7 Steps to a Perfect Night of Sleep

This post first appeared on www.lcbarren.com

As a well-spent day brings happy sleep, so life well used brings happy death.
- Leonardo Da Vinci

For being so essential to my own well being, I've always been a terrible sleeper. As a kid, sleepovers gave me crippling anxiety because I was always the last one up, usually in someone's weird basement, and I would spend hours wishing for sleep. I also always found that when I did sleep, I never woke up feeling refreshed and ready to go in the morning. 

Recently, I've been doing a lot of research on sleep and its importance in our lives. For being something that we spend almost 25 years of our lives doing, scientists still aren't even sure why exactly we do it. What we do know, though, is that sleep quality and quantity effects everything from our mood (duh), to how we burn fat, how we build muscle, how we perform mentally, how much money we make, how attractive we are, how approachable we appear to be, and even how productive we are. Believe it or not, shorter nights of sleep with delayed onset actually make us hold onto negative thought patterns and negative emotional states for longer periods of time. 

Obviously, there are many factors that go into a good night's rest. Everything from your mood to your diet to your activity levels can impact the shut eye you get and the refreshment that comes from it. In some ways, it's totally a chicken and egg sort of scenario -- the exercise you don't do will literally keep you up at night, which means you're less likely to exercise the next day. I've found, however, that if I do at least half of these 7 things I'm in for an easy night of restful sleep and I'll start the next day off on a positive note. 

1. No Screens in the Bedroom

This has been a rule in my household for the last seven years. No screens may enter the bedroom. Phones are plugged into the outlet in the front hall at least one hour prior to bed (and on 'Do Not Disturb' mode after 8pm). There isn't and never will be a TV in my bedroom. Both my partner and I are forbidden from taking a tablet, phone, or laptop into the bedroom. Work is expressly forbidden in any form in the bedroom. In general, I try to avoid screens in the hour prior to sleeping, but running two businesses and managing a blog can make that proposition tricky. So, if I find myself working late....

2. Wear Blue Blocking Glasses

I also call these Chastity Glasses. Any time I work with a screen at night, I wear a $7 pair of safety glasses that have orange lenses. They are not cute (and now they cost $13).  The orange lenses in these glasses prevent blue light from screens from torching your brain and preventing melatonin from being produced in your pineal gland. Melatonin is the hormone that tells your body that it's time to go to sleep, and your body should start making it when the sun goes down. The sun is a natural source of light with a blue wavelength. Screens are an artificial source of blue light. So, when our caveman brain sees the blue light from our phone after the sun has gone down, our brain thinks that it's the sun so it doesn't make melatonin. These glasses keep the blue light from tricking our brains and tells our body it's time to make the melatonin. PS - there are cuter glasses if you want to spend $60 on them. 

3. Put an Ice Pack on your Neck

Ok, I'm not totally sure how this one works physiologically, and I also don't remember where I first heard it. So, I'm just asking you to take this one on faith. Within an hour of going to bed, I wrap an ice pack around my neck so that the coldest part is at the base on my neck -- where my head meets my spine. Again, not totally sure how this works, other than the fact that cold temperatures also help trigger melatonin production via our circadian rhythms, but why the base of my neck? No clue, but it works. This is the ice pack I use, and I typically use it while I...

4. Read Short Fiction

I keep a giant anthology of the Best American Short Stories on my night stand, and will read a short story before bed. Here's why. Fiction shuts off the problem solving part of my brain. It let's me disengage from the day while still being entertained. I do short fiction instead of novels because short fiction eliminates the "just one more chapter" temptation. 

5. Herbal Tea

I feel like this one is kind of a no brainer. As someone who loves to start her day with the ritual of coffee, I also like wrapping up the day with the ritual of a warm drink. My go-tos are anything from this pack or just  Turmeric tea (turmeric is a straight up wonder food). If I find that I'm a little hungry prior to bed, had a big workout that day, or if I know I'm short my protein requirements (1 gram per pound of desired body weight) I'll toss in two scoops of Vital Proteins Collagen. It's tasteless and mixes right in with the tea. Its amino acid profile offers a host of benefits (hair and nail growth, cartilage regeneration)  and improves sleep quality. 

6. Lucid by Totem Nutrition

Full disclaimer on this one, Totem Nutrition is one of the two businesses I run. As I mentioned earlier, I've always been a terrible sleeper. As I started physically, emotionally, and improving myself, my sleep improved immensely. Eliminating gluten and sugar from my diet restored my daytime energy. Workouts and therapy helped shut my brain off when I got in bed at night. Years later, when I started my first company Hawkwood Group, old sleep habits crept back into my life. Restless nights, tossing and turning, and falling asleep hours after getting in bed. Oversleeping for hours. Multiple alarms that I ignored each morning. I found myself taking just pure melatonin to go to bed, but waking up with what felt like a hangover the next day. I formulated Lucid to be taken 30 minutes prior to bed. It eases you into a restful and restorative sleep that bolsters your body's naturally occurring hormonal and regenerative processes (making you stronger, burning more fat, improving your mood and increasing your sex drive), so that you wake up feeling ready to take on the day. Since Lucid has been a nightly staple for me, I now wake up without an alarm each day at 6:45am. Your milage may vary, but if you try it, I hope it helps you the same way it's helped me. 

7. Keep Your Room Cold & Dark

If you think back to how humans have been sleeping for a couple thousand millennia, this one makes a bunch of sense. We've been sleeping in pure darkness and in the cold of night. Temperature and light are the two main components of your circadian rhythm, so it would make sense to optimize your sleeping space to accommodate the cues your body is looking for. As someone who lives in the downtown of an urban center, I make sure that my room is equipped light blocking curtains. For a gentler and more natural wake up when I need an alarm I rely on one that uses light and soft sound - instead of the anxiety inducing blare of a traditional alarm. I've been using this alarm for years, and I love that you can also set the light to "sundown" in the evening while reading.