6 Simple and Effective Habits To Do Before Bed to Deepen Your Sleep & Thrive Productively During the DayOn Purpose with Jay Shetty
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- 5 Mar 2021
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Pause. Put your phone down. Take a deep breath. It’s time for bed!
On this episode of On Purpose with Jay Shetty, Jay Shetty describes simple habits to build into your bedtime routine to improve your sleep and thrive 24 hours a day.
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I'm sure that's not a surprise to you. So here's what I'm not going to do today. I'm not going to share with you data points about how under slept we are. And I'm not going to go into the litany of health and other issues that not getting enough sleep can lead to, because chances are, you know, all this. The real question is for most of us, how can I get more sleep or how can I get better and deeper sleep?
Sleep? That leaves me feeling truly rested. That's what we're going to talk about today, because we know lack of sleep is a problem for most of us. So today we're focusing on real practical solutions. I guarantee that you're going to hear something new today, something that could be an absolute game changer when it comes to setting you up for more and better sleep, according to the sleep expert, Matthew Walker, who is a professor of neuroscience and psychology at UC Berkeley and the author of the New York Times bestseller Why We Sleep, one out of three of us is chronically under slept.
OK, so I did sneak in one bit of data there, but the point is you're not alone. Lack of sleep is a modern epidemic, even more so in this current age of the pandemic when we're stretched in so many directions and stress levels can feel so high. But let's focus on the positive. Instead of focusing on the problem, let's focus on what we can do to address it. First, let's go through things that are actually interfering with the amount or quality of our sleep, the things we need to stop doing.
Then I'm going to share some things we want to start doing so we can sleep better. The first thing we can do is to stop artificially extending our day. This has a few components, so let's break them down. You know how it goes. You're working all day. You've got deadlines to meet and projects to complete periodically. For a break, you switch over and check email or social media. You grab some lunch and scroll through the news headlines or maybe even eat while you're working.
Then it's evening and dinnertime. And before you know it, you look at the clock and realize you should be going to bed, but you don't just a little bit more, you say to yourself or your partner as you click on that next episode of The Good Place or Ozark, or you keep scrolling through your Instagram or tick tock feed before you know it, it's midnight or 1:00 a.m. Finally, you brush your teeth, put on your sleep clothes and crash the next morning as the alarm goes off, you can't believe how quickly the night's gone by.
You're still tired. You make a vow tonight. I really am going to bed earlier, but I don't have to tell you what happens. I am absolutely not judging this behavior. I do it sometimes, too. I know how hard it can be to get yourself to bed so you can get that full night of sleep. We know we need rest and yet when it's time to turn in, something just keeps us up. My wife Ravi is so much better than me at getting to bed at a healthy time.
She'll tell you that sometimes I even try to talk her into staying up late with me to watch a movie. And she's really good at turning me down when she has to be up early. Breaking down this scenario. There are actually a few key things we've done not just through the night, but through the whole day that are making it harder for us to get to bed at night. So let's hit rewind and see what we can do differently to encourage an earlier bedtime.
Let's start back during your workday. Maybe you got tons of work done. You were super focused for chunks of time that helped you be productive. It wasn't how you spent those hours, but how you spent the minutes in between that may have been keeping you up at night. For starters, most of us work indoors and because of that we're exposed to only limited amount of daylight. And the lack of exposure to natural light during the day can disrupt our sleep clock.
As it turns out, humans are built to take our cues from nature when it comes to our sleep timing. Part of this is our circadian rhythm, which is a term you've probably heard before. It's the internal process that regulates our sleep and wakefulness cycle. It turns our body systems up and down throughout the day, making us alert during the day and sleep at night. We all have a slightly different circadian rhythm, which is why some of the monks I used to live with had no trouble rising at four a.m. every day.
Incidentally, even back then, I had to tend to those monks for a little help getting me up in the morning. I'm not naturally an early riser, at least not that early. I wake up at six a.m. and that's fine.
But any earlier than that was really difficult. We all naturally fall somewhere in those ranges, but regardless, the way your brain communicates to your body about sleep and wakefulness, time is through a hormone called melatonin. When melatonin increases, it kick start our sleep processes and our production of melatonin is regulated by our exposure to daylight. Now, here's the takeaway. Too little exposure to natural light in the day can lead to decreased production of melatonin, and that can make it harder to get into our sleep cycle and night.
In a moment, we'll talk about how to resolve that. For now, let's move on to the next issue that may have been disrupting your sleep. Have you ever been talking to someone and they say something and you're tracking them and then they say something else totally unrelated and you're like, wait, what? It's so confusing. When there's no transition, our bodies feel the same way. Remember how in this scenario I described, you stayed up until you just couldn't stay awake anymore, then crashed into sleep.
There was no transition aside from maybe brushing your teeth and putting on your sleep clothes, you didn't prepare your body for sleep. And as a result, it can take a while to catch up and make the transition that can look like getting in bed and not actually being able to fall asleep even though you're tired. Or it can look like being so overtired that you fall asleep right away. But your sleep isn't restorative. So we've got to work on our sleep transitions.
And the last element I want to zero in on in our scenario is something that's called revenge, bedtime, procrastination. Now, that's an evocative and provocative name, right? Here's what happens all day long demands are made on our time, maybe by work, maybe by our kids, our extended family or our friends. Wherever we turn, someone needs something. They need a spreadsheet or a report or our help or attention or dinner. By the time it's evening, we just want to relax.
And if we're working late, we have kids who need to be bathed and read to and put to bed and then got an a glass of water and put back to bed and then sancta and then put back to bed yet again. By the time we have time for ourselves, it might be close to or even after our own ideal bedtime. So what do we do? We stay awake and as so many people who tell me, it's the only time I have I know I should go to bed, but I just need some time to relax and not have any demands on me.
It makes absolute sense that we behave this way. We're trying to carve out time for ourselves. That's a totally legitimate need. But unfortunately, trying to meet it in this way puts us into a sleep deficit, especially if the way we stay awake is by scrolling on our feeds or watching television. Not only does blue light from screens keep us awake, but we're probably also getting stimulating information. Either we're watching something really dramatic or scary or we're reading equally scary headlines or taking in negativity.
None of this is conducive to sleep combined with waiting until you're exhausted to go to bed and not getting enough daylight during the day. It's a recipe for exhaustion. Here are some things we can do differently so we sleep more and better first during the day, get more sunlight. When you take your breaks instead of staying on the computer, look out the window. Or better yet, step outside for a few minutes. Let your eyes take in the daylight so that your body can later produce that melatonin that helps to kick start your sleep cycle when it's time for bed and look out the window or going outside has another benefit.
When you're in deep focus mode at work, your brain is releasing neurochemicals to help you stay focused. But you can reach a point where you've got so many of these chemicals in your system that after a time it gets harder and harder to focus until you have to quit. Neuroscientists say that when you step outside or look through the window at a landscape that expanding of your eye gaze to a wider scene actually helps to reset some of those brain chemicals so that when you go back to work, it's easier to focus again.
Now, if you're in an urban area, you might be looking at a building out your window. So instead try and look up towards the sky to get the same effect. You don't have to be looking at something specific in the distance. In fact, it's better to just soften your gaze. Think of it as switching from a close up lens to a wide angle lens on a camera or to a panoramic mode. Just take it all in without looking in at the detail in something in particular.
So that's what we can do during the daytime. Let's look at what you can do at nighttime, which is to create a new sleep routine. I see a new sleep routine because the thing is, most of us already have some bad habits around sleep that we developed unintentionally. We've created a sort of negative sleep routine by default. So now we're going to create an intentional one. Some of you parents will be familiar with this idea because you have a sleep routine for your kids.
Maybe they get a bath and some songs, a few minutes of silly play to get some energy out, whatever it is. That routine repeated night after night helps to cue them that it's soon time for sleep. Grown ups need these cues to. When you think about creating your sleep routine, I'll give you a hint. You're going to want to start it probably way earlier than you think. Ideally, your sleep routine starts as it's getting dark out.
So the timing will change a bit with the seasons. What you're going to do first is to welcome the darkness. Remember the circadian rhythm. When it gets dark out, our bodies know to start making that melatonin that initiates the sleep cycle. But if we go home and we've got all the lights on, then we just flip them off and expect to go to sleep. We're setting ourselves up for failure. I'm a huge fan of designing your environment and there's scientific evidence to support its impact.
One way we can do this is to keep the lights low at night. Now, I'm not saying you have to do everything by candlelight, right. That's probably not going to work out so well, but maybe you have only some lights on. You can change the dimming of the light bulbs to a softer light or you use a mixture of candle light and some artificial light. So that's part of your sleep routine. Try and maintain a sense of evening with your lighting.
Another element we can blend into our sleep routine that does double duty is a sleep transition period. Here's where the double duty comes in. We already talked about how revenge, bedtime, procrastination is where we stay up just so we can get some time to ourselves. But the problem is we don't use that time wisely. Watching dramatic shows or scrolling through social media doesn't actually relax us. In fact, it can increase our stress. So as part of our sleep routine, you're still going to get some you time, but you're going to engage in an activity that also helps to relieve some of that stress.
For example, you can make time to journal, preferably by hand. So you're not getting more screen time just before bed. You can meditate by simply sitting in a comfortable position with your spine straight and taking long, deep breaths in through your nose, then breathing out through your mouth. You can do gentle yoga, such as yoga, which is very slow moments or held poses or yoga. Nedra, which is like a deep body meditation. Get creative.
One of my friends was really frustrated because by the time her second child was finally asleep, there was no time for her to relax before bed. She realized that during twenty to thirty. Minutes it took her daughter to fall asleep, she could get on the floor next to her daughter's bed and do some gentle stretching as part of her own preparation for sleep. You can also read a book, incidentally, research shows that when you read a fiction book before bed, preferably not anything scary or otherwise stressful, it actually boosts your overall creativity.
Plus, it helps to transition your brain out of work mode. Or you can take a tip from Oprah every night before bed, she takes a relaxing, warm bath. Now, Oprah may or may not know this, but there's some science that supports taking a warm bath or shower before bed as it can help to prepare us for sleep. You know how it can be hard to get out of a nice hot bath or shower? Because when you get out, you could catch a chill.
Interestingly, it's actually that drop in body temperature after the bath or shower that prepares us for sleep at night. Our body temperature drops and this is part of our sleep cycle, cooling off your body in this way after a warm bath or shower or turning down the dial on the thermostat. A few degrees in your bedroom can support your sleep.
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He has to make sure that the open side of his pillow case is facing the center of the bed. He can't explain why, but he swears it helps him sleep. Reportedly, actor Tom Cruise is such a heavy snorer that he actually had a soundproof or I guess snore proof from built in his house so he wouldn't wake anyone. And rapper Eminem reportedly covers the windows in his bedroom with aluminium foil to block out all light when he's trying to sleep, even when he's traveling and staying in hotels.
Whatever you come up with a sleep ritual that's truly relaxing and includes keeping lights and sound low will help you get more and better sleep. And guess what? Your bed asleep routine started even earlier than you realized when you started taking those major bass breaks during your workday. You're taking some time to distress for yourself. So not only is it restoring your ability to focus and getting you that great natural sunlight that will help your body make melatonin, it's also you time.
That's probably actually the critical element to stopping revenge, sleep, procrastination, finding more time for yourself during the day so you don't feel jammed up and overtaxed at night. Maybe it's taking 30 minutes in the morning or over lunch to exercise or go for a walk or listen to a podcast. Whatever it is that supports you, you've got to find that time, even if it's just a little and claim it for yourself. OK, so here's another sleep strategy that's failing you and that you're going to need to stop doing, if you want to get more and better sleep, stop catching up on sleep on the weekends.
But, gee, you might be saying that's when I can get sleep. Here's the problem with that approach. If we're only getting maybe five or six hours of sleep a night during the week and then trying to get seven or eight on the weekend, it's creating something sleep researchers call social jetlag. You know, when you fly to a new time zone, it takes for a while for your body to adjust. Like I know when I fly back to London, especially now that I'm flying all the way from California and flying less, it takes me a week to adjust to London time.
Scientists say it takes about a day per hour of time to change, to adjust to the new time. When we binge on sleep on the weekends, we're actually creating a similar time distortion in our bodies. If we're used to going to bed at 11pm and waking up at six a.m. during the week and on the weekend, we're staying up until one a.m. and not waking up until 8:00 or nine AM, a body gets really confused. It confuses our circadian rhythm because remember that our circadian rhythm is trying to sync us up with the natural cycles of daylight and dark.
And the result is chronic fatigue, unfortunately, reaches just say you really can't bank or catch up on sleep. It's best to stick to his regular sleep schedule as possible. Now, here's great news for you parents out there. My friends with children often complain that when it comes to talk about sleep, it's just depressing so many times, especially when their kids are young, they just don't have the luxury or control over their schedules, especially now during the pandemic.
It's hard to create time for themselves during the day or reliable sleep routine. And getting seven to eight hours of sleep per night feels like the distant dream. On the bright side, lots of you parents of kids have that routine of getting up at the same time, even on weekends built in, you've got a little human alarm clock. Who doesn't care what day of the week is it that might actually help to regulate your sleep cycle by preventing social jetlag?
But again, it only works if you're not staying up super late the night before. But here's the second good piece of news. And I'll tell you, this is really surprising to me. Researchers took groups of study participants and had them either get regular but decreased sleep, such as only five to six hours per night. Then the night before an exam that one group get the regular shortened amount of sleep and they had the other get a full night's sleep.
Then the next day they administered an exam to both groups. Guess who performed better? It was the routine sleepers. Those who got less sleep, those who suddenly got a longer night of sleep actually did worse. The scientists concluded that it's actually better performance wise to get a regular interval of sleep than to bounce all over and get lots of sleep one night and then go back to sleep. Now, obviously, it's better for your overall health if your routine is to sleep.
That's seven to nine hours that most of us need. But for everyone else, when it's not possible, know that if you can get that shorter amount of sleep on a consistent basis, at least in the shorter term, your body has a surprising ability to adapt. OK, so lots of us know that caffeine and alcohol aren't great for the sleep. The caffeine gives us an artificial boost of energy that lets us down later. What's actually happening there, according to Matthew Walker, is that throughout the day your brain releases a chemical called adenosine.
And as this accumulates in your body, you start to get tired. Sleep flushes the adenosine from your system. So you start over the next day when we drink caffeine, it blocks the adenosine receptors in our brains. But that adenosine doesn't go away. It accumulates. So when the caffeine finally dissipates, there's all that adenosine that's built up waiting for us and we get that big drop of tiredness. So as you've probably heard, if you're going to drink coffee, it's best to limit it to one to two cups and to drink it in the morning before lunchtime so that adenosine has a chance to build up and get you nice and sleepy for bedtime.
You've probably also heard that while very sleep AIDS can be effective in helping us get to sleep, they can disrupt the quality of our sleep or our bodies can start to become dependent on them. But here's a really surprising way to build up healthy sleep chemicals in our brain. Cuddle. Yes, you heard that correctly. I said cuddle, snuggle, give and get nice long hugs, hoedowns strike up a meaningful conversation with a friend or another loved one.
Take the walk in nature or look out the window. And what's the birds? Or sit by a body of water, do a gratitude meditation or cuddle your dog. What all these things do is to help you build up a brain chemical called serotonin. You can think of it as the contentment. Chemical serotonin is associated with feelings of connection and calm. The only really important effect it has on your sleep is this. Remember when I talked about how your body uses a chemical called melatonin to communicate about when it's time to go to sleep and wake up?
Melatonin is synthesized from serotonin. It's made from serotonin. Now, incidentally, this can be a. And why it's hard to sleep when you're depressed and upset if your brain isn't making or processing much serotonin, it impacts how much melatonin you can make. So foster that sense of connection that your dog or cat, right, awakened to a loved one, have a loving heart to heart chat with your partner or a friend. It will actually ease your brain and your body into a better night's sleep.
And you want to know what else increases serotonin exercise, maybe thinking, gee, I'd rather do cuddling. I'm with you, though I've grown to appreciate and enjoy exercise, thanks in large part to the influence of my wife. Still, studies consistently show that regular exercise leads to better sleep. But here's something interesting. Results from a health survey of more than 23000 people in Germany showed that not only did exercise positively impact sleep, but specifically strength training had a positive effect that's exercised using some kind of resistance, such as weights or your body weight, like pushups or pull ups, cardio training, like running or cycling, or for me, tennis or hiking still has a positive effect in sleep, duration and quality.
But strength training may have more of an impact. OK, I know I shed a lot of information with you, so I'm going to give you a quick recap for starters in the morning. Try and get up about the same time each day. I personally don't drink caffeine, but if you choose to limit the amount and timing to, you're not drinking it after lunchtime. And if you can get that exercise in first thing in the morning or even lunch or maybe even late afternoon, not only will that be plenty of time for your body to cool back down and release melatonin for bed, you'll also have already done something for yourself.
So that will reduce the urge to feel you have to stay up later just to get some me time during the day. Remember to not just take breaks, but to try and take nature based breaks, at least some of the time towards evening as it starts to get dark. Try and keep lighting around the house low, and especially as bedtime nears the sounds down and soothing. Sleep is one of the best, most impactful gifts you can give yourself, and I like to think of it as a way to love myself and to maximize my impact during the day.
And I want to share with you my final five tips on an ideal night routine. And it comes in the form of an acronym Canaanite and I t n means no phone one hour before bed. I mean, set your intentions the night before for the next day. So they already prepared G embrace gratitude for the day H healed through writing anything that's troubled. You write it down gently and tea set an exact time for sleep and plan for it. Getting deeper and better sleep is actually one of my goals for the year, so let's do it together.
Drop me a note in the comments on Instagram. Tag me in your post while you're listening to this and I can't wait for you to hear our next episode.
Thanks for listening. Hey, guys, this is Jay again, just a few more quick things before you leave. I know we try to focus on the good every day, and I want to make that easier for you. Would you like to get a short email from me every week that gives you an extra dose of positivity? Weekly Wisdom is my newsletter. Write down whatever's on my mind that I think may uplift your week. Basically little bits of goodness that are going to improve your well-being.
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This podcast was produced by Dust Light Productions, our executive producer from Dust Light is Michelle Yousef. Our senior producer is Juliana Bradley. Our associate producer is Jacqueline Castillo. Valentino Rivera is our engineer. Our music is from Blue Dot Sessions and special thanks to Rachel Garcia, the dust like development and operations coordinator.