3 Zero Cost Ways to Hack your Sleep

Everyone is looking for the latest trend or product to help them hack their sleep. However, the most effective tips I can give you aren't trend-based and won't cost an arm and a leg. Try these science-backed sleep hacks to feel more awake and refreshed throughout your day.

1. Consistency is key

The human body craves consistency and perhaps the most impactful thing we can do to hack our sleep is to simply go to bed and wake up at the same time every day of the week….and yes, this means on the weekends too. Now there is some fine-tuning that goes along with this in order to determine what is your ideal sleep and wake times.

For me, I know my body requires roughly 7.5 hrs of sleep every night. I’ve found this using sleep trackers and monitoring my sleep trends but there is another easy, no-tech way to determine this. Pick a week to run a simple sleep experiment on yourself. It looks like this:

Choose a week where you will go to bed every night at the same time but do not set an alarm for the morning. Instead, allow yourself to wake up naturally at whichever time your body chooses. Do this for a week and then calculate the difference in hours between the time you went to bed and the time you woke up. This should give you a pretty good baseline of how many hours your body needs.

*Pro tip - there are some additional nuances to keep in mind. For example, I know my body needs 7.5hrs of sleep but I base my sleep/wake schedule on 8 hours. Why? Because when we hit the bed most of us don’t instantly fall asleep and let’s face it, most of us aren’t watching the clock to go to bed at exactly the same time. I give myself a 30 minute buffer to compensate for this and to give myself a little flexibility in the exact time I go to bed.

2. Create a sleep ritual

Winding down after a long day at work is a fairly common practice but what about winding down right before bed? Creating a sleep ritual should be a key part of our sleep routines as it helps mentally prepare us for bedtime. A sleep routine can encompass anything you feel helps to relax you right before bedtime. I typically start my pre-sleep routine 90 minutes before bedtime and looks something like this:

90 minutes before bedtime I take a shower, throw on some PJs, dim all the lights in the house, and light an aromatherapy candle. My phone automatically goes into “do not disturb” mode and then I crawl up on the couch under my favorite TN throw blanket to watch some tv.

*Pro tip - limit your use of social media, emails, and watching the news during this time. No need to get yourself worked up or stressed out before bedtime.

3. Bring back the Nap

Naps are an amazing tool to help give you an extra boost during the day or to help you recover from a night where you could not achieve your full amount of required sleep. But naps are not created equal.

The typical sleep cycle is ~90 minutes long. If you think about a sleep cycle looking like a V, you have light sleep on the top of each leg of the V and at the bottom of the V is deep sleep (aka the good stuff). Now we’ve all experienced the effect of waking up at the bottom of the V. You wake up groggy, disoriented and all around grouchy. With naps, we want to avoid entering the deep sleep zone. If we generalize this based on a 90 minute sleep cycle then deep sleep occurs around the 45 minute mark. So our naps should be anywhere from 15-30 minutes max. Now there is an option to take a longer nap however if you choose to go longer it’s best to make it a full sleep cycle (90minutes). The downside to a taking a full 90 minute nap is it will likely impact your ability to fall asleep at your regular time that night.

*Pro tip - Take your naps before 2pm and shoot for a max of 30 minutes of nap time. I set a timer for 35 minutes which gives me a few minutes to doze off before entering light sleep. Not a great napper? Don’t concern yourself with falling asleep. Instead focus on disconnecting for 30 minutes or even try meditation.

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