How to Optimize Sleep: Tips for Getting More Rest in Less Time

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Someday Is Today" by Matthew Dicks. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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How much time do you waste by getting inefficient sleep? What would you do with more time?

To reach your full potential and accomplish extraordinary things, Matthew Dicks says you must first learn how to make the most of your time. You might free up some time if you optimized sleep. Of course, you need good rest, but you might not be sleeping in the most efficient way.

Keep reading to learn how to optimize sleep and, thus, waste less time.

How to Optimize Sleep

Dicks advises minimizing the time you spend sleeping while maximizing the amount of rest you get. Sleeping takes up more time than any other routine task. That’s why Dicks offers advice on how to optimize sleep; that’s where you can save the most time.

Unoptimized sleep wastes time in two ways:

  1. We spend more time in bed than necessary—either because we sleep for too long or spend time in bed doing things other than sleeping, like using our phones.
  2. We do things that disrupt our sleep schedule, and therefore, our sleep quality—like going to bed and waking up at different times every day. This wastes time by making us sleepy and causing brain fog at times when we should be awake and productive.

Dicks recommends two tips to ensure you get the most rest in the least amount of time.

Tip #1: Create a Sleep Schedule and Stick to It

Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day without fail. Sleeping and waking at different times each day confuses your body and reduces your sleep quality. If there are times when you have to go to sleep later or wake up earlier, Dicks says to stick to your schedule as much as you can—even if you go to bed late, wake up at your designated time, and if you need to wake up early, go to bed at your designated time.

(Shortform note: In Why We Sleep, Matthew Walker reiterates the importance of following a schedule to optimize sleep. He explains that our bodies have a natural sleep schedule called a circadian rhythm, which makes some people predisposed to falling asleep later while others fall asleep earlier. Other experts explain that changing these natural patterns is hard and attempting to do so can decrease sleep quality (and cause many of the negative side effects Dicks discusses). So, rather than creating a schedule and training your body to follow it, as Dicks recommends, it may be more beneficial to identify your natural circadian rhythm and structure your sleep schedule around it.)

Tip #2: Take Precautions to Get Good Sleep

Second, Dicks recommends engaging in behaviors that promote good sleep—exercise during the day to release energy, create a wind-down routine before bed to prepare your body for rest, sleep with white noise, and make sure the room’s a comfortable temperature at 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Your body and mind will be ready to fall asleep as soon as you get into bed, so you won’t waste any time.

Building on Dicks’s Sleep Strategies

Many of Dicks’s recommendations for how to get good sleep are shared by sleep experts, who provide additional details to ensure you get the best sleep possible.

First, some sleep scientists argue that certain exercises are more effective at promoting sleep than others. Cardio, resistance exercises (like weightlifting), and yoga may be most effective for improving sleep quality. Cardio and resistance exercises also improve blood pressure and reduce stress and anxiety, while yoga reduces pain in the neck and back.

Second, some experts specify that your wind-down routine should start one to two hours before your bedtime for maximum effect.

Finally, some sleep scientists note that while 65 degrees Fahrenheit is generally a good temperature for sleep,  the “ideal” temperature may vary from person to person. Ultimately, keeping the thermostat set between 60 and 67 degrees should be fine.

Note that some experts don’t agree that white noise increases sleep quality. Instead, it may disrupt sleep quality by preventing the brain from fully switching off.

Tip #3: Sleep Less

Dicks contends that many people think they need more sleep than they actually do. After following the aforementioned suggestions to ensure your sleep is productive, he suggests reducing the time you spend sleeping to see if you wake up well-rested. For example, cut your sleep time by 30 minutes one week, then an hour the next—you might even be able to sleep as little as five and a half hours per night, as Dicks does.

(Shortform note: Dicks recommends sleeping less, but he doesn’t specify what your ultimate sleep time goal should be. Experts elaborate that the amount of sleep you require mostly depends on your age—teenagers (14 to 17 years) need eight to 10 hours per night, adults (18 to 64 years) need seven to nine hours per night, and older adults (65 years and over) need seven to eight hours per night. Further, they explain that getting six hours of sleep or less per night (as Dicks does) can be detrimental, causing a poor mood, lower quality of life, impaired physical performance, and health problems like obesity and heart issues.)

How to Optimize Sleep: Tips for Getting More Rest in Less Time

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  • Why most people delay taking action toward their dreams and goals
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Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, science, and philosophy. A switch to audio books has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a creative nonfiction book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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