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23 Tips For Getting More Out of Less Sleep

23 Tips For Getting More Out of Less Sleep

As you’ve probably heard about a million times, sleep is essential for health, wellness, and energy. The obvious downside to sleep is that it takes time away from other productive things you could be doing, such as working or spending time with friends and family. This post is about how to get the most out of the sleep you do get, and maximize the energy you get through sources other than sleep. The goal of this post is to provide quick and actionable advice. You may want to find other resources to learn more about each tip.

How to Maximize Energy from Sleep 

Plan and Measure

1. Wake up and go to sleep at the same time every day. This will allow your body to get in to a rhythm, making it easier to both fall asleep and wake up on time.
2. For some people, it’s not the amount of sleep per day that has the most effect, it’s the amount of sleep per week. Find times in your schedule to catch up on sleep and fuel yourself for the rest of the week. Try measuring sleep in hours per week instead of per day.
3. On days where you won’t be getting as much sleep as you would like the night before, don’t plan as rigorous a schedule. Plan your most challenging and important tasks for days when you will be getting enough sleep.

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How to Fall Asleep Faster

4. Avoid screens such as phones or computers before bed. Many screens have been shown to display a type of light that may cause restlessness.
5. Avoid work or other stressful activities close to bed time. Instead, try relaxing activities such as reading or spending time with friends or family.
6. Don’t do work in your bedroom. You don’t want to have your bed associated with the feeling you get from work. Keep your bedroom as your place of relaxation.
7. Don’t drink caffeine too close to bed time.

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How to Wake Up Faster

8. Set your alarm clock to play music you love. It will excite you and give you energy to start the day.
9. Put your alarm clock across the room so you have to get out of bed to turn it off.
10. Drink coffee or tea immediately upon waking up. This will alleviate the morning groggy feeling and help you make the most of your awake time.
11. Drink water right before you go to sleep. When you wake up you’ll have to go to the bathroom, which will make you want to get up and prevent you from falling back to sleep. However, try to avoid excess amounts of water within the few hours prior to going to sleep, as at may cause you to wake up in the middle of the night.
12. Leave your blinds open. The sun will make you up in the morning and give you energy.

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How to Boost Energy from Sources Other Than Sleep

Nutrition

13. Spread food consumption across five to six meals per day. Digestion is a major use of energy. Eating five to six meals will help your body digest easier, and therefore hog less energy. In addition, you will have the right amount of sustenance throughout the day.
14. Drink plenty of water.
15. Avoid large serving sizes of sugar. Shortly after consuming a large serving of sugar, your energy levels may drop.
16. Avoid large serving sizes of saturated fat, such as fried foods. Excess amounts of saturated fats have been shown to cause fatigue.

Fitness

17. Exercise enough, but not too much. The right amount of exercise will boost your energy levels. However, if you exercise too much, your body will need more sleep to recuperate.
18. Short walks during the day can prevent you from feeling lethargic.

Mind

19. Have fun! Don’t forget to allocate time to friends and family, hobbies, etc. These activities will excite you and keep you motivated.
20. Keep your mind stimulated but not overworked. Similar to exercise, some mental challenge will give you energy, but too much may leave you fatigued.
21. Meditate.
22. Get exposure to sunlight. Exposing your skin and eyes to sunlight will give you Vitamin D, which can boost energy.
23. Try new things. Break your routine, learn something new, go on a spontaneous adventure to give yourself a fresh perspective.

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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