Growing evidence suggests that poor sleep habits harm our health, our relationships, and even our jobs. So if you're having trouble sleeping, then it's time to get back to the basics — military style.
Special operators, who are sent on the US military's most dangerous assignments, must sleep when they can and often face extreme sleep deprivation to complete their missions. Whether you're a new parent, have a stressful job, or are dealing with a difficult situation, there's a lot you can learn from these elite operators.
To get a sense of how to sleep like a champ in the worst situations, we pored over sleep techniques for special operators and interviewed a former Navy SEAL who trains pro athletes, firefighters, and police tactical teams on how they maximize their performance.
"There's not a harder job out there than being a mom or dad, working or stay at home," said Adam La Reau, who spent 12 years as a Navy SEAL and is a cofounder of O2X Human Performance, a company that trains and advises groups from the Chicago Blackhawks to the Boston Fire Department. "There's definitely a sleep debt that could occur over time."
Small tweaks to your routine — what La Reau called "1% changes" in a March 19 phone interview — will make a huge difference to your sleep.
These are the basics of sleep boot camp. Know these before you nod off.
Have a presleep game plan
"It's like a warm-up routine you do for a work out," La Reau said. He then ticked off a list of do-nots:
- eat within two hours before bed,
- stare at bright lights,
- start playing "Fortnite."
During this time, La Reau suggests activities that will calm your nerves, maybe reading, meditation, listening to music, or dimming the lights.
Definitely: turn off your electronics.
TV watchers, e-tablet readers, "Fortnight" gamers — "They're getting crushed with light," La Reau, whose O2X team includes a half-dozen sleep scientists. "And that's just going to disrupt their circadian rhythm, it's going to trick your body into thinking it's day and your body should be up."
Put together a list or a reminder of what you need to do the next day
We all have a lot going on, especially new parents. La Reau says you need to tackle that head-on.
In the hours before bed, put together a list or reminder of what you need to do the next day.
"Every time I go home, I have a list of what I need to do the next day ... I feel like I'm prepared when I wake up in the morning," La Reau said. "I know exactly what I'm going to do, and I sleep better at night for it."