One day not long after returning from volunteering in Africa my wife came home with a new pillow for each of us. A memory foam based firm log for me to rest my head on. She was very proud that she had managed to find these “bargains” at half price. That’s pretty good I thought before I asked the price. $100 for each pillow… WTH?! I nearly had a heart attack… that was easily 5x what I would think to spend on a pillow.
Later I sufficiently calmed down and went to bed.
When I woke up the next morning I felt fantastic having slept the best I had in a long long time, that pillow was (and still is) worth every cent of that price tag.
Prior to this particular night, I hadn’t really given sleep too much thought. In my own mind, I slept reasonable most of the time. The next morning while thinking about how great my new pillow was (and the new found realization that I actually felt rejuvenated), somewhere deep within my brain synapses fired and a connection was made. Maybe I hadn’t been sleeping very well, all this time.
I recalled that I had previously seen that the Pat Flynn book club had recommended a sleep-related book and I thought maybe there was still more I could do to get even better sleep.
Thanks brain, that was a life changing moment right there.
The Gary V Effect On Sleep
Before I get to the book below.
I am a relative latecomer to the Gary V phenomenon only recently coming across his content from his book Crushing It. After listening to this book and watching some of his YouTube content there is no doubt of his passion and desire to create a legacy. His message resonates. It resonated with me that I could be doing more, every day.
You have to work to get shit done – period.
To get ahead you need to outwork – everyone.
However, I read the sleep book below before I discovered Gary V. If you are working all the way through the night after your day job till the early morning you are likely doing long-term damage to your health.
Please understand, you can hustle 18 hours a day, just like Gary V says but I want you to pay close attention to the sleep hours and suggestions from the book below to make sure that you get as many restorative benefits from sleep as you possibly can. Better still go and buy (or find or thrift) the book.
You can hustle hard AND sleep well.
You MUST sleep well to maintain the pace and combat burnout.
The Sleep Smarter Book
Sleep Smarter: 21 Essential Strategies to Sleep Your Way to A Better Body, Better Health, and Bigger Success by Shawn Stevenson. I originally downloaded the book as an audiobook from Audible.com and consumed the whole thing within the following week.
The below are the key concepts that resonated with me from my take away of the book, I highly recommend finding a copy of this in either digital, print or audio form to get all the information and tips.
Ways To Achieve Better Sleep
The benefits of proper sleep are, numerous. High quality sleep strengthens your immune system, regulates your hormone levels, boosts your metabolism, increases physical vitality, and improves the function of your brain.
Poor sleep leads to poor health. The challenges (and habits) of our modern technology infused lives are creating millions of chronically sleep-deprived living zombies suffering the effects of low or poor quality sleep.
Here are some possible symptoms of sleep deprivation*:
- Daytime drowsiness or sleepiness.
- Physical complaints, such as fatigue or pain.
- Mood changes such as irritability, anxiety, and depression.
- Difficulty with attention, concentrating and reduced performance.
- Memory impairment when handling thinking problems involving planning or judgement.
- Disorientation, hallucinations, and paranoia.
After finishing the book I realised I had been doing sleep all wrong, which to be honest is a bit of an issue if it’s something you spend 1/3rd of your life doing… I needed to make some immediate changes…
The following are some of the key concepts and points that immediately jumped out at me and my own implementation of these.
The Dark Room
Sleep in a dark room preferably pitch black where if you were to wave your hand in front of your face you couldn’t see it. Apparently, the skin itself is sensitive to light at night (even when you are asleep) and any light sources present can disturb your sleep patterns/rhythms even if you aren’t aware of the light source. This means no more night lights kids.
After listening to this section in the book I immediately realised that we (my wife and I) had a street light right outside our window which meant we had substantial light spill through the window blinds (even when drawn closed). It was like having the moonlight of a full moon in the room every night. Great for seeing if you needed to get up at all but not so good for great sleep.
The solution is obviously to cover the windows entirely. We have gone with some blackout blinds, a nifty product which can be cut to size and easily installed and removed at will. It stays in place on the window simply by stored static electricity, no need for any other velcro or tape!
Another more permanent option could be the installation of roller shutters but the cost make these a luxury purchase at the moment.
Sleep Planning: Sleep Between 10PM And 2AM
This is the sleep time you really want to have locked down and make sure you are asleep in this window of time. Research shows that being asleep between these hours produces the most rejuvenating sleep due to natural alignment with our own circadian rhythms. Anything else after this is a bonus but make sure to get as much sleep between these hours.
We had to modify our night time routine a lot here (as we are both night owls).
90 Minute Sleep Cycles
I found this point truly fascinating. The summation is that we have sleep cycles which last about 90 minutes and then repeat throughout the night and the best time to wake up is at the end of a sleep cycle and not half way through it. This means you wake up feeling refreshed and not groggy. Previously I used to think that 7 hours was where I needed to be each night (an inaccurate fact from years ago) so often I would go to bed around 10 for example and then my alarm would wake at me at 5 am the next morning. After I heard this point I realised that I had basically been waking up mid sleep cycle for years! Every day, I was waking up foggy and I had simply accepted this as normal!
So now, nothing other than time management is required and my new time for any alarm is 7 and a half hours from when I go to bed or exactly 5 sleep cycles. It has been working great.
Magic Pills And Potions
Magnesium – Magic Pill
I had been taking Magnesium in giant white pill form. I had read a while ago that it helped with sleep and when I remembered to take it I feel like it did. Again this book enlightened me, what I didn’t realise is that the magnesium I was taking probably wasn’t getting absorbed very well by my body due to the pill form, meaning although I was getting some benefit, there was still room for much improvement. I learned that there are topical magnesium oils that can be applied directly to and absorbed through the skin resulting in a much greater absorption (and faster) of the magnesium. I purchased some of this oil and immediately noticed an improvement in sleep quality as well as feeling more relaxed in my muscles (a side benefit, particularly for gym goers).
Valerian – Magic Pill
The first time I took Valerian when I lay down on the bed I felt like I was floating on clouds in a vacuum totally relaxed, that’s the best way I can describe it as I fell straight asleep after! I have been taking this every night and probably the only thing I haven’t gotten used to is remembering to take it in the lead up to sleep and not right before bed.
Chamomile Tea – Magic Potion
I wanted to combine a whole lot of these strategies to give the best possible chance for relaxed sleep. Two items recommended that stuck out to me were Chamomile Tea and Kava Kava tea being two drinks which can aid relaxation.
Initially I thought Kava Kava was illegal where I lived but after some quick google research was pleasantly surprised that it had actually been legalised in small doses. Not easy to find a stockist however locally.
To get started immediately, I visited the local supermarket and settled on the Camomile Tea. I have to say it initially reminded me of drinking grass clippings. I persevered and I later remembered there was a Chamomile and Honey version also I had seen. So I added my own honey and much better.
Watch Caffeine Levels
I love coffee, drink it every day like a true believer. What I failed to learn earlier in life is that the caffeine from coffee has a rather long half-life of 5 hours. This means, basically if I had a cup of coffee at 3 pm (which I had been doing regularly) I would still have approximately half the amount of caffeine in my system at 8 pm at night. So what you might say, I can have a coffee and then go to bed. Yes, I can do that too, however, studies referenced in the book showed that people under the effects of caffeine while sleeping slept worse compared to those that didn’t.
No surprise there.
Armed with this new knowledge I set myself a new rule, no coffee (or other caffeinated drinks) after 2pm with midday preferred.
One of the things that had been a bone of contention in our home was the use of electronic devices in the bedroom. All those screens in the dark throw out blue wavelength light which helps confuse your body into thinking it’s still daytime.
We made the conscious decision to keep phones out of reach face down or in another totally different room.
There you go. These are just a few of my favourite recommendations to assist in getting better quality sleep, every day, the book Sleep Smarter: 21 Essential Strategies to Sleep Your Way to A Better Body, Better Health, and Bigger Success has even more.