I suck at sleeping.
Seriously, I’m really bad at it.
It’s one of the most frustrating things in my life.
Yes, I know, that’s a “champagne problem”, but it doesn’t change the fact that it annoys me to no end.
I always feel tired.
This has been the case ever since I can remember.
I’ve always been the type to need 30-45 minutes of laying in a still, silent, pitch-black room before The Sandman hits me with some shut-eye.
These issues have only gotten worse as I’ve aged.
On the rare occasions I fall asleep as soon as I lay my head down, I still wake up after the first REM cycle has completed. This means that right around 1:30 am, I wake up from a dream.
If I’m lucky, I’ll fall back asleep right away. There are times, though, where it’ll take an hour or longer before I’m back to sleep.
For a “normal” person, with “normal” responsibilities, this drives me crazy to no avail.
I’m incredibly jealous of my wife, who is asleep each night 0.82 seconds after her head his the pillow, and NEVER wakes up in the middle of the night.
(Seriously, WTF – how does she DO that?!?)
Over the past year, I’ve tried lots of different methods to improve my sleeping quality.
After some tinkering and adjusting, I’ve come up with my own method of improving sleep.
This method fits my lifestyle and helps me fall asleep more quickly – and fall BACK asleep if I wake up.
I hate the word “HACK”, so we won’t call this a sleep “hack”.
But you get the idea.
How To Sleep Better If You’re Stressed Out And “Normal”
Tip #1: Address your caffeine intake.
This seems so obvious from the start, but it never really clicked for me until I took a close look at it.
“Fitness guys” love their caffeine.
It’s an appetite suppressant, it’s a metabolism booster, and it’s a productivity drug.
For years, I substituted caffeine for food when dieting. It made fat loss less painful, 100%.
I also was a new Father during my early-fitness days as well. The caffeine helped to keep me energized after the long nights of bottle-feedings and diaper-changings.
I would end up making black coffee with 6, 7, 8 or more tablespoons of coffee in the filter.
As soon as the coffee was done, I would switch to Diet Mountain Dew, Diet Coke, or worse – Monster/Red Bull Zero.
I would always stop consuming caffeine around 2-3 in the afternoon, thinking the effects would wear off by 10 pm so I could get to bed.
Even though my kids eventually grew out of most of (NOT all) the late-night neediness, I never backed off of the caffeine.
It wasn’t until recently that I decided to scale back considerably.
I reduced my 7-8 tablespoons to 3 tablespoons daily. I also drastically cut back on all other caffeine sources. I might have 2-3 diet pops with caffeine per week instead of 4-5 per day.
Tip #2: Disregard advice you don’t want to follow.
You’ll have to hear me out on this one.
A reason I NEVER listened to the “hack your sleep” articles in the past was because it would tell me to change my lifestyle.
I didn’t WANT to “read a book for an hour before bed”.
I tried that for a while.
But then I would want to veg out and watch TV.
So, all of a sudden, what “worked” didn’t work any longer due to my desired lifestyle.
I didn’t WANT to “turn off your TV for an hour before bed”.
I work from 5:30 until 9 most days. I don’t want to keep using my brain at that juncture.
I want to chill out and watch some mindless drivel on the tube.
Since that advice didn’t fit my desired lifestyle, I didn’t follow it.
Yes, I am aware of the “blue light” that blunts your melatonin production and causes you to stay awake.
But I would rather sacrifice my own sleep than give up something I love, as crazy as that sounds.
(Maybe there’s a fitness/dieting lesson embedded in there somewhere…………)
If it doesn’t fit your lifestyle, you won’t do it.
So, disregard “sleep improvement advice” you don’t want to use.
We’ll find another way.
Tip #3: Buy Awesome Glasses
You remember that “turn off the TV/cell phone” tip from above?
The reason it’s always recommended to eliminate electronics before bed is because of the ultraviolent/blue light these devices emit.
The “fake light” will stop melatonin production on a dime.
Melatonin is a natural substance produced in your body which makes you sleepy.
Once the sun goes down, the lack of light causes melatonin to rise, which makes you want to go to bed.
Our society has electricity, though, and the first thing we do when the sun goes down is flip the light switch.
In order to keep blue light away, you hear the recommendation to get “blue light filtering apps” for your computer, tablet, and smartphones.
I’ve never done this.
It seemed like a huge hassle.
Plus, what about the other lights in my house?
What about the television?
There was artificial light everywhere. I didn’t think one little app would help at all.
Again, it didn’t fit my lifestyle.
And then a client, Michelle, filled me in on these bad boys:
These are “blue-light blocking” safety glasses.
Before you laugh at their enormous size, know that I have contacts. I wear glasses before bed. I needed glasses which would go over the glasses and still do their job.
I began popping these bad boys on about an hour before bedtime.
Within 3 days, I could barely keep my eyes open after the hour was up.
Some of this was likely due to the association/placebo effect that putting these glasses had on me.
All I know is I put ’em on, and I got sleepy as a result!
Now, the television, the computer, the smartphone, the tablet, and every other light in the house had the bluelight completely eliminated!
Yes, I look stupid – but for under $8, I was getting to sleep much, much easier.
***Note – there are other, less dorky pairs linked below the awesome safety glasses I’m wearing………….
Tip #4: Supplement With Additional Melatonin.
The above glasses got me on the right track.
I started to feel like there was something to this melatonin stuff.
I figured the next logical thing to do was supplement with some additional melatonin in addition to the blue light blocking glasses.
I began by taking 3 mg of melatonin.
That didn’t do much for me – but then again, I’m a big guy (6’8″, 230).
I increased my melatonin amount slowly until I found the right amount, and settled on 10 mg per day.
I take my melatonin about an hour before bed, right when I put on my glasses.
And that’s it – that’s my “sleep stack”.
My sleep isn’t perfect.
I doubt it ever will be.
After all, I’ve got “chronic stress” galore.
But using this “stack” has allowed me to fall asleep more quickly, reach my REM-cycle regularly, and fall back asleep if I wake up.
Hopefully you find it useful in improving your sleep as well.
Yours in nighty-night time,