We all know that sleep is important. Not everyone is aware of how their choices in life affect the quality and duration of their sleep though. Some seem to operate under the belief that the whole sleep thing takes care of itself, and that all they have to do is find their way to bed at night. This strategy might have worked for our naturally living ancestors; however, for us, who are surrounded by melatonin-suppressing artificial light, CNS-stimulating foods and drinks, and distracting technology, such an approach is liable to lead to poor sleep, and in some instances even severe sleep difficulties.
Given that the quality of our sleep has such a profound impact on our general health and well-being, this is obviously something we would be wise to take into consideration as we plan how to live our lives. In the modern world, it’s pretty much impossible to avoid all sleep-disrupting stimuli, and even if it was achievable, it would take a lot of effort and strictness to do so. That said, there’s obviously a lot we can do to improve our nightly situation without having to live like monks.
Below is an overview of what are arguably some of the most constructive, scientifically/evolutionarily sound steps one can take in this regard…
A few words about my own sleep journey
Personally, I used to be one of those people who don’t pay much attention to the connection between their life choices and the quality of their sleep. In my late teens and early twenties, I regularly used my cell phone while sitting in bed late at night, didn’t really pay that much attention to how much artificial light I was exposed to in the hours leading up to bed, and ate several foods that I now know are sleep-antagonists, such as cheese and dark chocolate. It wasn’t until I became more informed and took steps to improve my nightly situation that I understood that I hadn’t really been sleeping that great. I’d never had any major sleeping problems; however, I came to realise that the quality of my sleep – which I’d always thought was okay – had been suboptimal at best.
In the decade or so that has passed since that time, I’ve been more conscious of this whole thing, and as a result, I’ve experienced a different kind of sleep than the one I experienced early in life. This is not to say that I’m adamant about always going to bed at the same time each day, never ever eat something I know is liable to give me less than sweet dreams, or always sleep great; however, my situation has certainly changed quite a bit from the time when I didn’t pay much attention to the whole sleep thing.