In this guest post, the host of the Realness Podcast Conner Moore discusses ways to improve your sleep and what steps to take first.
So you understand that sleep is important and you want to make it a priority.
Everywhere we turn there’s another Joe Rogan Podcast about ways to eat, sleep, and feel better and Ben Greenfield is trying some new gadget that changes brain wave activity, blasts you with red lights, or prods some part of your body that is unfamiliar with the presence of external objects.
Wim Hof breathing and cold plunges, sauna, meditation, intermittent fasting, CBD, THC, and blue light blockers are just a few that come to mind just to bring home the point. That point is, there’s a lot of things that we can do to improve, optimize, or wreck our sleep. Everything can work. That’s the reason we hear about them from whatever informed person we choose to follow.
The question isn’t whether or not the practice is valid, the question is “does it fit in the life that you love to live?”
Your sleep is your sleep and there are countless variables from one person to the next. The only way you’re going to know what works for you is by some self-experiment or by hiring a sleep expert to sleep in your bed, work your job, eat your food, and “interact” with your partner.
For most of us, self-tests are going to be the way to go so let’s explore some ways that you can make sure that you’re getting the most positive change out of the effort you’re making.
Start with a baseline
It’s tempting to hit the ground running with lots of lifestyle changes when you get the opportunity to start tracking sleep data. While this is well-intentioned, it doesn’t give you much of a starting place to compare your results to.
Take the first week as a baseline test week. Go Monday to Monday living your normal life with minimal changes.
Use this assessment week to create an understanding of the data points that are relevant to you and create awareness of the opportunities in your life that will create the highest quality of change.
Make high-impact changes first
Starting with the highest impact changes first is a great way to get results fast.
Before stacking up on some outlandish gadgets, maybe you should consider sleep in a room that is totally dark and laying off binge-watching Netflix before bed.
It’s important to note that it’s usually more sustainable and impactful to change or remove behaviors than to continually add new ones. There are only 24 hours in a day and creating more stress by overwhelming yourself with sleep hacks and remedies might be less than positive long term.
By starting with the actions that have consistently yielded positive results for varied and large-scale populations you set yourself up to get the most out of your effort and feel the positive changes fast.
Give it time
While sleep changes literally happen overnight, it may take a while for your body to adjust to a lifestyle change. Making a commitment to give yourself 7 to 30 days to let the changes sink in and allow your body to sync up.
For example, let’s say you decide to power down your smartphone an hour before bed. For the first few days, your mind might be racing before bed due to the fact that you’ve been stimulating yourself by cruising through Instagram and Snapchat before dozing off most nights for the past few years.
This change, just like any other, will feel a little foreign and might leave you feeling a bit anxious and have a negative effect on sleep for a few nights but yield massive shifts once you’ve settled into the change.
Let go of changes that don’t work for you
Don’t be afraid to let go. If something is causing you to live a more messy life to implement a “sleep-hack” because all the cool kids are doing it, you’re probably better off moving on and experimenting with something that resonates with your lifestyle.
Remember that your well-being is the priority.
Stick with changes that work
If something works for you, keep it up and turn it into a habit before adding more complexity.
This may seem like the most obvious advice of all time, but a lot of us you the tendency leave behind the things that work to chase new trends. This is commonly known as Shiny Object Syndrome and has the capacity to derail your momentum while living the illusion of making progress due to constant changes. Similar to running on a treadmill, there’s a lot going on but really you aren’t going anywhere.
Practices are most powerful when they stop being “changes” and start being a part of your daily life.
Be cautious of confirmation bias
Defined as “the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories”, this self-inflicted mind trick can have us drinking our own kool-aid.
We are all guilty of favoring information that supports our pre-existing theories. It’s part of being human and our endless quest to do what all the cool kids are doing. The trick here isn’t to ignore that you want something to work, it’s to acknowledge that you might give something that you want to work the benefit of the doubt.
Objectivity comes with awareness of the simple fact that we have biases, so keep this in mind as you’re experimenting with yourself.
If making changes in our lives wasn’t curiously difficult we’d all be living in a magical wonderland, but alas this is the real word. Tools like the Oura ring and a proper game plan lead to more results than chasing the tail of popular trends.
With a consistent process, patience, and a proper mindset you can continue to grow with more and more efficiency. Before too long, you’ll be the one setting trends and living a life fueled by the best sleep, performance, and mental clarity to show for it.