The ability to sleep well is important to our physical and mental well-being. People who don’t sleep as well as they would like often find themselves more prone to illness, stress, headaches, lack of sociability, dips in productivity, listlessness, and more conditions besides. Every person is different, however, so no one set of sleep tips will work for every person. You have to accept that you have your own unique characteristics and habits to work with. Some factors can be controlled. Others cannot.
I don’t have all the answer for all people, but I can tell you one thing. I sleep well. I fall asleep easily and sleep soundly. It’s my super power. Because of this fact, I have more energy throughout the day. I work productively. I manage a fairly physical lifestyle. And for the most part, I have a positive emotional outlook on life. Sleeping well is a significant contributing factor in my mind. Here are some of the reasons I sleep soundly:
Let’s just get this one out of the way. Scientists have isolated a number of genes that affect sleep patterns. Some allow people to sleep for less time and still function with the same energy as someone who sleeps 8 hours. Some, like those related to sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, lead to disruptions to normal sleep cycles, making it hard for the carriers of these genes to sleep well. These are only 2 extremes, but I’m certain I am genetically pre-disposed to fall asleep easily and sleep soundly. My father is like this, as is my sister. As soon as it gets dark and our bodies enter a restful state, unless we have something capturing our interest (and sometimes not even then), we tend to fall asleep. This is why we the three of us have a tendency to fall asleep in front of the TV after 10:00pm, sometimes even earlier. If you think your genetic sleep deck is stacked against you, I highly recommend talking to your doctor about it. If you can isolate the issue you can more easily manage the problem. Check out the Sleep Disorders Help Center on WebMD.com for advice on common issues.
2. Early(ish) Riser
This is partly a continuation of the genetics factor, as scientists have identified certain genetic profiles that lead people to be early risers or night owls, with most people falling somewhere in between. I generally tend to naturally wake up early without an alarm and feel energized before other people do. Now being an early riser doesn’t necessarily mean that you sleep better, but what it does for me is give me a nice period of quiet time in my household during which I can get ahead of my day in peace without distractions. By the time everyone else gets up, I’ve usually meditated, worked out, eaten breakfast, done some writing, finished my daily social media work, etc. When people are up and moving about, I’m more likely to get distracted, but it doesn’t bother me as much because I’ve usually already gotten a lot done so I don’t get as stressed if that happens. And just because you’re a night owl doesn’t mean you’re doomed to be less productive. There are ways to hack your pattern. More on this topic in my blog post How Being a Morning Person Can Be More Productive (with Fixes for Night Owls).
3. A Clean Mental/Emotional Slate
This point is somewhat related to the last point. Getting ahead on my work schedule means I have less stress, but there are other things that increase my happiness and reduce my stress levels. I meditate for 20 minutes every day. I see my work as a calling and enjoy what I do. I leave time for fun throughout my week. I have supportive friends and family. I live life in line with my values. These are all factors that contribute to happiness, which seems to give me a clean mental/emotional state. It means that when I’m falling asleep, I don’t tend to have a lot of stressful things on my mind, if anything, I tend to have happy thoughts, helping me to fall asleep easier and sleep more soundly. Read more about living a happier life in Choosing to Be Happy.
4. Healthy Physical State
When your body is healthy, you’re more likely to sleep well. I exercise pretty much every day. I eat healthily, getting my quota of water, fruits and veggies, etc. I don’t seem to get as many of the niggling health issues that can affect sleep that many of my friends get now that we’re all into our mid-30s. These include things like acid reflux, heart burn, back/neck problems, etc. I don’t know if it’s luck, lifestyle, genetics, or a combination of the three, but the fact that I’m healthy means it’s easier to sleep. Regular exercise is also known to be a factor in sleeping well. Read more details in Exercise Helps You Sleep.
5. No Children
Not having any children means that I don’t have any of the sleep disruptions that come with being a parent during early childhood. Children also can bring about stress and worry, affecting sleep patterns. Furthermore, parents put their children’s needs ahead of their own, often letting certain practices that are important for sleep lapse, such as exercise, taking time to explore one’s hobbies/interests, etc. This is not to say that people should not have children for fear of lack of sleep, but parents do need to stay vigilant and work with their partners to establish a schedule that helps alleviate some of the stresses parenthood can have on their sleep. Struggling with sleep as a new parent? Check out 8 Ways for New Parents to Get More Sleep.
I don’t know if me sharing my lifestyle and how it helps me sleep will necessarily help you directly. It’s really about taking an honest look at yourself and your patterns, talking to professionals (if needed), and finding what will help you with your specific genetic make-up, personality and lifestyle. The one thing I do know is that if you get the right amount of quality sleep for your needs consistently, you’ll function more optimally on all fronts.
Have you any tips that have really helped with your sleep patterns? Please feel free to share them in the comments. 🙂