Health & Fitness Men's Lifestyle

How I Get to Sleep – Tips from a Retired Insomniac

As someone who always struggled to sleep, I went through all of the phases of denial and sleep deprivation. I tried to beat insomnia at its own game and would try to stay up for nights on end during college (not only was this completely insane, it’s also dangerous). I would try to use that time to work on creative projects or I would stare at the ceiling as if to out-bore my sleep daemon. What I discovered is that most people will struggle with sleeping at one time or another.

Much like a baby learns to sleep, we need to create a safe and secure environment that enables our brains to turn off. If you are an always on kinda guy, then I’m sure you know what it feels like to be hardwired at night. Sleep deprivation is a very real, and very dangerous side effect of not getting enough sleep. Learning to turn off your brain so that you can rest supports all manner of benefits like metabolism, preventing depression, to stable brain function. So listen up.

Below are three quick tips you can use to get a better nights sleep. I tried to think of what has worked for me, and not tell you to relax as I know that’s the battle.

The 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise

Throughout the day, our breathing changes. When we exercise, for example, we breathe faster and deeper to take in more oxygen to get our muscles pumping. Our breathing changes when we sleep too. The problem is, for many guys, we breathe incorrectly, and energize our body rather than soothing it into sleep. Breathe is a life force, and how you do it matters. Here’s a quick routine I use to slow my breathing down and to calm my mind. You should try it before you knock it.

  1. Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
  2. Hold your breath for a count of seven.
  3. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
  4. This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.

The Power of Sun Lamps

Last year, Phillips sent me an awesome sun lamp to review and it was a real game changer. As the name suggests, a sun lamp mimics the natural sunset and sunrise to wake you up and put you to sleep. I found the night to be significant at night. It’s wonderful waking up to a gentle light, but our modern world often determines we go to sleep by turning the light off. Our bodies need a cue to give it time to wind down. The sun used to do this task, but our environment has changed.

I found that putting a sun lamp in the living room, or an area where I spend time at night to be the most useful place. This way I would feel the effects without the anxiety of changing my routine in anticipation of another sleepless night. The lamp is programmed like an alarm and will start to fade until it eventually ticks off. At that point, however, you will be ready to transition to your bedroom. I take my lamp with me if I travel, as I know I’ll need it.

Realigning Your Expectations

Many times we hear the adage, “You need 8 hours of sleep a night.” While this is a great goal to have in mind, not everyone needs that much sleep, and some people need much more. Once you understand your own sleep needs, you will feel less anxious. While I sometimes still have trouble dozing off, what I learned is that I need less sleep than other people do. Once I understood how much sleep I need, which is about 5 hours, I was so much more content and confident when I did sleep.

To find out how much sleep you need, wind back your clock one hour for a few days or a week to get a feel for how easy it to fall asleep at night, and how refreshed you feel in the morning. You can do this in reverse too if you are too tired, but remember, you want to let your body take about 10 minutes to fall asleep at night. More or less can make it harder to sleep, as you are not sending your body the right signals to sleep. Keep adjusting the times until you find your sweet sleep spot.

Leave a comment below and let me know if you use a different go to sleep method!