May 2, 2020

Improving Your Sleep Setup

I used to be much more of a quantified self type of geek.

I tracked steps, filled rings, examined sleep quality”, and used beautiful dashboards to evaluate how successful my efforts to optimize were.

When the science began to show that maybe tracking your sleep is both inaccurate and counterproductive, I wasn’t even surprised. I already knew, intuitively, that its only improvement to my life had been making me stop to think about sleep as something that could be impacted by my lifestyle choices.

If anything, my sleep tracking information—vague notions cobbled together from opaque algorithms interpreting spurious data from mediocre sensors—was just a source of anxiety and metawork.

Nowadays, I have a foolproof system for evaluating my sleep quality: I wake up, and…

  1. Feel Rested: Yay, I had a good night’s sleep!
  2. Feel Tired: Uh-oh, something went wrong.

Remind me why I need an app for this?

What is useful is giving the topic of sleep some serious thought so you can better understand the things that impact your rest. I’m beginning to suspect that these factors are similar, but not universal for all of us.

For example, when I wake up feeling tired, I can generally look back on the previous day and realize that I did some things to negatively impact my sleep. Maybe I ate dinner too late, didn’t exercise enough during the day to tire my body out, drank alcohol, had an unpleasant conversation or consumed upsetting media before bed, etc.

In my case it’s basically that simple.

Sure, sometimes there are less common triggers for bad sleep too like unexpected noises, illness, grief, or—most recently—anxiety, but even those are pretty obvious to identify.

I recognize that this may not be the case for everyone. In fact, if you consistently wake up feeling tired and can’t easily identify a trigger, you may want to have a physician evaluate you for sleep apnea or other conditions that may be impacting your rest.

In a recent piece about sleep I wrote for The Sweet Setup, I wanted to get away from the tech-heavy, quantified-self way of thinking about sleep and instead focus on a few concrete environmental factors that my wife and I have spent the past year or so refining.

They’re a combination of lifestyle and bedroom setup choices that culminate in an environment that fosters better, more restful sleep, night after night.

I hope there’s something in there that you find success with to help defend your sleep against the trials of modern life.


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