxed breathing immediately before going to bed. The key is concentrate on your breath and making your exhale twice as long as your inhale. For example inhale through your nose for two seconds pause then exhale slowly for fours seconds (nose or mouth) while concentrating on your breath. This is hardwired into your nervous system and lowers your heart rate, blood pressure, relaxes muscle tension, etc.. This will calm your nervous system and prepare you for a great night sleep.
PS. This last step is the one that made all the difference for me 🙂