Do you ever wake up and feel like you need to crawl back into bed because you’re still tired?
If so, you are not alone. Lack of sleep is a modern epidemic. In today’s pandemic-affected world, we’re stretched in so many directions, and our stress levels can feel high. As a result, many people are not getting enough sleep, and the sleep they do get is not restorative.
According to the sleep expert Matthew Walker, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at UC Berkeley and the author of the New York Times bestseller, Why We Sleep1, one out of three people are chronically sleep deprived.
How can you get more sleep so you can wake up feeling rested and restored? In this article, Jay Shetty unpacks some practical solutions that will be game-changers in setting yourself up for a better night’s rest. But first, let’s talk about what interferes with good sleep.
Does caffeine give you the boost you need to get through the day, only to lead to that crash—or worse, sleepless night—at the end of the day? There’s a reason for that, explains Jay Shetty.
Breaking down Matthew Walker’s points, Jay Shetty explains, “Throughout the day, your brain releases a chemical called adenosine. As this accumulates in your body, you start to get tired. Sleep flushes the adenosine from your system, so you start over the next day. When we drink caffeine, it blocks the adenosine receptors in our brains.”
To avoid suffering from the lack of adenosine when the caffeine wears off, limit coffee intake to one to two cups, and drink it in the morning before lunchtime so that adenosine has a chance to build up and you feel sleepy at bedtime.
Jay Shetty cautions that bedtime procrastination is also a recipe for disaster. You work all day and get home only to be welcomed by the demands of family life. You immediately launch yourself into helping with supper and cleaning up, bathing the kids, and getting them to bed. By the end of the night, you haven’t had any time to yourself, so you stay up and try to carve out that time for yourself, missing out on valuable sleep.
There never seems to be enough time in the day to get to everything you want to accomplish. Sleep relates to all the functions of the body. When you are not well-rested, things tend to be off-kilter, and that can negatively affect how your day goes.
Too Much Screen Time
Another thing that can interfere with your quality of sleep is artificially extending your day. What does it mean to artificially extend your day? Jay Shetty says it’s all too easy to fall into, and it can happen before you even realize it.
You get up, go to work and perform your morning tasks. Then you grab some lunch and eat it at your desk. Finally, you complete your work tasks for the afternoon and head home in the evening for dinner.
Before you realize it, it’s time for bed. You feel like you didn’t get any time to yourself, so you stay up watching your favorite show or scrolling social media, and all of a sudden, it’s one in the morning. When your alarm goes off in the morning, you’re still tired and vow to go to bed earlier.
Jay Shetty emphasizes that developing a nighttime routine is key to better sleep. When there is no transition to sleep, your body feels confused. When you don’t take the time to prepare your body to sleep, it can take longer to fall asleep even though you’re tired. Not having a nighttime sleep transition time can even lead to becoming so overtired that you fall asleep right away and don’t experience truly restorative sleep.
Encouraging Better Sleep
So how can you create better sleep for yourself? Even little things can have a big impact when it comes to getting good sleep. The first step towards better sleep is to take stock of how you’re spending your time by thinking back on your day. Maybe you were super focused at work, and productivity was soaring, but how did you spend the time between projects or tasks?
“How you spent the minutes in between things may be keeping you up at night,” Jay Shetty shares. “Most of us work indoors, and we’re exposed to only a limited amount of daylight. The lack of exposure to natural light during the day can disrupt our sleep clock. Humans are built to take our cues from nature when it comes to our sleep timing.”
Circadian Rhythm and Melatonin Production
Our internal sleep regulator is called the circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythm refers to the internal process that controls our sleep and wakefulness cycle, and it controls the production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep and helps the brain to communicate with your body about sleep and wakefulness.2
Melatonin is produced through being exposed to natural rays from the sun, making us alert during the day and sleepy at night. The problem is, many of us don’t get enough exposure to natural light during the day.
“Too little exposure to natural light in the day can lead to decreased production of melatonin,” Jay Shetty explains. “That can make it harder to get into our sleep cycle and night.”
Combat the lack of sun exposure by taking your breaks outside and positioning yourself so you can look out the window. Take in the daylight so your body can produce the melatonin you need to start your sleep cycle when it is time for bed. This may take some real conscious effort on your part.
“When you’re in deep focus mode at work, your brain is releasing neurochemicals to help you stay focused,” Jay Shetty explains. “You can reach a point when you have so many of these chemicals in your system that it gets harder and harder to focus until you have to quit.”
A change in perspective is just what you need. Neuroscientists say that when you step outside or look through the window at a landscape, expanding your eye gaze to a broader scene helps to reset some of those brain chemicals so that when you go back to work, it’s easier to focus again. You don’t have to be looking at something specific in the distance. It’s better just to soften your gaze.
“Think of it as switching from a close-up lens to a wide angle lens on a camera or to a panoramic mode,” Jay Shetty shares. “Just take it all in without looking at the detail in something in particular.”
Create a Sleep Routine
Is your nighttime routine riddled with unintentional bad habits? Take Jay Shetty’s advice to help create a new routine that will support a restful night’s sleep.
“You’re going to want to start your routine earlier than you think,” explains Jay Shetty. “Ideally, your sleep routine starts as it’s getting dark out. Timing will change a bit with the seasons. What you’re going to do first is to welcome the darkness. When it gets dark out, our bodies know to start making that melatonin that initiates the sleep cycle.”
It works great – except we don’t always embrace the darkness once we get home from a busy day.
“If we go home and we’ve got all the lights on, then we just flip them off and expect to go to sleep, we’re setting ourselves up for failure,” says Jay Shetty. “I’m a huge fan of designing your environment, and there’s scientific evidence to support its impact. One way we can do this is to keep the lights low at night. Try and maintain a sense of evening with your lighting.”
A transition period is something you can blend into your bedtime routine. Create a sleep transition period that allows you some time for yourself while engaging in a low-stress activity. Make time to journal or meditate. Do gentle yoga or read a book. Jay Shetty encourages you to get creative with ways that help you to relax and transition to sleep.
Five Tips for an Ideal Night Routine
“I like to think of it as a way to love myself and to maximize my impact during the day, Jay Shetty explains. His final five tips on an ideal night routine come in the form of an acronym for the word NIGHT.
- N – No phone one hour before bed.
- I – Set your intentions the night before for the next day so that you are already prepared.
- G – Embrace gratitude for the day.
- H – Heal through writing anything that’s troubled you. Write it down in a journal.
- T – Set an exact time for sleep and plan for it.
Catching Up On Sleep
Think you can push hard all week and catch up on shut eye on the weekend? Think again. Jay Shetty says the only thing you’re doing is creating what researchers call “social jetlag.”3 Social jetlag refers to a discrepancy between your sleep and social habits from weekdays to the weekend, and it doesn’t have a positive effect on your health and body.
“If you are used to going to bed at 11 p.m. and waking up at 6 a.m. during the week, then stay up until 1 a.m and wake up around 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. on the weekend, your body gets confused,” Jay Shetty says. “It confuses the circadian rhythm that is trying to sync us up with the natural cycles of daylight and dark. The result is chronic fatigue.”
Why not just catch up on the weekends? Unfortunately, researchers say you really can’t bank or catch up on sleep.4 Although you may feel better temporarily, sleep debt takes more than just a weekend to recover from. It’s best to stick to his regular sleep schedule as much as possible.
Sleep Aid Effects
Sleep aids can be an effective tool to help you get to sleep. Unfortunately, they’re not a great long-term solution. Your body can become dependent on them over time, disrupting your overall sleep quality. 5
The good news is, there are even better ways to naturally boost sleep chemicals in your brain. Try cuddling, give long hugs, hold hands, and have meaningful conversations with loved ones. You can take a walk in nature, meditate and practice gratitude, or pet your dog. All of these activities build up a chemical called serotonin, the contentment chemical, and it produces feelings of connection and calm. 6
Serotonin and Melatonin
Guess what other sleep chemical is related to serotonin? That’s right, melatonin. Melatonin is made from serotonin, and boosting sleep chemicals like melatonin and serotonin naturally helps prevent dependence on sleep aids.
“If your brain isn’t making or processing much serotonin, it impacts how much melatonin you can make,” says Jay Shetty. “This can be why it’s hard to sleep when you’re depressed and upset.”
Exercise also increases serotonin. Studies show that regular exercise leads to better sleep. A study conducted in Germany surveyed more than 23,000 people. It showed that exercise positively impacted rest, specifically training that used some sort of resistance like weight training or body weight exercises like push-ups or pull-ups.7
“Sleep is one of the most impactful gifts you can give yourself,” says Jay Shetty. He encourages people to create a healthy nighttime routine to help their bodies naturally produce the melatonin needed for good sleep. When you implement these simple and effective strategies, you set yourself up for a better night’s rest, and you’ll wake up feeling more rested and restored.
More From Jay Shetty
Listen to the entire On Purpose with Jay Shetty podcast episode on “6 Simple and Effective Habits to Do Before Bed” now in the iTunes store or on Spotify. For more inspirational stories and messages like this, check out Jay’s website at jayshetty.me.