The Fundamentals Of Sleep

(Note from Cam: I began writing a mega post on the fundamentals of personal development, but I ended up letting the project fall by the wayside. This project developed serious negative momentum, and because of that I think it’d be better for me to work on new projects rather than try to bring this one back to life. I did manage to complete the sleep section of this post so I thought I would at least release some type of finished product. Hope you take some value from this one.)

Disclaimer:  This isn’t intended as medical advice.  Please consult a licensed professional in regards to any problems or questions you have regarding sleep.

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Sleep is a big fundamental. You’re going to struggle living to your potential if you’re not getting decent sleep. Although there may be some workarounds such as polyphasic sleep (I believe it works, but I haven’t tried it so I can’t confirm for sure) it really is important you respect this area of your life.

Here’s some things to consider.

Consistency: Sleeping and waking up at about the same time everyday.

Length: This one’s really controversial. People do have different sleep needs, but it’s been shown that people are TERRIBLE judges of determining how much sleep they need.

Although 1% of people may only need four hours, the majority of people who claim to be “short sleepers” are actually found to be chronically sleep deprived when forced to take objective measures of awareness.

I’m no doctor so don’t take this as medical advice, but if you need an alarm to wake up there’s a good chance you’re not getting enough sleep. When possible, try allowing yourself to wake up naturally for a week or so to determine how much sleep you actually need.

Alarms may be necessary for school and work, but if you’ve tested how much sleep your body naturally needs at least you can structure your sleep schedule so you’re getting a healthy amount.

Darkness: Because of our circadian rhythms and chemicals in our body it’s in your best interest to sleep when the sun goes down and wake when it rises. You’ll feel more well rested and you’ll actually be healthier for it as well.

Light is highly damaging to sleep because it prevents the production of chemicals in our body (such as melatonin) that act as natural sleep aids. If you try to sleep somewhere bright (and things as small as your cell phone screen are enough to damage your sleep) you won’t sleep as deeply which is bad for both your rejuvenation and your longevity.

If at all possible sleep in a pitch black room (or at least as dark as possible), and cease the use of electronics at least an hour before you plan to go to sleep.

Stimulants: Caffeine, alcohol, drugs, etc. are BAD. Alcohol may help you fall asleep, but it makes your sleep more shallow and reduces the overall quality of it. Regardless of when you ingest it, because of caffeine’s half-life it’ll damage your sleep to some extent.

Stress: The final thing I’ll mention here is stress. If you’re feeling anxious or stressed out when you go to sleep that’s BAD. Not only because stress sucks in general, but also because it’ll negatively impact your sleep, and thus potentially make tomorrow suck as well which puts you at a risk of entering the dangerous negative spiral.

I don’t get nighttime stress very often (anymore), but I do have a few pieces of advice in dealing with it.

I Attempt to let go. Regardless of what happened, (or what you’re worried is going to happen) realize stressing over it isn’t going to help you. If it’s in the past make the decision to leave it there. It’s bad enough it hurt you as it happened, why would you allow it to harm you any longer than absolutely necessary?

If it’s in the future realize that whatever you’re worrying about may or may not happen, and even if it does you’re likely making it bigger than it actually is. Also realize that stressing about something will only decrease your ability to handle it when it actually happens so you might as well stop worrying and just let whatever’s going to happen play out.

II If letting go doesn’t work, or as an additional remedy to reduce stress try meditating. Without exception I always feel more relaxed after meditating for a few minutes. If you’ve tried meditating and it hasn’t worked for you in the past I’d recommend trying harder. If you’re really stubborn though you can do active meditations instead.

I’ve done relaxation yoga before bed in the past and I found it rarely failed to relax me. I’d also imagine the stretching is good for your body as well.

If the first two suggestions failed to appeal to you I do have one more idea. Writing as therapy. Sometimes just getting things out of your head can make you feel a lot better.

You can keep a journal, write raps, however you choose to do it, but I’m certain that if you currently lack an outlet for self expression this’ll help you.

III My final solution for eliminating night time stress is actually the simplest. Change your identity. Build a lifestyle that repels stress and become the type of person that intelligently deals with stress. How do you do that? By reading and implementing self-improvement content. I’d suggest beginning with the archive here. 🙂

(Hope you got some value from this one. If you want to read a closely related post on my ideas regarding intelligent sleep deprivation go here.)

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(Picture is from Christmas 2013.)

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