How to Get More Sleep

Stop making the common mistakes that sabotage a good night's rest.

Posted Dec 20, 2017

Jiri Miklo/Shutterstock
Source: Jiri Miklo/Shutterstock

One issue I work on with virtually every client is sleep. (Food is a close second.) Sleep has gotten a lot more complicated than it used to be. In the early 1900s, before everyone had access to electricity to keep them up at night (not to mention smartphones), people tended to get an average of nine hours of sleep a night. Can you imagine? Anything less than seven hours a night could be considered sleep deprivation by many experts, but almost half of us get less than six. In my roles as both a physician and coach, I get a unique glimpse into what’s happening in people’s lives and I believe I know why, as a culture, we’re not sleeping.

Here are some quick, simple things you can do to sleep more, and sleep better:

1. Don’t use your phone in bed.

Activities like reading emails or texting require a level of thought and attention that wake up your brain, exactly when you should be winding down and turning your brain off.

2. If you must have your phone in your bedroom (as a clock and/or alarm), put it in airplane mode and do not disturb.

I had a client who complained of terrible sleep. When I probed, it turned out that her phone was pinging with notifications all night, continually disturbing her. People also knew that if they called her in the middle of the night, she would answer. No more. If you’re worried about missing an emergency call from a family member, you can program the Do Not Disturb function to allow calls from certain numbers.

3. If you must use your phone in the evening, turn the brightness way down.

As soon as the sun goes down, so should the brightness on your phone. The iPhone has a “night shift” setting that decreases blue light after sunset. When I use my phone as a clock overnight, I keep the screen as low as it can go. That way, if I have to check the time, my brain won’t get awoken by a blinding flash of screen light.

4. Black out your bedroom.

Even small amounts of light at night (such as a night light) can inhibit melatonin release. Melatonin, in addition to promoting sleep and healing, is key to the production of other important hormones, including growth hormone. We recently bought a stylish, inexpensive set of blackout curtains that renders our bedroom pitch black, and I can’t believe how much better I sleep. I also fall asleep faster and am able to sleep longer.

5. Read instead of watching Netflix.

I know: Easier said than done. Screens of all kinds negatively impact sleep. If you’ve been struggling with sleep and tend to be on screens in the evening, try this experiment: At least one night a week, keep the screens off and read a book instead. You’ll be amazed at how much aware you are of drowsiness and the urge to head to bed. You’ll also probably fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly.

6. Put off stressful discussions until daytime.

Relationship experts advise couples to avoid difficult or complicated conversations after 10 pm. Not only are you more likely to get upset or be unreasonable, due to fatigue, but it also will make it far harder to go to sleep afterward. Which leads to the final point... :

7. Avoid being triggered by anything stressful after 8:00 pm.

Avoid checking your email at night, particularly if there might be a non-urgent email from work (or a relative) that could upset you or cause stress. Don’t watch or read the news. Don’t scroll through your Facebook feed if some of the posts will bother you. Don’t call that family member who always leaves you wanting to tear your hair out or throw things. Consider this your wind-down time, and protect it vigilantly. The better rested you are, the better off (literally) your world will be.

Copyright Dr. Susan Biali Haas 2017

LinkedIn Image Credit: Prostock-studio/Shutterstock