10 Pro Tips on Getting the Best Sleep of Your LifeOct 10, 2023
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Yes, sleep has such incredible benefits, countless books have been written documenting the scientific miracles of this completely natural habit.
Did you ever consider that if Allah has ordained that we spend up to a third of our lives sleeping, then it must be VERY IMPORTANT INDEED?
I have lost count of how many clients have asked for advice about sleep.
And it’s not surprising.
Up until the invention of electric lights and the industrial age, for over 99% of human existence we experienced very natural sleep cycles. Sleep when it goes dark. Wake up and work in the day.
The Qur’an affirms this very natural principle:
“And we made sleep a means for your rest; and made the night a covering; and the day for seeking livelihood.” (Surah Naba: 9-11)
The Digital Age has further disrupted this natural process. With smart phones, laptops and the internet, our homes have become offices and our night can easily become day and our days nights.
There are countless other factors from modern life which disrupt our sleep: noise pollution, harmful EMF radiation, poor mattresses, lack of sunlight exposure and excessive stress are just some examples.
So whether you struggle to get enough sleep, fall asleep or fail to get fully refreshed from sleep, you should find something powerful within these 10 pro tips:
Pro Tip #1 - Learn more deeply about the huge benefits of sleep
This is my personal approach to anything I want to improve. Need to improve my diet? Get a quality book. Want to improve my business? Get a top-rated book or go on a course.
It’s the same with sleep. A game changer for me was a recommendation from a functional medicine GP to listen to Dr Chatterjee’s podcast episode on sleep (bonus tip - I recommend this podcast to all my private clients and it has changed lives): https://drchatterjee.com/how-to-get-a-good-nights-sleep-the-very-best-tips-on-sleep/
In terms of books, I’ve read a lot and by far the most comprehensive book out there is Sean Stevenson’s ‘SLEEP SMARTER’. This incredible book covers topics which others miss, with impressive research on original topics such as chi kung, grounding and massage therapy. You will be amazed by the myriad of factors that influence great sleep.
If all you do is implement this pro tip and dive into one of the two recommendations above, you will gain a huge amount of wisdom and life-changing knowledge.
One of the facts that startled me into improving was that studies have shown that “poor sleep quality was equal to binge drinking and marijuana use in determining academic performance.” (Stevenson, Shawn. Sleep Smarter (p. 3))
Imagine that! A student skipping sleep is damaging his brain in the same way as taking drugs/alcohol.
On the flip side, high quality sleep improves brain function, balances your hormones, improves your immune system, increases your energy and reduces the risk of many illnesses. Simply Google ‘benefits of sleep’ to find unlimited examples.
But, yet again, I urge you to either read or listen to one of the resources recommended and you will experience a different level of motivation inshaAllah.
Pro Tip #2 - Learn and implement the major Sunnahs of sleep
The Sunnah enters and enriches ALL areas of life - sleep is certainly no exception. Indeed, the Sunnah is consistent with modern sleep hygiene prescriptions: sleeping early, sleeping on one’s side, waking early, meditating (i.e. dhikr) before sleep, etc.
Powerful Sunnahs you do not want to forget include:
- Learning and implementing 2-3 Sunnah duas/azkar before sleeping
- Meditate on the meanings of the duas which, in summary, remind you to affirm your faith so that you enter your ‘mini death’ in a state of Iman
- Consciously intend or beg Allah to wake you for Tahajjud/Fajr. This is easily forgotten but is a super hack to wake when you want.
- Go to bed with wudhu
- Fall asleep upon dhikr - and intend your sleep for Allah (e.g. to give you strength to worship) so your whole sleep is counted as 'ibaadah!
Pro Tip #3 - Create a calming pre-bedtime routine
All parents know the importance of having a specific wind-down routine for putting their kids to sleep. Yet, adults need to do the same! Across a variety of clients, family and friends I’ve witnessed some really bad - but sadly common - pre-sleep ‘routines’:
- Watching Netflix/Youtube/movies late into the night
- Heavy use of social media or smartphones within the last hour before sleep
- Working late, right up to bedtime
- Falling asleep exhausted on the couch after excess work/entertainment
Instead, I’ve coached many clients to:
- Eat a family dinner with strictly no screens
- Have quality ‘couple only’ time for the last hour or so before sleep
- Replace movies/gaming with books, board games or real human interaction
- Practise chi kung/yoga/gentle stretching shortly before lights out
- End the day with some dhikr routine (awraad)
Pro Tip #4 - Follow the cardinal rules of sleep hygiene
There are some rules - like whether you should get out of bed if you can’t sleep - which are debated. But the following are unanimous:
- Go to bed and wake up the same time every day, including weekends (I’m not talking about Fajr here, but your FINAL wake-up time)
- Do not watch TV, computer screens, phone or any electronic devices in bed (or close to bed time). These are all stimulants which keep you awake!
- Keep your room dark and quiet
- Keep your room cool
- Ensure you have a firm, comfortable mattress (no older than 10 years)
- Avoid caffeine after 12pm (use decaff or herbal instead)
- If napping, make it early on the day and less than 30 mins to avoid sluggishness/ negative effects on your sleep drive (10-20 mins is optimal)
Pro Tip #5 - Go for a walk outdoors as early as possible, preferably between 6-8.30am
In my article on walking, I mentioned this benefit. In Stevenson’s book ‘Sleep Smarter’ he presents the facts about how the light we get in the morning sets our circadian rhythms - our internal body-clock and sleep hormones - working properly. Even on a cloudy day, you will get at least 10 times the light exposure of indoor lighting. Sunny days have 100 times more light!
Stevenson cites a study which showed that office workers who didn’t have access to windows got 173% less natural light exposure and thus slept an average of 46 minutes less each night! This is what we subject ourselves to if we coop ourselves up all day.
Pro Tip #6 - Exercise earlier in the day
Common sense teaches us that if we work out it will make us more tired and thus sleep more easily.
There’s another factor: temperature. It can take 4-6 hours for your body temperature to come down after vigorous exercise and thus late night or even evening workouts are not ideal. Studies have shown that the earlier the exercise - ideally morning - the deeper the sleep.
Pro Tip #7 - Do not assume you can get by with less than 7 hours sleep
I have personally witnessed leading scholars and coaches who used to be quite relaxed in their attitude towards sleeping less than 6 hours a day. However, when these same public figures experienced health problems they revised their advice. One public figure I know changed his views after he contracted cancer.
Don't leave it until you get a chronic illness before you treat sleep seriously.
The overwhelming consensus - and what most adults need - is between 7-8 hours a day. If you want an expert test, then scientists like Professor Matthew Walker say,
“...you should spend about a week letting yourself fall asleep when you are tired and then waking up naturally, without an alarm.”
Until you do such an experiment on yourself, just assume you need 7 hours.
Oh, and by the way, if you wanted further inspiration look at the example of modern high performers:
Roger Federer and LeBron James - sleep 12 hours per night!
Usain Bolt - 10 hours
Jeff Bezos (founder of Amazon) - 8 hours
Bill Gates - 7 hours
Jeff Bezos said ″Eight hours of sleep makes a big difference for me, and I try hard to make that a priority,”
These world-class performers realize that sleeping more is not the enemy of hard work; rather, sleep is a fundamental key to high performance.
Pro Tip #8 - If you suffer from any type of insomnia try ACT
I never had diagnosed insomnia but, like many modern professionals, would have difficultly falling asleep. 9 times out of 10 the issue is racing thoughts.
A book which really helped me, and has also been a hit with my clients, is ‘The Sleep Book’ by Guy Meadows. His method of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) has had an 86% success rate for insomniacs and he is regarded as one of the UK’s foremost sleep experts.
In a gist, if you can’t fall asleep practise mindfulness techniques and deep breathing. Don’t think about the past or the future. Be in the present. Be with your body. Then notice your breaths. Breath in slowly, like a long thread, through your nose and fill your belly to the count of 4. Then hold for 4. Next, release, slowly for 4. Hold for 4. And repeat.
There are other variations which you can read in the books recommended below.
Pro Tip #9 - Focus on QUALITY sleep by leveraging the best times for sleep
A common objection to sleeping more than 5-6 hours or consuming caffeine in the evening is the excuse, ‘But I fall asleep fine.’
If you dig a little deeper with such people (and I often do with my clients who say this!) and you’ll find that often the QUALITY of sleep is missing even if the hours are there. Many people who subjectively say they are fine with less than 7 hours sleep perform worse on objective tests.
For instance, I always thought that caffeine never affected me. It certainly never stopped me nodding off at 11 or 12. But when I switched to decaff after 12pm, the difference was measurable. My energy improved and I woke up more refreshed. The quality of my sleep had improved.
Similarly, you may have heard the saying, ‘An hour before midnight is worth two after.’ Although this is not scientific fact, what we do know is that if you can get to sleep by 10.30pm (11.30pm in BST) then you are maximising your potential for the best sleep ever:
“The 90 minute phase before midnight is one of the most powerful phases of sleep, because it’s the period where the body is replenished,” explains Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, author of ‘Tired but Wired’. “It’s rejuvenated on every level – physically, mentally, emotionally and, I believe, spiritually as well. There’s a lot of healing that takes place in that first phase of sleep.”
Pro Tip #10 - Plan your wake up times around your 90 minute sleep cycle
It’s well-established that we sleep in 90 minute sleep cycles. The practical import of this is plain for anyone who has experimented with this. When you plan your wake up alarm in the morning, make sure you employ the ‘snooze hack’ of setting your alarm to go off in a multiple of 90 minutes or 1hr 30.
Example. You’ve finished Fajr and are ready to return to bed by 5.40am. You know it’ll take you 20 mins to fall asleep. Thus your sleep cycle will start at 6am. If you set your alarm for 7.30am you will wake up a lot more refreshed, compared with if you tried to wake at 8 - even though at 8 you would have had 30 mins extra! That’s because at 8 you’ll be waking up in the middle of a deep sleep cycle and will thus feel groggy!
Another example of ‘less is more’. Don’t you love time management!
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Quick article reads and books on sleep by experts mentioned:
For insomnia: https://thesleepschool.org/
‘Why We Sleep’ Dr Matthew Walker
‘Sleep Smarter’ Sean Stevenson
‘The Sleep Book’ Guy Meadows
‘Tired but Wired’ Nerina Ramlakhan
Praying for barakah and taufeeq in your time,
P.S. If you'd like professional 1-to-1 coaching on implementing high performance habits like sleep, time management, business progress, organisation or spirituality then why not apply for a FREE strategy call. The only condition is that you are seriously determined to take action to level up your life NOW: https://calendly.com/tushar-imdad/30min