Nothing kills your ability to get things done faster than a bad night’s sleep. Studies show that sleep deprivation costs Americans significant work productivity; yawning employees can’t stay alert, make good decisions, focus on tasks or even manage a friendly mood at the office. There are lots of ways to beat insomnia, increase the quality of your sleep, and master the power nap. Today we’ve got our top 10 favorite sleep techniques, tips and facts. Photo by dkaz.
10. Reduce Screen Time Before Bed
Stop checking your email or watching TV just before bedtime and you’ll sleep better. A recent study shows that people who consume electronic media (read: stare at a backlit screen) just before bedtime report lower-quality sleep even when they get as much sleep as non-pre-bedtime screenheads. Lifehacker reader JFitzpatrick says this makes perfect sense:
Using a light-emitting device before bed like a flickering TV or computer monitor stimulates the brain in a different way than the way the body was intended to move towards sleep (gradually as the sun set) That’s why it is so easy to waste sleepless hours flipping from channel to channel (or reading Lifehacker or Digg). The exposure to light stimulates the brain and creates a false alertness and stimulation.
9. Exercise to Enhance Sleep
You already know that exercising provides lots of good health benefits—a good night’s sleep being one of them. But make sure you exercise in the morning or afternoon, not at night, to see the benefits while you dream. CNN reports:
The National Sleep Foundation reports that exercise in the afternoon can help deepen shut-eye and cut the time it takes for you to fall into dreamland. But, they caution, vigorous exercise leading up to bedtime can actually have the reverse effects. A 2003 study found that a morning fitness regime was key to a better snooze. Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center concluded that postmenopausal women who exercised 30 minutes every morning had less trouble falling asleep than those who were less active. The women who worked out in the evening hours saw little or no improvement in their sleep patterns.Oh yeah, exercise enhances that other bedtime activity, too: sex. (But that’s a whole other top 10.)
8. Eat to Enhance Sleep
Some foods are more conducive to a better night’s sleep than others. You already knew about warm milk, chamomile tea and turkey, but Yahoo Food lists others, like bananas, potatoes, oatmeal and whole-wheat bread. You find yourself fighting off afternoon droopy eyelids at the office? Here are some pointers on eating a less nap-inducing lunch.
7. Master the Power Nap
Slowly but surely, the benefits of the classic, 20-minute power nap are getting more recognition, with big companies installing sleep pods at the office and more software applications like Pzizz helping to set the right power nap aural scene. Here’s how to get the perfect nap from the author of Take a Nap! Change Your Life, and more on how and why power naps work.
6. Avoid the Soul-Shattering Alarm Buzzer
No one likes starting the day by getting ripped out of bed by that evil BEEP BEEP BEEP of the alarm clock, but some sleepyheads ignore anything gentler. Lifehacker reader Jason beats the buzzer with a dual clock radio system:
Put one alarm clock on your nightstand, the other across the room and make sure they’re in sync. Set the alarm clock on your nightstand to go off at, let’s say, 6:30 a.m., if that is when you need to get up. I set that one to use the radio, and make sure it is loud enough to wake me up, but not too loud (I don’t want to wake my wife on purpose). The second alarm clock on the dresser is set to go off exactly one minute later, but using that dreadful buzzer. So, when my alarm goes off in the morning, it doesn’t startle me like the buzzer. Then, I know I have about 60 seconds to get up and turn the other one off before I hear a buzzing sound. At that point, I am out of bed, and no buzzer.Of course, some particularly talented sleepers can program themselves to wake up before the alarm clock goes off naturally. (The rest of us hate you.)
5. Solve Problems in Your Sleep
Wrestling with a tough decision, stuck in a creative rut or having a hard time solving a complex problem? Studies show that a little shut-eye can help you tackle problems and make tough decisions.
4. Beat Insomnia with Visualization
There’s nothing worse than laying awake throughout the night, watching the clock tick away seconds knowing you’ll be a zombie the next day. When insomnia’s kicking your sleepy butt, use a self-directed meditative visualization technique to quiet the whir of a racing mind. Guest contributor Ryan Irelan runs down how to beat insomnia with “Blue Energy.”
3. Shortcut a Long Nap with the Clattering Spoon
Artist and napper Salvador Dali had an interesting nap technique, based on the idea that your body benefits from just getting to sleep as much as a couple of hours worth of shut-eye. He purportedly used a spoon to wake himself up just as he lost consciousness. According to Question Swap (via 43F), here’s what you do:
Lie down or sit in comfy seat holding a spoon in your fingertips. you should be holding it in a way that – when you loose consciousness (sleep) you drop it… the Clatter (put a big plate on the floor under your hand) will wake you…. and you get woken JUST as you enter the best “dreamy” bit of your sleep. Alternatively, hold a bunch of keys: same effect.
2. Take a Caffeine Power Nap
Need a turbo boost to beat the sleepy doldrums pinch? Try a cup of coffee followed by a quick 15-minute nap to reboot your brain and get you going again.
1. Teach Yourself to Lucid Dream
Arrive at school naked in that terrible dream last night? Turn nightmares around by knowing you’re dreaming while you do it. Lucid dreaming opens up all sorts of possibilities for controlling where and how your dreams go. Teach yourself to lucid dream by keeping a dream journal and learning reality checks and dream extending techniques. (Some great comments here by lucid-dreaming readers, too.) Intrigued? Here are more lucid dreaming FAQs.
Top 10 Ways to Sleep Smarter and Better – Lifehacker October 13, 2007