Sleep more, win more (and die less).

Purpose: To give you actionable points on how to improve your sleep along with references for further reading.

Introduction: I like to talk about sleep. A lot. I got good at sleeping fast when I had little time to do it and now it’s my top priority in both quality and getting enough of it. I’m still learning and implementing and getting better and this article is a culmination of my thoughts on the subject at this time. Throughout the article I refer to two books (click through to audio versions on Audible. If you’ve not signed up before you can listen for free with a free trial and cancel). These books are:

‘Why We Sleep’ by Matthew Walker
‘Sleep: The myth of 8 hours’ by Nick Littlehales

These guys are my heroes. I talk about them so much I feel like I’m on first name terms with them (I’m not). Furthermore, this article is not meant to replace or plagiarise them. It’s a (very) brief summary of and tribute to them and you should 100% read their books for the full low down. A lot of the advanced tips come from Nick Littlehales. He works with elite athletes where performance is everything so they can seem quite extreme. I’ve taken my experience of implementing them and described them in that context below.

TLDR: Sleep is more important than you think. To get straight to the implementable points, skip to “HOW TO SLEEP LIKE A NINJA” (along with picture of sleeping ninja).

PART 1: My Story and sleeping fast

Back in 2015 I was still a full-time doctor training in Anaesthetics (ironically putting people to sleep day to day). I woke up one morning and realised that this wasn’t my life calling. OK, so that’s a bit overdramatic. I wasn’t happy or excited getting up to go to work, whereas I had been up until that point. This was enough for me and I decided to leave.

I’ll spare you the details (another post perhaps) but this meant juggling 2 jobs, a bodybuilding competition, hours of training and a medical exam while I set myself up as a coach within the fitness industry.

It was January when I decided all of this and the competition and exam were a week apart in May and everything else needed to be up and running by the end of July. That was a lot in a few short months.

I am not one for excuses. I was doing 9–10 hour shifts, plus 2 hours of commuting a day, plus in the gym twice a day and THEN revision and business as well. There were very few hours left in the day and sleep time got less and less. Because I like being good at things and I was driven as hell, I got pretty efficient at sleep and my sleep hygiene was on point. For the little time that I was in bed, I was getting pretty effective at sleeping, so if I was in bed for 5 hours, I would have slept for 4 and a half of them and I was doing this for months on end with all sorts of stimulants and sheer pig headed stubbornness keeping me going by day

I believed I was one of those ‘special’ people who could survive on 4–5 hours a night. I’m not and neither are you.

My information at the time came from internet research and trial and error. My bedroom was kitted out with black out blinds, sun rise alarm clocks and I was really throwing the kitchen sink at it in terms of resources. I was getting to sleep quickly, waking up quickly and I thought I was feeling reasonably refreshed.

It’s been nearly 3 years since my timetable became more flexible and thankfully I left that 4 hour a night habit behind but I still felt pretty hardcore waking up at 0400AM. I’d always known sleep was important but I believed I was one of those ‘special’ people who could survive on 4–5 hours a night. I’m not and neither are you.

Although I was sleeping more, I would often sacrifice it whenever anything came up. It was a case of waking up 3–4 hours earlier or going to bed 3–4 hours later to ‘be more productive’ and only now in hindsight do I realise that a zombie for most of that time and achieving bugger all anyway.

The other awful habit that persisted in my life since leaving full time medical training was night shifts. I have done almost exclusively night shifts as in my mind if I was working at night, then I could get more things done in the day. Unfortunately, there really is no doubt that night shifts are bad for you. Especially when you are switching back and forth between days and nights. As I type this, I can count the number of night shifts I have left in my life on two hands.

This is part of my drive to take my sleep to the next level and the only way I’ve been able to do that is by placing it at the top of my priorities. Over making money, over developing my business and over going to the gym. Drastic? Read on…

‘Why we Sleep’ by Matthew Walker

The main catalyst for this was a book by Matthew Walker called ‘Why We Sleep’. I first heard of this guy on a podcast with Joe Rogan on the recommendation from a good friend and it REALLY hit home. More so because he talked specifically about health professionals and how we seem to find it acceptable to work silly, relentless shifts, all the while literally with the lives of our patients in our hands. It’s certainly gotten better in recent years in healthcare but it’s still FAR from ideal. On top of this, along with nutrition, health professionals are woefully undereducated about the importance of sleep and are often awful examples for our patients in how to live healthy lives. Quite apart from all this, I enjoy my life and sleeping adequately is easily up there with physical activity and good nutrition, as the cornerstone for good health and longevity.

Addendum: To clarify, if you sleep well you are more likely to want to exercise and eat well and conversely, dropping even a few hours of sleep will mean that you are more likely to skip the gym and pile into a tray of donuts. This lack of sleep will also make you less tolerant of stress again making exercise and nutrition more difficult.

Matthew Walker says it all beautifully in his book and on the podcast so I am not going to go into huge detail of why we need sleep but suffice to say you are ultimately worse at every aspect of health and life if you sleep less than 7–9 hours a night.

For example, a single night of bad sleep causes decreased physical prowess and cognitive performance. This includes poorer reaction time, less strength and endurance during exercise as well as decreased memory, learning and skill acquisition.

Detrimental health effects include increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, dementia in old age and cancer (!) and increased obesity and insulin resistance and these are just a handful of things that I can remember off the top of my head.

To top it all off lack of sleep also makes you feel shitter about being shitter at life with increased anxiety, lower mood and decreased tolerance for other humans.

“People often quote Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan as famous individuals getting by on 4 hours sleep… both went on to develop Alzheimer’s disease.”

So, sleep is important…

Addendum: It is interesting to note at this point that although sleep makes it more likely that you carry excess fat and makes exercise less effective in almost every regard it WILL NOT halt progress in terms of fat loss. Lack of sleep causes you to make poorer decisions around food and leads you to eat more crap but it will not magically defy the energy balance equation. At the end of the day, the only thing that makes you put on fat is eating more calories than you need. I managed to compete as a physique athlete at 5–6% body fat sleeping 4 hours a night and doing night shifts. It’s possible. Just much more difficult.

‘Sleep: The myth of 8 Hours’ by Nick Littlehales

Prior to reading “Why We Sleep”, I was already passionate about sleep from my days of “sleeping fast” and the book which clarified a lot of my thoughts on sleep was this one by Nick Littlehales.

This book put down a very practical set of guidelines on how to get really effective sleep. One of the things I liked the most was that it was flexible around a busy lifestyle, planning sleep in cycles over a whole week. The guy coaches and advises elite athletes, who live hectic lives, often travelling a lot, on how to get optimal sleep. This made the advice very practical and relatable. What’s more, it was largely in keeping with what I already knew and was already doing but fine tuned it and took it to the next level.

Sleep basics: Sleep Cycles

Without getting too scientific, we sleep in various stages (all of which are important) and a complete cycle of stages lasts 90 mins. Given this fact, it makes sense to time a nights sleep according to this. This means that instead of aiming for ‘x’ hours a night, you aim for 4–6 cycles of 90 minutes which would be 6–9 hours. Nick Littlehales then goes a step further and talks about averaging your total number of cycles over a week and using 30 and 90 min naps to make up the short falls caused by real life to get your weekly average. A good starting point is say 35 cycles, that is 5 cycles a night (7.5 hours) x 7 nights a week.

I love the concept of averaging sleep out over a week as it fits in with what I already do in training and nutrition and allows some flexibility while still ticking the boxes. Now, a key point is that you can’t ‘bank’ sleep and ‘pay it back’ later in the week but naps can claw some of the lost sleep back so for example if you had a late night you can make up a cycle with a nap in the day and an early night the next day. However, if you pull an all nighter, expect to feel crap for a few days.

So, we’ve established that we need sleep and more than 6 hours a night. Most of us need between 7 and 9 hours and when I say most of us, I mean all of us.

Addendum: It’s worth noting that we can survive on less than 7–9 hours for a long time, perhaps indefinitely. My point is that there are very few people who won’t experience the negative health effects of doing this. It’s very difficult to assess actually how much sleep we need in the modern world of excessive stimuli and artificial light so it’s much safer to assume you need 7–9 hours and work relentlessly to achieve this before considering yourself a 3hour a night sleep superhero.

PART 2: HOW TO SLEEP LIKE A NINJA

Not me or my picture. Owned by the owner.

Onto the sleep tips. Why a ninja? Who knows. They probably sleep really well to be fair.

The points are ordered, in my opinion, by their ease of implementation and they work in such a way that the first ones will offer the most bang for your buck. Nailing even the first few will massively improve your sleep and by the Pareto principle, consistently nailing just the most important 20% of the advice, will give you 80% of the benefit and this is in keeping with my experience.

The tips are based on what I’ve picked up over the years and found to be effective, further distilled by reading, research and exchanging ideas. I am by no means an expert but I’m passionate about it. If you are interested then read the two books recommended above (and if you don’t know what I’m on about, shame on you for skipping half the article).

What is an ideal sleep?

Before going into how to improve sleep, let’s quickly cover what I mean by an ideal sleep. Quite simply once you are in bed, the goal is to be asleep within 10–15 minutes, sleep through the night without waking up then awaken naturally (without an alarm) at a precise time in the morning (to within 10–20 minutes) feeling refreshed and invigorated. As an example, if you’re in bed between 2245 and 0630 (7 hours 45 minutes) you are sleeping for 7 hours and 30minutes and sleeping through.

Melatonin: The sleep hormone

It is also worth mentioning here that the ‘timer’ for sleep in humans is melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone which rises in the evening and gets us off to sleep and drops in the morning to wake us. Part of this daily oscillation is down to a chronological cycle (the circadian rhythm) and it can also be manipulated by the environment for example by light (in particular the blue part of the spectrum), the temperature and exogenous sources such as melatonin supplements. Fighting this circadian rhythm throws the whole body out of whack so things like jet lag, night shifts and pulling all nighters are really bad for you regardless of how well you think you sleep the rest of the time. Even shifting your sleep cycle a few hours back or forth can have negative effects.

Basic melatonin cycle

Level 1 — SLEEP FOR DUMMIES

These tips can be implemented tonight. There is no excuse and no reason not to. These are basic and until you’ve got these nailed down you literally have no ground to stand on regarding being tired or not sleeping well.

1 — Routine bedtime. This is both the easiest and most difficult one to implement. It’s so painfully ‘easy’ that people just don’t do it. Just a simple routine will improve your sleep immeasurably and in practical terms this means getting to bed at the same time each night. This compliments the circadian rhythm and allows the body to get used to when it is supposed to be shutting down. This point is also important as it is going to be a fundamental part of getting into a pre- bed routine which is covered in more detail in the advanced sections of this guide. There is room for flexibility here but picking a bed time and sticking to it is a basic starting point.

TO DO — Stage one is just to pick a bedtime and stick to it this week. Aim for 5 out of 7 days to start with to allow for a movie or date night or whatever.

Yeah, don’t.

2 — Get straight up in the morning. This one is also hard to implement but only requires discipline to complete. I say ‘only’, like any other skill it also requires practice and commitment but it sets the stage for the rest of the sleep tips so is important. The idea is that once you wake up, you should get straight out of bed as any snoozing after this point is totally ineffective and basically a waste of time.

If you use an alarm to wake up then the chances are that you are going to be jarred awake during the deepest part of your cycle and will likely feel like crap. Once you start nailing the sleep rhythm you should be able to time your wake up with the lightest part of the cycle and you’ll feel MUCH better.

Setting your alarm early just so you can hit snooze 17 times is just a bad habit that needs to be removed. If you wake up 30 minutes before your alarm goes off then GET UP straight away. This is you waking up naturally at the lightest part of your cycle and this is excellent news for how you’re going to feel. The absolute worst thing you can do is go back to sleep so then just as you hit deep sleep the alarm is going to go off and you’ll feel WORSE. For the sake of an ‘extra’ 30 minutes that you’ve had in bed.

Addendum: This wake up routine can be combined and optimised with a ‘Sunrise’ alarm clock where a light gradually brightens over about 30 minutes before your wake up time mimicking sunrise. This means that your are gently awoken at the appropriate part of your sleep cycle and when you open your eyes and see a light then you know it’s roughly time to get up.

TO DO — Get up as soon as your alarm goes off tomorrow morning. It can help to plan an automatic task to complete straight away, for example putting the kettle on to make coffee. Preparing your clothes the night before so you don’t have to think about it is also useful so you don’t have an excuse to loiter but ultimately it’s just a case of deciding to get up and sticking to it.

3 — Charge your phone downstairs. I cannot emphasise this point enough. There is nothing more disruptive to getting to sleep and then having a decent nights sleep than a freaking bright, noisy, vibrating, distracting object that literally provides access to the collective knowledge of the human race plus infinite cat memes and someone, somewhere in the world who will talk to you at your fingertips. Bed is for sleep remember.

This is the single most important habit you need to change if you want to take your sleep and health seriously.

Apart from distraction, it can also be a cause pointless stress and anxiety as you are literally taking work into bed with you where you can’t do anything about it — “I’ll just check my email one more time”.

That along with social media/youtube and there are a million possible reasons to get worked up. I personally find there are very few things which rile me up more than getting into an argument on Facebook with someone about sweeteners insulin or something.

If you have a genuine case for needing a phone for emergencies then charge it in the hall and use ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode or similar. If I can leave my phone outside of my bedroom while being on-call for actual medical emergencies then I’m sure you can manage it.

TO DO— Charge your phone downstairs tonight. No excuses. There is no give or flexibility here. Until you nail this, there is literally no point in reading any further.

LEVEL 2 — LETS GET TO THAT 80%

Level 1 just requires discipline. Level 2 may be just as easy IF you can control your environment. This may require some negotiation with partners and likely some financial input but if these are no issue then these may be even easier to implement than level 1.

4 — Cool the room. A cool room improves sleep. I’m not talking freezing but around 18˚C (64˚F) is probably optimal. You WILL warm up over night and if you are waking up too hot or needing to remove covers then this is the reason and should be remedied. Cooling is up there with it getting dark in terms of being a natural prompt to sleep. In the night it gets both cool and dark and cooling may even be the MAIN driver, OVER light reduction that gets us sleepy.

This means fans, AC, opening windows, thin bedding, whatever. This can be tough to manipulate and certainly in the UK where we don’t tend to have air con, we can be caught off guard by a ‘heat wave’ but I bought this gadget recently along with a room fan to try and alleviate this. Worst case scenario, if there isn’t much you can do or it’s noisy outside and you can’t open windows then closing the curtains or blinds in the day can stop the room warming up. Another nice ‘hack’ is to take a hot shower or bath just before bed as this will create a heat gradient and set your body for sleep. Even the muggiest room is going to feel cool compared to a hot shower and your body is primed to release heat so core body temperature should drop as you get into bed. Another tip I’ve read in a similar vein is to wear socks/gloves to bed as this warms your peripheries and draws heat away from your core again creating a cooling effect.

TO DO — Have a hot shower before bed tonight. Buy a fan.

Addendum — WHITE NOISE: Fans serve a dual purpose and also create white noise. If you’ve wondered why you fall asleep in a car then this is the reason. White noise can help us sleep AND it can block out noises that may wake up. I often use white noise in conjunction with an open window to allow the room to cool while blocking out external noises. There are apps for this as well and certain types of slow soothing music can have the same effect I use apps called ‘Sound Sleeper’ and ‘Brain.fm’ for white noise and sleep music respectively. It can take some getting used to but you can make it surprisingly loud and it will take your sleep to the next level.

Click HERE to buy.

5 — Darken the room. Similar to cooling, this one may take a little bit of setting up. Just turning off the light doesn’t really cut it especially with longer days in the UK. Blackout blinds, shutters or thick curtains are essential and I’m not over egging this point. Now that the light is off and your windows are blacked out — what else is casting a light? Remove it. This includes LEDs from TVs, your alarm clock, hair straighteners, extension leads, whatever. This may require a re-structuring of your bed room and may be hard BUT it’s worthwhile.

A very valid alternative is an eye mask and I’ve read that there is benefit to both using an eye mask AND blocking out external light with curtains. I do both and I use the eye mask while travelling as well (airplanes, hotels etc.). If you want to take it to the extremes or need a quick fix then taping bin bags to the windows works as well, especially if you are shift worker.

TO DO — Remove electronics. Get decent blackout blinds. Use an eye mask.

6- Don’t wake at night. — We’ve talked a lot about getting to sleep but staying asleep is equally important and I set the bar high. The goal is to sleep through without waking up. At all. Some things you can’t control, for example loud noises or your partner stirring. But it is worth controlling what you can and if you’re getting up in the night to pee then do what you can to remedy it. You’re not going to die of dehydration overnight. Whatever time you have your last drink, have it earlier. Sleeping is far more important than a few extra hours of mild dehydration.

TO DO — Stop drinking at 20:00. See if this works. If not, try 1930 etc. A few extra hours of dehydration won’t hurt over the detriment of poor sleep. If you wake up for other reasons then identify them and remove them where possible.

Addendum: There is a possible benefit to tracking your sleep using a smart watch or app. You may be in bed for 8–9 hours but if you are taking ages to fall asleep, snoozing for an hour and then getting up 3 times in the night, you may only be sleeping for 4–5 hours. On top of this, if you are measuring it, you are more likely to prioritise it. The picture on the left is one of my clients who has been working on optimising his sleep and is showing ongoing improvement. The caveat is that these devices don’t actually measure sleep. They measure movement or noise or heart rate and although they are getting better, they are not perfect. I would argue that you should be optimising your sleep regardless of what the app says and worst case scenario you might feel amazing in the morning and then the app tells you that you had awful sleep. This may then make you feel crap for the day so exercise caution. If it helps, crack on, if it doesn’t then it won’t change what you need to implement anyway.

LEVEL 3 —UH OH, SHIT’S GETTING REAL

If you have gotten this far then you are doing extremely well. However, this is when you start to get into sleep ninja territory. We’re talking real financial and life commitment to sleep. This stuff certainly isn’t for everyone but once you’ve read “Why We Sleep” by Matthew Walker, these will start to seem like really good idea…

7- Sort out your environment— We’ve talked about light and temperature management but this takes it to the next level. In an ideal world, the bed room is just for sleeping (and sexy time — which is helpful to sleep). This means no other stimuli including TVs, consoles or books (calming bed time reading is great — but ideally in another room and ideally not horror). To take it to the extreme you’d even get dressed in a separate room. This all works towards building the habit and routine that the bedroom is for sleeping so as soon as you walk into it you start to feel tired and your body knows what to do with no distraction.

Bed size and mattress are also very important (you spend a third of your life in bed!) and this is especially the case if you have a partner as the last thing you want is to be waking each other all night because your bed is too small. Nick Littlehales goes into depth on sleep kits and how to buy a mattress so I’m not going to say much more here but it is worth considering.

TO DO — Consider removing other forms of stimulation from your room (tv/books etc). If you are moving house then consider choosing a smaller room to sleep in and just putting a bed in there. Read “Sleep” by Nick Littlehales (this is a large part of the book and he goes into great depth).

8 — Don’t lie in — This is a technique also from Nick Littlehales with a few real life modifications that I’ve added. He talks about getting up at the same time each morning to get the body used to the routine, similar to the bed time and actually he argues that the wake up time is MUCH more important whereas the bed time can be more flexible. This is much harder to implement in real life as you effectively have to wake up everyday (including weekends) at the earliest time that you need to wake each week.

I love the concept of this and when I implemented it for a few weeks I was waking up within 10 minutes of the planned time without an alarm and very gently and naturally. He argues that you should get up at the same time for the sake of routine and then if for whatever reason you need to catch up sleep, you go back to sleep later in the day (even after a few hours up) but I find this often doesn’t happen and getting an extra 90minutes in bed in the morning may be the only time you can actually ‘catch up’ on sleep. Discussing this with a friend and fellow sleep fiend and medic, John (@healthandfitnessdoctor on instagram), he suggested allowing lie-ins twice a week for an extra cycle if needed (and because it feels good sometimes) and this seems like a sensible compromise.

TO DO — Work out when you need to wake up to honour all of your commitments for the week and stick to it. To start with, try doing it for 5 out of 7 days each week.

9 — Avoid sleep aids and stims — Sleep drugs like alcohol, marijuana and sleeping pills (either prescribed or over the counter or whatever) will cause sedation, and therefore cause you to fall asleep but it’s not the same restorative sleep as you’d normally and ideally want to experience. Basically, without going into too much detail, you don’t go through the stages of sleep in the same way and it therefore won’t have the same positive effects.

Taking melatonin can help in certain circumstances though for most people, any perceived benefit is merely the placebo effect (I say merely, it is a hugely powerful effect but unlikely to be physiologically helping with sleep). Ultimately, it is neither sedating, nor helps you to stay asleep but it can help to realign the circadian rhythm so does have a use for jet lag and certain medical conditions.

Smoking also negatively affects sleep. But smoking is just bad for you so I’m not going to labour the point that if you smoke, you should stop.

Use of stimulants to keep you awake after a poor nights sleep is not ideal. They work to a degree but they do not replace sleep and they do not make you anywhere near as effective as if you had just had a good nights sleep so use them if desperate but be aware that they are not a long term solution.

At the other end of the day, if you find you are having difficulty falling asleep then it might be worth checking when you are drinking caffeine or caffeine containing drinks in the day. This will vary hugely person to person but bear in mind that caffeine has a 6 hour half life and takes around 90 minutes to fully kick in so if you are sipping on your energy drinks during your gym session after work then that will still be hanging around in your blood past midnight.

TO DO — Seek medical advice if you are concerned or heavily reliant on sleep aids, particularly if it is related to heavy alcohol use or benzodiazepines. Even if it is not then going cold turkey may not be the solution. Reducing use of sleep supports is going to be better for you and your sleep in the long run. Nail the other points and go from there. Avoid stimulants later in the day especially if you are super sensitive to them.

Level 4. AM I A NINJA YET?

This is the final stage and involves building your whole life around sleep including pre and post sleep routines. Basically you build your whole day around sleep and the whole routine starts a few hours before bed and finishes after completing a waking up routine. This is what I aspire to and am slowly implementing more and more elements of it into my routine.

10–Sleep in cycles and nap as needed. One of my favourite points from Nick Littlehales is his concept of sleeping in cycles. To briefly recap, we sleep in 90 minute cycles so it’s worth planning a nights sleep in this way. This means that we either roughly sleep 6 hours, 7.5 hours or 9 hours and the rest is fluff and filler.

Once we have established how much we need then we can aim to hit this over a week so for example if we aim for 7.5 hours a night that is 5 cycles (5 x 90mins) which is 35 cycles over a week.

This means that if we lose a cycle or two on a Friday night we can make it up at other times with naps or going to bed earlier. Nick Littlehales talks about these in more detail but essentially there are two opportunities in the day to nap. One is roughly at midday/early afternoon and one at around 1700. Most of us are in work at these times which limts their use but he recommends that you can make up a full 90minutes at midday and then 30minutes at 1700. Any more and you risk messing up the night time sleep. These are times when the body is naturally drowsy (post lunch lull anyone?) and are in keeping with the siesta prevalent in certain places around the world.

These can help make up the cycles over the week but realistically, as discussed, a lie in on the weekend may be the only way. It’s worth noting that you can’t ‘bank’ sleep or really claw it back later to any huge degree so if you pull an all nighter you’re going to be feeling it for the next few days.

TO DO — The only way to truly determine how much sleep you need is by isolating your self somewhere where you can sleep naturally for an extended period. Give yourself a week to recover from real life and then a week to sleep naturally (no booze, late nights or excessive stimulation) and go from there. In real life, try 28 to 35 cycles a week to start with and try to plan them roughly in advance.

11- Pre-bed routine — This is a pretty big upgrade to the “pick a bedtime and stick to it” from level 1. This is setting aside 1–2 hours before bed to get into a sleep ritual to prime the body to sleep. You need to plan your life around this both in terms of how you run your day but also in terms of other people (and getting them on board!).

The basic starting point is getting rid of any tech use and that sleep suppressing blue light during this 1–2 hour period before bed. I’d say using apps like f.lux on your computer and night shift mode on your phone is a great place to start. These dim the ‘blue-ness’ of the display but won’t ever be perfect and won’t remove the mental stimulation of these devices so you ideally you want a ‘switch off’ time as well. From there, slowly turning off lights in the house as you wind down will have a hugely soporific (sleep inducing) effect.

What do you do with no tech, television or bright lights? Read a book, meditate or write a journal. It can be useful in itself to write all your thoughts down along with a to-do list and a plan for the next day during this time as this will stop you worrying about things when you are trying to sleep. Finally, getting your clothes and bag ready for the next day and having the afore mentioned hot shower should leave you just about ready to drop off to sleep.

My devices dim at 20:00 to remind me it’s time to start winding down then I try to turn them off at 21:00 for a bed time of 22:15.

Addendum EXERCISE AND FOOD PRE BED: It’s also worth mentioning here regarding eating and training before bed. Again, this is an advanced tip because it might be the only time of day that people have to go to the gym but under optimal circumstances you don’t really want to be training or exercising 2–3 hours before going to bed if you can help it. Intense exercise causes stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system i.e. the fight or flight response and especially with use of pre-workout drinks, this can leave you buzzing for hours afterwards. For some people, it may be no issue but it’s likely to be adversely affecting the quality of your sleep.

Similarly with food, you don’t want to be eating large amounts of food 1–2 hours before bed but conversely you don’t want to go to bed hungry. Carbohydrates can set you off to sleep which is beneficial so it’s case of finding what works for you and not going to bed bursting at the seams.

12 — Wake up routine and using blue light to your benefit. This is the final step as it seems counter intuitive to be focussing on waking up but an effective wake up will leave you energised and ready for the day and it can prime you for a decent nights sleep that evening. It really is the final piece of the jigsaw.

One of the key points is getting a dose of sun light early in the day to suppress melatonin and kick start your body. This may mean going out for a walk in the sunlight but realistically in the winter it may mean resorting to blue light lamps. They are basically artificial light that serve the same purpose as sunlight. I use mine in the winter months and then try to go for a walk outside when the sun does eventually come up as well.

There are a few other habits including journalling, exercising and meditating etc. and I think the specifics are largely un-important. The goal is to power up your body and mind and it is more important that you have a routine for yourself which suits you than doing anything specific. Ideally, continually reflect on it and look to improve it and make it fit with your lifestyle. As a keen intermittent fasting fanatic, I disagree with some people who state that you need to eat within a certain time of waking up but each to their own and it is about finding what works for you!

It is important that you give yourself adequate time to wake up (i.e. not 10 minutes before you leave the house) and the benefits of having a routine in the morning are huge and way beyond just good sleep. For more information on morning routines googling “Tim Ferris Morning Routine” will throw up some great ideas and Nick Littlehales delivers his take on it as well.

Well, that escalated somewhat

That’s my take on sleep and how to excel at it so you can reap the benefits. I cannot emphasis enough the importance of sleep and I know in modern life “we can sleep when we’re dead” but that is quite literally what we are speeding towards.

Sleep makes life better and makes you better at life, it’s as simple as that.

If you enjoyed this, send it to someone who needs to read it. All comments and thought’s welcomed and for more, give me a shout on any of my social media @projectgoliath!

Until next time.

Emil