How to sleep yourself to a better life

sleep like a baby

What would you say if I told you “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” is the dumbest thing ever said in the history of mankind?

Learn to sleep like a baby and significantly improve your life in the process.

——————————

This post is part of RethinkingTruth’s “How to achieve health” Series and it reveals the second principle of health: Sleep like a baby.

Luckily for you sleeping like a baby is dead easy. All you need to know is:

  • Why sleeping like a baby will change your life
  • How well you’re currently sleeping
  • How to sleep like a baby

I will however admit something right away: I’ve got some bad and some good news for you in this post.

The bad news: Anyone who says “I just need 5 hours a night” doesn’t have a clue. I’m sorry guys. And, by the way, Santa Claus doesn’t exist either… ;)

The good news: It’s possible to change your life and feel, look and perform significantly better by learning how to sleep like a baby.

Let’s get right into it!

Why sleeping like a baby will change your life

The reason so many people say that they don’t require much sleep is simply that they haven’t slept enough for a long, long time. They don’t know how sleeping like a baby feels anymore.

Let’s look at what the National Sleep Foundation of America has to say about how much sleep we need:

sleep quantity

Pretty far from the 5 hours a night ha?

Definitely. But let’s be honest; we already know that we sleep way less than we should.

Right?

The issue is that life has certain realities:

  • We have jobs
  • We have children
  • We have lots of other commitments

And, all of  these make significant demands on our time.

Here’s how I’ve dealt with the challenge of needing lots of sleep but not having enough time:

I sleep-lied!

For 30 years of my life I was a sleep liar. Here’s me after another lovely night of sleep (looking sharp right?):

poor sleep

For me, the easiest way to deal with the challenge was to convince myself  that it’s impossible to get enough sleep and that I was the exception to the sleep rules of mankind.

The consequence was that I slept 5,5-6 hours on average for most of my life and I felt okay doing so.

Then, in 2011 I took 15 months off work to travel the world and study health. I changed my sleep habits, felt wonderful and since then I’ve slept 7,5-8 hours on average every night.

By the way, I’ve been back at my job as a management consultant for one year now and even though I am very, very busy doing my job, writing this blog and with lots of other things there’s no way I’m going to cut back on my sleep!

Reflecting on my personal experience I think I should have challenged the “it’s impossible to get enough sleep” assumption and instead asked myself a very valuable question:

“How can I spend my time wisely?”.

The fact is that sleeping like a baby have lots of life-changing, positive effects. Here are some of them:

  • Your ability to focus will increase significantly
  • You will feel more relaxed and happy
  • You will stress and worry less
  • You will have more energy
  • You will increase your performance in a host of areas and get lots more done
  • You will learn more
  • You will improve your memory
  • You will improve both your short and long term health
  • You will look better

Here’s me after having slept like a baby:

baby sleep

So, even though lying to ourselves about how much sleep we need is understandable, is definitely isn’t a good idea.

If you’re a sleep-sceptic and not yet convinced sleeping like a baby is important for your life I suggest checking out some of these resources:

Now that we’re on the same page with regards to the massive importance of sleep let’s get into the details of how to sleep like a baby.

How well are you currently sleeping?

To start sleeping like a baby I recommend that you become aware of how much and how well you currently sleep.

Fill out the evaluation form below now. It’ll take you one minute (this is a quick-and easy evaluation and if you want something more scentific check out the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index).

sleep evaluationHere’s how to calculate your score:

sleep evaluation2

Multiply your score in section “How do you feel” with 2 and add the scores from the other two sections to this number. Then divide by 70 and multiply that with 100 to get your score.

If you click on one of the pictures you can download the excel document, answer the questions with numbers between 1-10 and your sleep score will be automatically calculated for you.

What score did you get?

When I last evaluated my own sleep about a week ago (November 2013) I got a sleep score of 81% which is quite good.

Here’s how to interpret your sleep score:

sleep evaluation2I recommend that you evaluate yourself once a month for the next three months to increase your sleep-awareness.

Now that you know more about how you’re currently sleeping let’s talk about how to sleep like a baby.

How to sleep like a baby

To sleep like a baby you need high quality sleep for the right amount of hours.

Here’s how to achieve both sleep quality and quantity:

  • Install eight sleep habits
  • Fix your biological clock
  • Do a sleep quantity experiment

Install eight sleep habits

There’s lots of things you can do to improve your sleep. The following eight habits are the ones I have found to have the greatest effect on myself, friends, family and clients.

  1. First and foremost, reduce your stress levels during the day and evening. If you’re unable to do that then, as an absolute minimum, you must slow down and relax at least 2 hours before you want to fall asleep.
  2. Avoid all caffeinated drinks within 8 hours of your desired sleeping time (if you want to sleep by 22:00 then don’t consume any caffeine after 14:00)
  3. Stop exercising at least 2 hours before you want to fall asleep
  4. Turn down light in the evening and avoid all exposure to blue lights 2 hours before you want to fall asleep (the blue light from phones, iPads, computers, TVs delays melatonin production)
  5. Supplement with about 400mg of Magnesium when eating your last meal of the day and make sure you don’t eat big meals right before going to bed
  6. Sit in your couch or favourite chair for 5-10 minutes before going to bed and meditate (relax your body and think about absolutely nothing)
  7. Go to bed in a cold, completely dark room (you shouldn’t be able to see your own hand when held in front of you) with lots of fresh air
  8. Wake up at the same time every morning (yes, some flexibility in the weekends is fine but don’t overdo it)

Practice these habits for a few weeks. It’s a little difficult to get used to not using technology right before going to bed and to not drink coffee after 14:00 but it gets easy with time.

When you’ve installed good sleeping habits the next step is for you to fix your biological clock.

Fix your biological clock

Biological_clock_human.svg

Every organ in your body has its own biological clock. The purpose of these clocks is to help your body know when it’s day and night.

A good example of when your body clock doesn’t represent reality is when you fly to another time zone and experience jet-lag.

What you’re probably less aware of is that your biological clock is often out of synch when you’re home.

For you to sleep like a baby your body has to know when it’s time to sleep and when it’s time to be awake.

Here’s how to help your body set it’s biological clock right:

  1. Make sure you’ve installed the eight sleep habits listed above
  2. Write down when you want to wake up (as an example, let’s say you want to wake up at 07:00)
  3. Ten hours before you want to wake up, that is at 21:00 in our example, start to slow down and relax, turn down the lights in your place and turn off all kind of blue light technology (phones, iPads, computers, TVs)
  4. Lay down in bed at the latest 9 hours before your desired wake-up time (at 22:00 for our example) and dim the lights.
  5. Relax, read, speak with your partner or do whatever else you like to do in bed until you get tired enough to sleep
  6. At the latest, get out of your bed at the desired waking time regardless of how many hours of sleep you got

Do the above for one week. What will happen is that you’ll likely not get enough sleep during the first 1-3 nights but then your body will start to re-adjust its clock.

By the fourth night your body will likely have fixed its biological clock and you should consequently start to feel tired about 1 hour before you want to fall asleep.

The example above is based on someone needing eight hours of sleep though.

How do you know how many hours of sleep you need?

Do a sleep quantity experiment

As we saw earlier in this post, research have repeatedly shown that we require lots of sleep to function optimally. But, the fact of the matter is that some people need more sleep than others.

For example, I need 8 hours of sleep a night and my fiancé Kristina needs 8,5 hours. My little brother Gard on the other hand is 17 and growing fast. The result? He needs 10-11 hours of sleep a night!

Luckily, it’s simply to find out how many hours of sleep you need once you have installed the eight sleep habits and fixed your biological clock.

gard

To find out how many hours of sleep you need pay attention to the following:

  • Do you need an alarm clock to wake up in the morning?
  • Do you feel relaxed and calm when you wake up in the morning?
  • Do you feel sleepy during the day?

If you’re getting enough sleep you won’t need an alarm clock to wake up, you’ll feel relaxed and calm when you wake up (if you’re not late for work that is!) and you won’t feel sleepy during the day.

If you’re not getting enough sleep you’ve got to make a change.

Here’s what I recommend you do:

  • Start going to sleep 0,5 hours earlier that you did before
  • You might not fall asleep any earlier the first few days and that’s fine
  • Make sure you continue to wake up at the same time
  • After a 3-4 days you should start falling asleep earlier
  • After a week, ask yourself the above three questions again
  • If you still need more sleep go to bed 0,5 hours earlier and repeat the above

And that’s all there is to sleeping like a baby!

But wait a second, what about technology?

For the techies out there here are the few pieces of sleep-technology I recommend:

  • Zeo: My personal favourite and the favourite of many top-performance athletes. Do check out availability though as there are rumours flying around that Zeo has gone bust.

zeo

  • Fitbit: I haven’t used the new version but the old one was “ok” at measuring sleep even though it pretty much measures sleep in the same way as a number of iPhone and Android apps. I think the Zeo is way more interesting but again, I haven’t tried the new Fitbit.
  • Kindle: Excellent for reading without the blue light from normal technology

Summary

  • Why sleeping like a baby will change your life
    • Your ability to focus will increase significantly
    • You will feel more relaxed and happy
    • You will stress and worry less
    • You will have more energy
    • You will increase your performance in a host of areas and get lots more done
    • You will learn more
    • You will improve your memory
    • You will improve both your short and long term health
    • You will look better
  • How well you’re currently sleeping
  • How to sleep like a baby
    • Install eight sleep habits
    • Fix your biological clock
    • Do a sleep quantity experiment

What I recommend that you do next

Now that you’ve learnt about the importance of sleep and how to sleep like a baby I’m sure you are ready to start making some changes. You have much to look forward to!

To get you started I recommend you do the following four, very simple actions this week, starting today:

  • Decide what time you want to wake up this week and decide that you’re going to go to bed 9 hours before this time every day this week
  • Tonight, go to bed 9 hours before your desired wake-up time
  • If you’re not tired when you go to bed don’t worry, just relax, hang out with your spouse or read on the Kindle.
  • Wake up and get out of your bed at your desired wake-up time
  • After one week, reflect on how much better you’re feeling and decide to continue your new sleeping arrangement for one more week

And that’s all there’s is for now :)

Take care and sleep tight!

Regards from Norway,

Bjarte.

zeo sleep head

Notes

  • I’ve borrowed the baby picture from here. Thanks.

34 thoughts on “How to sleep yourself to a better life

  1. Jay

    I am your fan, Mr. Bjarte Bakke.
    Thank you for posting about sleeping.
    I have one question.
    What methods do you have waking up well?
    For example, I alway wash my face with cold water ASAP I can and go outside to breath fresh air for waking up well.

    Reply
    1. Bjarte Bakke

      Jay,

      Thanks for your comment man.

      Fresh, cold water sounds nice. These days I get 7,5-8 hours of quality sleep every night and I’m fortunate to wake up refreshed. Because of this I don’t feel I need anything special to wake up anymore.

      Having said that, I do enjoy a cup of coffee with lots if full fat cream in the morning! It definitely does kick start my day ;)

      Reply
  2. Jana

    What about during pregnancy? Getting sleep is a real challenge. I’m currently 8 months pregnant and unless I take something that will make me sleepy, like benedryl, I wake frequently through the night and sleep lightly if at all. Often it’s joint pain or difficulty breathing. Changing possitions, while very necessary, hurts either from ligament pain or having a bowling ball sized baby on your diaphram. The simplest things are often the hardest. I’m told that the frequent wakings are my body’s way of preparing me for the night feedings I’ll be doing when the baby arrives (of which is probably true since this is my third child and waking at night to feed was common in the first year). My only solution to more rest is to sleep in an adjustable bed (handed down from my grandparents).

    Reply
    1. Bjarte Bakke

      Jana,

      Thanks for sharing and more impotantly; congratulations on your baby! You must be excited.

      With regards to sleep & pregnancy I’m afraid I don’t have a lot of insight to share. What I would say however is that following the tips outlined in this article will improve your sleep. It would be interesting to hear how you get on if you decide to apply the sleep recommendations.

      Reply
    1. Bjarte Bakke

      Nice Ethel.

      Personally, I love my coffee with lots of full fat (double) cream. Also, I make sure to not don’t drink coffee after around 2pm as caffeine affects sleep.

      Reply
  3. peterpaul101083

    woah, your article is very informative. I have some problems with sleep. you know if you do not sleep well, you will not have energy for other works. I will follow your advice, I hope this article is good for me. thanks for your sharing. have a nice day.

    Reply
  4. Tony Nguyen

    Hi Bjarte Bakke, I like your article. I have some problems with sleep. you know, when you do not sleep well, you do not have enough energy for doing other works. I will follow tips and methods that you show me. I hope this article is good for me. thanks for your sharing. have a nice day.

    Reply
  5. Jasmin

    Thank you so much for these tips!
    I got a score of 21% and sleep horribly bad… Don’t have much energy during the days and am often stressed/irritated etc…
    Need to really change my sleeping habits…

    Greetings from Sweden ;)

    Reply
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  7. Kathy from Maine

    I’m someone from the other side of the pillow, as it were. I’m sleeping TOO MUCH, not too little. I start getting mind-numbingly tired (eyes aching and tearing a bit, constant yawning, etc.) by 7:00 each night. I force myself to stay up, but I’m usually out by 8:00. If I don’t set an alarm, I’ll sleep straight through until 6:00 or even after. Yup, I’m getting a good solid 10 hours of sleep each night. AND I’m dragging throughout the day.

    This has been going on for probably 6 – 8 months now. Before this, I was going through a very long period of going to bed around 9:00 or 10:00, waking every night around 1:30 and not being able to get back to sleep until around 4:30, and having to get up with the alarm at 5:00. So, working on 5 – 6 hours a night. Not good.

    The past week I’ve been trying to push my bedtime later and my rising time earlier, and I’ve gotten it down to around 9 hours a night. Not sure if this is a good idea or not. I mean, if I’m sleeping for 10 hours straight without waking up, doesn’t that tell me that my body needs the sleep?

    Any recommendations? I’m 58, female, and on bio-identical estrogen (very low dose), progesterone (moderate dose), testosterone (low dose), and DHEA (moderate dose). No other meds.

    Thanks in advance for any tips you have for me!

    Reply
    1. Bjarte Bakke

      Thanks for sharing Kathy.

      Your situation seems challenging. I understand you still feel sleepy and have low energy during the day?

      Personally, I’d buy the Zeo as outlined at the bottom of this article. If you can’t get your hands on it I’d buy the new Fitbit. This way you can at least start to measure what happens with your sleep and from there it might be easier to know what specific steps are needed to fix the problem.

      Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.

      Bjarte

      Reply
      1. Kathy from Maine

        Yes, sleeping 10 hours straight and wanting naps during the day. A work buddy mentioned the Fitbit to me a couple weeks ago, and I might do that.

        My NP and I are also looking into nutritional testing (the NutrEval test through Genova Diagnostics) to see if there’s an underlying nutritional deficiency. It’s a whole series of tests that measure absorption of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. We’re also going to be looking at thyroid and adrenals next. Sooner or later we’ll stumble on the answer.

        Reply
        1. Bjarte Bakke

          Testing for food allergies is a good idea too. Perhaps start by doing those two things and see where that takes you? I’d consider visiting a sleep clinic too at some point.

          How high are your stress levels and what kind of foods do you normally eat?

          Reply
          1. Kathy from Maine

            Stress levels are low, at least I think they are. I don’t feel stressed-out at all. I’ve eaten low-carb since the late 1990s. Not totally gluten-free, but I avoid having wheat products. I also avoid sugar and starch. I eat proteins, lots of good saturated fat (the only vegetable oil I have is in salad dressings on occasion), almonds and walnuts sometimes, and some veggies. Some full-fat dairy (like heavy cream, a bit of cheese, and yogurt). I avoid processed foods.

            I take a therapeutic yoga class twice a week, and try to get in 1- to 2-mile walks on a few other days during the week.

            I’m actually proud of myself that I slept just 8.5 hours last night, and I woke up on my own about 30 minutes before the alarm went off. Maybe part of it is a habit that I got into, sleeping longer and longer. Maybe I can train myself to sleep a little less.

            We’re taking it one step at a time, looking at a lot of things. The nutritional (and thyroid) testing is next week, and I’ll get the results in about 3 to 4 weeks.

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    1. Bjarte Bakke

      Thanks for your feedback Eva.

      The Kindle I linked to in this post doesn’t have the blue light that most other screen technology have. Blue light suppresses melatonin production and melatonin is an important sleep hormone.

      Reply
  9. nancy

    my problem is i wake up at 3am nearly every night and can’t go back to sleep for one to 4 hours. this does not seem to be affected by anything except going to bed at 2:30 am. (for the past year I work 11:30am – 12mn). I want to go to bed before 2:30am. I have been doing this for years and have tried everything. It’s very inconvenient, I try not to stress out about it and lie there and pray, meditate but I can’t stand it. I take 9m melatonin for past month and this doesn’t help. I do have some crazy dreams.
    I just read to have orange juice, cream of tartar and something else to help my adrenal function but for past 2 months I am on low carb high fat diet, so no OJ.
    I take mag and calcium at night, I have cool dark room, no caffeine except first thing in the morning, everything I can think of. I rarely get out of bed. Another problem is I sleep like a rock from 7am till 10am but I need to be up by 8:30am.
    Any other suggestions will be appreciated.

    Reply
    1. Bjarte Bakke

      Nancy,

      Thanks for sharing. It’s difficult to suggest something without knowing a little bit more :)

      How and when do you exercise?
      What are your stress levels throughout the day?

      Reply
  10. spayne32

    Nice review Bjarte Bakke – I tell you, I’m loving your blog more each day I definitely will be featuring you in a blog post very soon.

    Reply
  11. Jenny Åkesson

    Hello!
    Great article. I’ve read Chris Kressers “9 steps to perfect health” where he articulate how important sleep is. I don’t have a problematic sleeping pattern. It all fell into place as I strictly cut ut sugars, gluten and heavy starches. Then I was able to fall asleep petty soon after going to bed and I rarely sleep “light”.

    I really liked the “sleep evaluation test. I’ve had a bad week where I*ve been forcd to stay up far longer than I wish and when I took te test for this week only and then for how I usually sleep it really show how much of a difference the actual hours of sleep make.

    I usually use saturdays as a “let’s get enough sleep for one night” and then go back to useing an alarm to set the rhythm right again when I’ve had weeks as bad as this one.
    I’ll implement some of your suggestions this week and see if I can’t wake up and not *want* to stay in bed until the alarm rings!

    Cheers from Sweden! Keep sleeping great!

    Reply
    1. Bjarte Bakke Post author

      Hi Jenny! Thanks a lot for sharing. I’m glad you liked the evaluation test; it certainly does make a difference once we become aware just how crucial sleep is to our emotional well-being and performance.

      Good to hear that you’ve removed gluten and sugar from your diet; I assume improved sleep is just one of the many benefits you’ve experienced :)

      Regards from Norway!
      Bjarte

      Reply
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