Folks in the Middle Ages had a habit most modern people would want to follow...
They had two periods of sleep each day.
For centuries, people practiced biphasic sleep. Often, they would go to sleep in the evening for several hours and wake up in the middle of the night. This period of waking was used for prayer, checking livestock, and getting some household chores done. Then they would go to sleep again for another few hours.
There's evidence that the idea of sleeping twice a day happened all over the world. But today, most of us fall asleep at night, and wake up the next morning.
The trouble is that too many of us aren't getting enough sleep. This time of year is one of the worst for getting a good night's sleep... thanks to soaring summer temperatures and longer hours of daylight.
A study done by SleepScore Labs found that during the summer months, the average amount of sleep folks are getting in the U.S. drops from six hours and 12 minutes to just five hours and 59 minutes. That's less than the recommended amount for adults, which ranges from six and a half to nine hours per night. Most people fall in the seven to nine hours range.
While it's likely you can't take a few hours out of your day for a second sleep, you're not doomed to bad sleep for three or four months of the year.
Today, I'm sharing some tips that should help you if you're struggling to get the seven to nine hours of sleep that your body and mind need.
1. Keep it cool. The ideal sleep temp is 65 degrees, which will encourage your body temperature to drop. If you have a big window in your bedroom, it's a great idea to get some blackout curtains. Keeping the ambient light out of your bedroom during the day will keep it cooler in general.
One of my researchers lives in an old Baltimore City row home with horrible insulation. So she sleeps with a small fan next to her head and upper body.
Not only does the wind cool her and allow her to still use her favorite comforter (also a great sleep aid – weighted blankets), it also provides some white noise. The whirring of the blades helps cancel out her husband's nightly nose band and lulls her off to dreamland.
You can also invest in sheets that help keep you cool. There are plenty of options, whether you want to splurge of hunt for a bargain... Check out these bedroom cooling accessories:
- The bargain option – Cotton Percale sheet set from The Company Store
- The splurge – Bamboo sheet set from Cozy Earth
- Top it all off – Cooling comforter from Evercool
2. Keep it dark. Your body needs darkness in the evening (specifically your eyes) to trigger the production of the hormone that makes you get sleepy, known as melatonin. So it's important to give yourself enough time in the darkness – or low light – to start making your melatonin. Shutting off the television, closing the laptop, and hooking your phone up to the charger for the night should happen at least one hour before your bedtime.
Do what I do and take a book to bed. Buy a dim book light and read in the comfort of your room with the lights out, all except for your book lamp. Studies even show that reading before bed helped people fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and sleep better (42% slept better compared with when they weren't reading before bed).
3. Set a bedtime. Keeping yourself to a bedtime routine helps prime your body for sleep. After some time, your body will begin to anticipate your escape to dreamland and start making the right hormone cocktail to take you there. Additionally, developing a simple self-care routine before bed helps your mind and body wind down and settle for the evening.
4. Do some yoga – Don't save all your good sleep efforts for the nighttime. Keep yourself active throughout the day to tire yourself out enough for bed. Yoga is a great wat to do that. With a low-activity yoga method, it is low impact, so you're not getting your heart racing. Yoga also helps to relax you and relieve stress. And studies show that practicing yoga for three months will increase your melatonin levels.
Try this 11 minute yoga-for-sleep video every day this week and see if it makes a difference for you.
5. Try out an app – There are plenty of free apps that are designed to help you sleep, too. According to the Sleep Foundation, three of the best sleep apps this year are Calm, Headspace, and Sleep Easy. There are plenty of different ways to use these apps. They can track your sleep, help put you to sleep, and also help you stay asleep longer. Try a few out and see if they help.
Don't neglect your sleep this summer... or ever. Let my sleep tips guide you into getting some of the best sleep of your life.
What We're Reading...
Something different: Some feel-good fiction to help you sleep.
Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,
Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
August 22, 2023