How To Get Better Sleep – Part 1

It’s been a week since I started sleeping in my mom’s room after my air conditioner reached its endlife. In that week, my mom and I each got more than 7 hours of sleep every day. This is rare since both of us consistently have one or two bad sleep days within a week.

The image below is data from the Autosleep iOS app which I use to track my sleep. The vertical bars show my sleep rating since I started using the app in March this year. Good sleep is represented by green, while sleep under 7 hours is color orange. As you can see, the last few bars are all consecutively green, which represent my recent sleep history.

This data from Autosleep shows an 8-day consistently good sleep.

On the other hand, the consolidated four-ring graphic shows a specific metric starting from the outer ring towards the center, namely, sleep duration, quality sleep, deep sleep, and heart rate average, respectively. The color correspends to the following quality in the photo below:

Color representing quality

Those are the data showing my sleep consistency following the methods below:

A Consistent Sleep Schedule

This is nothing new but simply a reiteration that it works. Winddown and go to bed at the same hours each day, every day, workday or not, weekday or weekend. Keep it consistent.

Sleep consistency is one of the things our body responds well to. Notice that when you sleep later than your normal bedtime, you still wake up on your regular wakeup time. This is because our internal body clock does not adjust quickly and prefers routine. Of course this is not always possible, but I suggest you course correct as soon as possible after staying up later than your bedtime.

For us, winddown starts at 7 PM and we are usually asleep on or before 8 PM. (Yes, we are rare urban dwellers who sleep early). It also helps that I’m someone who skips dinner. And in case you’re curious, our wakeup time is usually before 4 AM.

Warm Or Dim Your Lights

At around 2 hours before bedtime, dim your lights or switch it to a warm setting. Same goes for all your gadgets. In the Apple Ecosystem this is called Night Shift. On Samsung it’s called Eye Comfort Shield. I’m sure there is an equivalent for other mobile/tablet/laptop devices, which you can set to turn on and off at specific hours of the day or simultaneous with sunset and sunrise.

I switch to my lamp with a warm setting at around 5:30 PM.

If you have the luxury of getting smart bulbs, get those and program them to automatically change their brightness and color temperature during the evening time or at least two hours before bedtime.

If warm lights aren’t available, switch off your main/bright light and switch on your lamp. This worked for us during the 7-day consistent good sleep data. My mom’s room doesn’t have warm lights but has low-lumen corner lights which I switched to staring at 6 PM.

Warm/dim lights is effective for me in two ways: it helps induce sleepiness and improve sleep quality. Sometimes, I switch on my warm lights too early, say 5PM, and I fall asleep before 7PM. I also rarely got woken up in the middle of the night and if I did, I’m able to go back to sleep faster. On top of that, I feel rested when I wake up in the morning.

Additional Tips for Gadgets

If you can’t avoid using gadgets before bedtime, there are additional settings you can use to change your screen appearance. In iOS, aside from Night Shift, you can use Zoom together with a Low Light filter. I set it as an automation to turn on at 7PM and off at 4AM.

When both the Zoom with Low Light filter and Night Shift are turned on, iPhones and iPads emit the lowest possible screen brightness which is very close to a Kindle on a low brightness setting. These settings make me sleepy even while using my devices before bedtime.

On Android, there’s a Bedtime mode that turns your screen into grayscale. This can also be programmed to run automatically.

On the other hand, television sets, even the Smart TVs we have nowadays, don’t have a warm or low-light setting. Because of that, the bright lights from TVs stimulate our brain. Studies have shown that watching TV 2-4 hours before sleep reduces REM sleep, a stage that is vital for cognitive functioning. We also end up sleeping later because we want to finish our show/movie.

Because my mom’s evening routine includes watching TV before going to bed, I setup her Samsung tablet with Eye Comfort Shield and told her to use that instead of the TV.

I had already been accustomed to hearing my mom complain about her having a bad sleep day a handful of times in a week. But since we started our small tweaks in lighting, she has had a consistent week of good sleep. So it wasn’t difficult to convince her to stick to the routine.

I intend to continue doing these bedtime habits for as long as they keep working or until I find better, simpler solutions to having good sleep. I hope you will try the consistent bedtimes and warm lights at the same time, because they are more effective when done together.

I’ll be writing a Part 2 on this topic with more ways to help you sleep.

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