When Juliet and Kelly Starrett of The Ready State came on the podcast last week, Juliet said something funny: Out of everything in their new book, Built to Move, the thing that brought the most controversy was how much they stressed the importance of sleep. Specifically, good high-quality sleep in the appropriate quantity (7 to 9 hours per night).
While it shouldn’t be controversial, it’s easy to see how people would take offense. First, there are the ‘I only need 4 hours of sleep per night’ productivity peeps. There’s a small percentage of people for whom this is true. For the rest of us, it’s just not. It’s unsustainable, and it’s damaging. And second, there are the more understandably upset people: Those who simply cannot get in 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night due to work demands, young kids, et cetera.
But if you take away the judgment from it—i.e no one is saying the person not able to get that much sleep is A Bad Person—and just look at the actual point Kelly + Juliet make, it becomes less triggering. Sleep is essential. 7 to 9 hours is optimal. And improving sleep hygiene can improve the quality of your sleep, regardless of how much time you actually get to spend in bed. So, we figured it was worth recapping the sleep basics, because while you likely have heard them before, when was the last time you actually checked in on them?
Sleep Hygiene Essentials:
Cool temperature. Ideally 68-72 degrees F. This is going to feel chilly when you go to sleep! (This is the best time of the year to get into this habit, since opening a window at night will often lower the temp in your room to around this temp gradually.)
Quiet. I like a white noise machine to block out random sounds—and if you sleep with a partner (or pup), having white noise playing in the room or having a fan blowing (which both cools + provides white noise!) helps block on small sounds/snoring.
Dark. Blackout blinds and/or eye masks will be your best friend. If you’re going eye mask, I like looking for one that has indentations for your eyes. This pack of three is what we’ve been using for a while now! (We stash a couple in the van as well as keeping one in the house so we never forget.
Tip: If you often get up to pee in the middle of the night, I love these motion sensor nightlights for your hallway/bathroom versus turning the lights on full blast. I tend to end up wide awake if I have the bright bathroom light on, so thinking about how to dim the lights that you may need if you get up can be really helpful.
Tip: If you’re often waking up thirsty, just have a bottle or glass of water that lives on your nightstand rather than needing to get up to go to the kitchen. This sounds a bit ‘duh’ but it’s an easy one to keep forgetting. Set this up right now!
No screens in bed. We’ve stayed in quite a few AirBNBs and obviously hotels where the TV is right in front of the bed. This DOES NOT make for restful sleep. The rule should be only reading/meditating/sleeping/you-know-what-ing in your bed. Especially if you struggle to get to sleep!
Tip: I do break this rule with my Ipad for reading, but I keep the brightness at its lowest setting and have it set on night mode, which shifts away from blue light. I don’t wear blue light blockers to read, but I would if I had trouble falling asleep after using it!
Calm. I love a detective novel. But I also know that I will stay up waaaaay too late and get waaaay too into something exciting. So, bedtime is for soothing and even kind of boring nonfiction.
Adding or subtracting sleep trackers. Sleep tracking with gadgets is interesting. For some people, it provides really valuable insights and can help you dial in your sleep, or at least give you a sense of how well or poorly you’re sleeping. For others, the data can feel stressful and—funny enough—can lead to worse quality sleep because you’re overthinking it! So remember that your devices don’t own you.