dreamt’s little guide to better sleep

by Jannise Babbush, PhD
October 12, 2019

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In this article, we’re going to share some best practices that can help you sleep better and enjoy brighter days.

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Let’s start by setting a familiar scene…

It’s 1:37am. You’re laying in bed staring at the ceiling. You’ve tossed and turned for a couple of hours and change. The blue light from your screens has left a dull ache behind your eyes. Your brain is still whirring along at a frantic clip, churning through your to-do list, acutely aware that your intended eight hours is going to be six, at best. And that’s if you fall asleep right now.

You take a deep breath, reset your mind, adjust your posture, think positively, and then immediately continue to anxiously fret about tackling another important day with less—perhaps much less—sleep than you need to be your best you.

We’d be willing to bet that just about every person has shared this precise mixture of frustration, desperation, hopelessness and anger. As many as 100 million Americans report regular difficulty getting to sleep at night, while 25 percent of the nation reports suffering from insomnia.

And yet despite the widespread commonality of this problem, we suffer alone, in silence. (Unless your significant other is a snorer of course, in which case, we feel your pain and commend your resolve).

Sleep loss, by the numbers

We’re only now beginning to understand the enormous negative impact of chronic sleep loss. The rap sheet lists stress, anxiety and the risk of depression, as well as contributing to the onset of hypertension, diabetes, obesity, heart attacks, and strokes. The annual healthcare bill is thought to be around $16 billion, with an estimated 1.2 million lost work days and a cumulative annual economic impact of over $400 billion.

But we’re not into the scare tactics. We’re more aspirational than that. We want to ask: 

  • Who are you when you are well rested? 
  • How do you feel when you wake up after a full, uninterrupted eight hours of blissful slumber? 
  • How is your concentration, your productivity, your creativity, your mood, your emotional intelligence when you’re well rested? 

You are a better, brighter version of yourself when you are thoroughly rested. But we can feel like the unrelenting pressure of our modern life—work, money, technology, politics!—is pushing us to forgo this vital period of restorative inactivity in favor of working and stressing into the wee hours.

While our culture continues to lionize stress and busyness as signs of success, more and more people are starting to recognize that better sleep = better you.

better sleep = better you

“Sleep Hygiene” is a term used in reference to the qualitative conditions of your sleep habits. There is an emerging body of scientific literature that supports a number of small changes that you can make to your sleep environment, daily routine, and lifestyle which will have a significant impact on the quality of your sleep.

While dreamt is a product aimed to ease you into a long, restful night’s sleep, we believe that everyone should strive to have excellent sleeping hygiene. 

So in that spirit, here is dreamt’s little guide to sleep well

Find a regular time to sleep and wake

This is the first point on the list for a reason. Your body is a perfectly honed system that craves regularity to keep its basic functions optimized,. And sleep is one of the body’s natural functions that collapses when it’s in a state of irregularity.

It’s best to start by asking yourself when you want to wake up in the morning, and work back eight hours. Simple. Then, do your absolute best to stick to this routine, and help your body ease into an evening groove.

Stop drinking caffeine 6 hours before bed

Unfortunately, our caffeine addictions are a source of many a restless night. The world’s most widely consumed drug energizes and sharpens our central nervous system. But for many of us that drink coffee throughout the day, it plays a conflicting role in both making us tired and keeping us up.

You should stop consuming caffeine 6 hours before planning to go to bed. Studies from Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences at Detroit’s Wayne State College of Medicine found that, “caffeine taken 6 hours before bedtime has important disruptive effects on sleep” and recommends that people, “refrain from substantial caffeine use for a minimum of 6 hours prior to bedtime” [1].

Get the temperature right

Being based in Southern California, we know what it’s like to have your sleep disrupted mercilessly by a heat wave. There are few things worse that becoming flustered and sweaty as the sleepless minutes become hours.

The magic number, according to Chris Winter, MD, president of Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine in Virginia, is 65 degrees.

We won’t pretend that everyone reading this has the means to regulate their room temperature to a specific degree, but a general rule of thumb is that you’ll get a better night’s sleep if you’re a little on the cold side.

Make the room as dark as possible

Since we’re on the subject of your environment, you should try to make your room as dark as possible. And then put on an eye mask if that still isn’t dark enough.

The presence and absence of light is a key way that our body determines whether it is time to sleep or wake. But many of us know that a simple street light glare through the drapes, or the tiny light on the smoke alarm can be enough to drive you over insanity’s edge.

Put that phone away!

Deep down, you knew this one was coming. The little distraction monster in your hand is the source of untold anxiety, stress, lost productivity, and diminished sleep.

The blue light omitted from your screens inhibits your brain’s ability to produce melatonin, a vital hormone that regulates your sleep cycles [2]. This slow wavelength light can also lead to a reduction of time spent in REM, and ultimately diminish the quality of sleep.

Stop peering into the glowing abyss about 30 minutes to one hour before going to bed. We’d go one step further and recommend putting your phone on airplane mode and leaving it in another room. 

You do not need to sleep with your phone.

Meditation

The reported benefits of meditation are extensive. Daily meditation has been shown to reduce blood pressure, calm the mind, and improve mood.

With regards to sleep, meditation gives us the tools to manage our stress and anxiety, two key contributors to insomnia and sleep-related problems. Taking as little as five focused minutes per day to do meditation and breathwork can have a significant impact on your sleep habits.

We don’t pretend to be an authority on meditation, but there are many apps and services out there that can help you develop the simple tools to improve your mental and physical health through mindfulness.

And finally, go easy on yourself

Whether this advice is useful or not, it’s important to remember not to beat yourself up when you are failing to sleep. You are absolutely not alone. In fact, almost 1 in 3 people on your street knows your pain, and may even be suffering silently alongside you at that very moment.

Being cruel to yourself will only make it worse. Stay calm, stay positive, breathe deeply, and put your damn phone away.

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References 

  1. Drake, C., Roehrs, T., Shambroom, J., & Roth, T. (2013). Caffeine effects on sleep taken 0, 3, or 6 hours before going to bed. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 9(11), 1195-1200.
  2. Gooley, J. J., Chamberlain, K., Smith, K. A., Khalsa, S. B. S., Rajaratnam, S. M., Van Reen, E., … & Lockley, S. W. (2011). Exposure to room light before bedtime suppresses melatonin onset and shortens melatonin duration in humans. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 96(3), E463-E472.