Before we start with specific learning techniques and mastering different areas in your life, we have to build a solid foundation. The best practices won’t help if you feel exhausted and have no clear mind. I’m talking about not getting enough sleep.
It sounds so simple, but if you are a bit like me, then you know how hard it is to achieve a good amount of sleep regularly.
One of the worst times in my life followed reading a book about the perfect morning routine some years ago. I was ready to apply most of what I read, and after some additional research, I stumbled over the 5 am club. I thought if so many successful people get up at this time, I should do the same. The first few weeks went fine, I achieved a lot in the morning, but my bedtime slowly decreased. I was still a night owl. After a few months, I was going to bed around midnight and standing up at 5 am. I still had a good feeling in the morning, achieved several things, but around midday and in the afternoon, I was a complete wreck. At noon I was so desperate for sleep that I tried to sleep in my car while I was in transit for business trips. I didn’t recognize it first, but my cognitive capabilities also started to degrade. I had a hard time concentrating. My body felt weaker than usual.
I loved the morning routine, I was addicted, but I realized I have to stop this one day. I knew I had to fix my sleeping behavior.
Since I like to optimize everything, I had to do some research and read books and articles about sleeping.
One book which changed my life was Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson.
I want to summarize what I’ve applied to my life and what helped me the most.
Sleep a minimum of 7 hours per day, in one pass – no tricks. Everyone is different, maybe you need more sleep than 7 hours, but most of us can’t achieve outstanding performance with less.
But it is not just about the sleep duration itself. Also, the quality of your sleep plays a vital role. Are you doing sports regularly? Great! But don’t do sports too late in the evening or later at night before you go to bed. Your body is lowering its temperature for sleeping. When you do sports before sleeping, then your body temperature will be too high for quality sleep. Just do your exercises in the morning. It has so many benefits, not only that you sleep way deeper. You won’t need your morning coffee anymore. Since I started doing some morning sports, I have slept better (according to my Fitbit tracker, which I had at this time). Before that routine, I was drinking up to 5 or 6 coffees per day. Now I’m drinking max. one in the afternoon (but not later than 2 pm!).
With some morning sport, you end up burning more energy throughout the rest of the day. You’ll transform your whole body.
To get better, deep, quality sleep, you should also take some magnesium before bed. By doing so, your muscles relax more, and you’ll sink into a deeper sleep.
Most people have a deficit in magnesium anyways – 2 problems solved (this supplement works fine for me).
Then, of course, you should take a closer look at the mattress you are using. Just remember, you spend a third of your life in bed. Don’t try to save a few pennies here. It is not worth it. Look for a high-quality mattress with good test results and ensure that it also supports improving your sleep quality.
I’m not recommending waterbeds. Sure, they have improved a lot in recent years, but several physiotherapists and pain specialists still argue that those beds don’t do you any favor. They are not suitable for your posture. Most of us are just sitting the whole day in the office. The muscles in the front of your body are shortened in that posture. You should use bedtime to recover and strengthen your brain and recover and stretch your body back into its natural flat position during the night. The best sleeping position would be lying on the back for this on a slightly hard mattress without a pillow. I’m aware that this sleeping position is not for everyone (most people sleep on their side), but I just wanted to give you an image of the theoretical best set up to maintain a good posture also at a higher age.
To measure your sleeping behavior improvements or become aware of how much sleep you are getting on average, I highly recommend you a sleep tracker (Apple Watch, Fitbit, or something similar). Only by measuring your results, you’ll be able to improve them. Looking at my sleep tracking results was an aha moment, which showed me how significant my sleep deficit was.
Your brain is part of your body. It is one entity. Treat your body like that. If your body is weak or sick, you won’t be able to access your full brainpower.
Nutrition and sports is another topic that I’ll address in a future post. Stay tuned – I’m looking forward to your questions and comments.