Do you wake up feeling tired and run down, before you even start your day? Do you have trouble sleeping soundly? Would you like to sleep less and use the extra time doing other things?
If any of these describe you, you're in luck. I've recently learned about some specific things you can do to make your sleep much more energizing for the time invested.
And in that spirit, I'm going to get right to the heart of the matter and spell out some of the most important steps you can take to increase the amount of energy you can get from your sleep.
One of the most important things to know is that the best sleep is the deepest sleep. The deeper you sleep, the more your mind and body recuperates and the more energy you get.
There are a couple of factors that determine how deeply you sleep.
Get Plenty of Exercise
As most of us know, one of those factors is how hard you've worked during the day. If you've put in a full day's labor and really worked your muscles good, you will generally fall asleep easily and reach a deep level of sleep. This is because the body has a definite need to recuperate and gets right to it.
Most people today don't do nearly enough physical work to activate this natural phenomenon. Our only alternative is to take time to follow an exercise program. Of course, there are many other benefits to this besides just getting better sleep.
The general recommendations here are:
Get at least 15-20 minutes of exercise every day if possible.
Make sure to exercise hard enough to increase your heart rate by 25% of your resting rate.
Exercise early in the day, and if possible, right after waking up in the morning.
Combine both strength training and cardiovascular training.
Get Out Into The Sun
One of the surprising facts that I learned is that the more sunlight you get during the day helps to promote deeper, more restful sleep. And the flip side of this is that the darker it is where you're trying to sleep, the better too. The body's natural rhythm is based on several cycles. There's the daily cycle of bright days and dark nights as well as monthly cycles and so on.
When you're exposed to sunlight, there is a chemical in the brain that is inhibited. Melatonin is a chemical produced by the brain, and makes you drowsy and ready to sleep. The main thing to remember with this is that the more light you take in through your eyes, the less of this chemical you have in your system. And so, to have the most energy during the day, get out into the sunlight.
When we spend most of our time indoors, we get very little light. Any photographer will tell you that the ambient light levels indoors are pitifully small compared to full sunlight. And when we don't get enough full sunlight, our bodies don't really know if it is day or night, and our sleep cycles are disturbed.
Drink Plenty of Water
Here's something else that we've all been told is good for us. Drinking lots of water (not colas, coffees, teas, or alcohol) will improve your blood-flow, making it easier for your body to repair itself from the daily wear and tear of life. All of your physical systems work better when you're blood is flowing right.
Again, something we should be doing for other reasons. If you go to bed with food still in your digestive system, your blood is engaged in distributing the nutrients of the food to the rest of your body and has a hard time doing double duty to help in the daily repair work. Also, when your body is healthier, all systems and processes work better, including the daily recuperation of sleep.
Lower Your Stress Levels
I'm sure you're surprised by this one, heh? When you go to bed with worries and problems on your mind, you have a hard time relaxing enough to get to sleep. There are many different things you can do to help here, but one of the best may be a short period of meditation before bedtime. Resolve to put off the problems of the day (or of your life) until tomorrow. By getting a quality night's sleep, you'll have more energy and more brainpower to find a solution.
Set a Regular Sleep Schedule
Although our modern cultures play havoc with our schedules, requiring us to get up and out of the house at different times each day, if we are to get the most we can from our sleep, it's important to always start our days at about the same time. The main reason for this is simply because our bodies work by regular cycles, and if those cycles are disturbed, our systems don't work as efficiently. The time we get up in the morning is more important to this cycle than the time we go to sleep at night, but both will affect the quality of sleep that we get.
One thing that most of us do which kills the regularity of our sleep cycle is sleeping later on the weekends than we do during the work week. Of course, that was to try to increase our energy levels, and now that we know how to get the most energy from our sleep, this will no longer be necessary.
How To Sleep Shorter Nights
Before you can start decreasing the amount of time you spend sleeping each night, it's important to increase the quality of sleep by implementing the above suggestions. Once you start getting better sleep, you can then adjust the amount of sleep you get each night.
Another piece of information that you'll need to know is that during the time we spend sleeping, we go through a number of sleep cycles. We drift from light sleep to deep sleep and back again over and over. Most of us experience about 6 to 10 of these sleep cycles, which last about 20 to 40 minutes in length.
Ideally, you want to wake up at the end of one of these cycles, when you are in a light sleep, not a deep sleep. This makes it easier to wake up, and helps you to feel more energetic to start your day. The simplest way to find out what works best for you is simply to experiment with different bedtimes, and seeing how much energy you have after waking up the next day.