8 Steps Top Sleep Scientist Takes for Better Sleep
We are all in agreement that sleep is a fundamental basic thing which humans do. Without it we wouldn’t operate – we’d literally die.
Why then do many of us struggle to consistently and adequately get the necessary amount of sleep every night?
Business Insider turned to sleep scientist Patrick Fuller, an associate professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School, to get some answers.
Fuller offered an insight into the procedures he has in place to ensure a good night’s sleep every single night.
Conceding that his routine may not be feasible for everyone’s lifestyle and schedule, he does explain that deviating from this schedule leaves him extremely grouchy and tired.
Wake up at the same time every morning
While many people may believe they have a sleep schedule, quite frankly it isn’t a schedule at all.
Waking up at 11 a.m. on Sunday morning and attempting to fall asleep later that evening to rise for work by 7 a.m. Monday simply isn’t going to work. Your body won’t have sufficient “sleep drive” – otherwise known as the desire to fall asleep – to go to bed early enough.
“When people get up later and later, they have less sleep drive and they think, I can’t sleep I have insomnia,” Fuller said. “Well, no, actually your sleep drive isn’t that high.”
Fuller assures that waking up at the same time every morning is an imperative measure for a good night’s sleep.
Avoid stimulants past mid-day
As the office clock edges closer to 5 p.m., it’s tempting to grab a late afternoon coffee to thrust you through the afternoon work barrier. You must avoid the coffee machine at all cost.
It can take up to six hours for caffeine to wear off, making it imperative to avoid the late-afternoon coffee for a good night’s rest.
Fuller doesn’t include coffee in his diet, instead opting for a lesser green tea in the morning, containing around half as much caffeine in a cup than coffee.
“I just prefer tea,” Fuller said. “I love the smell of coffee, it just has too much caffeine for me.”
Fuller never drinks caffeine after noon.
Exercise minimum of 20 to 30 minutes a day
The benefits of exercise have been documented in thousands of studies. It can help prevent a variety of ills such as stress, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, dementia, certain types of cancer, and more.
Studies have also shown that it is great for sleep. Morning and afternoon workouts can increase a person’s sleep quality in the evening.
Exercising can boost the body’s temperature and activate muscles, therefore, it is important not to exercise too close to bedtime.
Fuller insists that he attempts to complete some form of activity per day, even if it’s a quick 20 to 30-minute jog.
“Maintaining some level of physical activity is really important,” Fuller said.
No evening alcohol
People often find that alcohol helps them fall asleep. It can relax muscles, calm nerves, and before you know it you’re falling asleep.
Those effects don’t last through the night.
According to the National Institutes of Health, drinking alcohol before bedtime can decrease the amount of time spent in REM sleep – the deepest and most restorative phase of sleep.
“It’s a bad medicine to use for the purpose of sleep,” Fuller said. “If I do have a drink, I try to limit it to one drink. I’ll have that closer to dinner time.”
Set the mood
Fuller starts every day at 5:30 a.m. and aims to be in bed asleep by 9:30 p.m. In order to prepare for an early slumber, Fuller begins his ritual of dimming the lights about an hour before bedtime.
“My wife thinks I’m a little weird because I start dimming the lights,” Fuller said. “But I really feel like it sets the mood for my sleep.”
Dimming the lights can help to start the body’s natural production of melatonin, a hormone that helps you to fall asleep.
Avoid screens an hour before bed
By dimming the lights Fuller ramps up his body’s natural production of melatonin. Bright lights such as those from smartphone screens can trick your brain into thinking it’s daytime, therefore causing the sleep-inducing melatonin levels to drop.
Studies find that persistent use of smartphone light can damage memory and increase the risk of depression, obesity, and even certain cancers, among other things.
Fuller tends to avoid his iPhone screen an hour before going to sleep.
Go to sleep at the same time every night
It’s clear that the secret of a good night’s rest is strict routine.
In order to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed with an early rise, Fuller sets his alarm clock for the same time every morning – including weekends. You have to go to sleep at the same time every night, mornings are no different.
Getting an excess or lesser amount of sleep can throw your routine off the scale.
That means that Fuller is asleep by 9:30 p.m. and awake by 5:30 a.m. every day.
“My wife teases me and calls me grandpa,” Fuller said.
He’s not obsessive
Fuller does try to stick to his routine every day however he is realistic and occasionally strays from time to time in order to accommodate life.
“I try not to be neurotic about it,” Fuller said.
Fuller does concede that when he doesn’t keep his routine, he finds that he doesn’t feel himself.
“As boring as it sounds, I find that when I do this I feel good. I feel happy when I wake up, I feel rested,” Fuller said. “If I do have a day where I mess up that schedule, I don’t feel like myself the next day. I feel every incentivised to stay on my schedule.”