The sleep phase
You obviously can’t control much while sleeping. That’s the point. You’re completely calm, at rest, letting your subconscious do its job.
This article therefore talks about things to do just before and after sleeping, or if you wake up during the night.
Make it dark. This is a simple one. Don’t leave a light on, don’t leave a door open to get the light from the hall, don’t have an alarm clock with a bright screen. Sleeping is much easier in complete darkness.
If you need to do something during the night—like go to the toilet—just use the flashlight on your phone. It may sound silly, but complete darkness really makes a difference.
Keep a cool temperature. Our body expects temperatures to drop at night. It sleeps much better then. So turn off the radiator. Open your windows. Let that fresh air and cool night breeze in.
When I grew up, I lived in a poorly-isolated house, and we had no money to keep the radiator running anyway. I am used to sleeping in cold environments.
I only noticed this once I started sleeping at other people’s places. They left the radiator on. They closed all doors and windows. They might even have electric blankets!
Madness! I have never been able to sleep more than one or two hours in such an environment. All I did was sweat. My body never felt the trigger to sleep, because it was so warm and light.
Noise is less important. Yes, terrible, loud, unpredictable noise will wake you up. But that is the point. It means danger or something happening, so you should stay awake.
Removing this by using earbuds (for example), is a bad idea to me. We are able to block out noise quite well. Especially while asleep, most noises are already blocked out. So no, don’t worry about this.
Scent can help. I personally never felt the need for this. With windows wide open, I have a fresh evening scent by default. But “bad” scents are a great way to annoy yourself and stop being comfortable. So if needed, add calming scents to your bedroom.
And, of course, clean your room and ensure it’s not dirty. Do not eat in your bedroom, especially not warm foods. Those lingering scents are really bad for sleeping.
I, personally, prefer showering right before bed. Otherwise, I feel dirty and “not ready” for bed.
If you do this, though, do not shower too hot. While standing in the shower, it feels nice and you feel sleepy. But when you get out? The contrast will actually wake you up (considerably). And due to the heat, your body will be sweating and more activated.
Instead, I highly recommend cold showers. Or, at least, ending your shower cold.
- When you step from your cold shower to your cold bedroom, the transition is seemless. You won’t notice how cold it is
- The cold shuts down your body more.
- Cold showers (or temperatures in general) train the balance between the two systems in your body: active and resting.
If you vary your temperature during the day (between cold and comfortable), your body regularly switches between its two systems, perfecting that balance. When it’s time for bed, this switch from “active” to “rest” is so natural, sleep comes easy.
Honestly, your bed quality doesn’t matter much. (It’s not like a very expensive bed will suddenly solve everything for you. A bed should be somewhat soft and sturdy—and that’s it.)
It’s more about your position and what you are doing.
- Do not sleep on your stomach. You can’t breathe well, your neck needs to be rotated at a weird angle, your stomach can’t process its food.
- It’s fine to sleep on your side, as long as you compensate. A pillow between the legs helps. Find a pillow with a cutout: a small dent so you can place your shoulder in there, and your neck stays straight.
- It’s best to sleep on your back.
When on your side, it can help to place your arm ( = the one touching the mattress) underneath your pillow. But that might also cut off circulation, causing you to wake up with a sleeping arm.
Sleeping with a partner is best. Studies have shown this improves speed quality in all areas. Unless, of course, your partner has annoying habits in this department. If so, talk about it with them and try to resolve it, as sleeping together has too many benefits to ignore.
Let’s talk about the biggest offender.
Snoring is not something you just do or don’t. Snoring happens when your airways are clogged. You can usually solve this by …
- Changing position
- Using your voice better during the day. (Do vocal exercises, take something that soothes your throat, etcetera.)
- Not eating right before bed
- Being more active in general, increasing lung capacity and clearing your airways.
Think about it: why would we evolve to snore? Do other animals snore?
Most animals don’t. Because it is stupid: while sleeping, while being at your most vulnerable, you make a loud noise that clearly gives away your position and state? How does that evolve?
No, most people don’t have to snore. It happens because of habits that, directly or indirectly, make breathing harder.
Especially when sleeping with a partner, you will sometimes wake up during the night. Another common cause is the need to go to the toilet.
Some easy tips:
- Go to the toilet right before bed. Don’t drink the few hours before bed.
- Keep your eyes closed. Simple, right? But many people (like me) instinctively open their eyes, which is a great signal to your brain that you want to wake up now.
- Do not “worry”. Don’t stress yourself saying “I need to fall asleep immediately” or “I need to rest! NO!” It merely increases the likelihood of staying awake from now on. Start thinking about something else entirely. Most people have their own “favorite thoughts” that help them sleep.
My own “sleeping thoughts” are about storytelling. I am a writer and artist, after all. When I enter my bed, I simply start inventing a story. Not one with tension or excitement. Just a nice, lovely story where everything turns out great, I meet the woman of my dreams, things like that.
Let’s say this all went wrong. You woke up. You can’t fall asleep again. You’re getting frustrated.
Then get out of bed. That’s the logical conclusion from all the other tips. Get out of bed, walk around, put your mind off sleeping for a bit.
Only return to your bed when you are ready to sleep again. It will probably come quickly.
In fact, people used to sleep in two blocks of ~4 hours. So it’s natural to wake up right in the middle of the night. And it’s natural to just do something for 30-60 minutes at that point, before returning to your second block of sleep.
Why did this change?
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