If you are a Pirates of the Caribbean fan you might recall Captain Jack Sparrow and Barbosa on the hunt for the coveted fountain of youth. In the movie these two characters sail the seven seas racing against other pirates in search of the magical fountain. Well spoiler alert, they find it, but are not able to take advantage of its magical benefits. They would have been better off taking the time to do a quick Google search and reading the following blog series.
Lucky for you, what I am about to give you does not require you set sail and fight off evil mermaids nor survive the Bermuda Triangle. The first step will be for you to sit tight (or stand, I really don’t care), take notes, and apply at least one of the following tips to your life. Ideally you will eventually master all of the not so secret secrets in this blog series.
If you fall asleep while reading this article, I won’t be completely mad, but slightly offended. I want you to sleep, because sleep is the first step to improving your quality of life and start reaping the youthful benefits it brings.
Once upon a time in an ancient civilization there was a king who desired eternal life. So he called for the state’s wisest wise-guy (I have smarts). The king demanded that Mr. Wise-Guy give him the recipe that would provide immortality. After days of thought, analysis, and pressure from the king to provide the formula for immortality, Mr. Wise-Guy found the answer! He presented to his majesty the formula for immortality, it was quite simple too. Mr. Wise-Guy informed the king that he would have to stay awake for 7 days straight. After achieving such feat he would surely become immune to death itself.
As prescribed by the wisest of the wise, his majesty began his sleepless week. On day 1 he was determined to reach immortality. By day 2 he began feeling the effects of sleeplessness, and ordered his servants to provide constant entertainment to keep him awake and distracted from the tiredness. As day 3 rolled in though, the king was exhausted, unmotivated, and sleepier than a newborn’s mother, he gave in. The king took to his beloved bed and spent the most quality time with it he ever had in his life.
Since the king had failed to stay awake for 7 days straight, his chance at immortality slipped from his grasp. There are a couple take aways from this story. First, kings could be pretty oblivious at times. Second, wise guys are actually wiser than they seem. Third, depriving your body from it’s natural tendencies will in fact affect it negatively rather than provide eternal wellbeing.
I believe the wise man knew that if the king tried to stay awake for 7 days straight he would fail, and therefore he would be off the hook for not providing immortality. If the king would have actually stayed awake for 7 days straight, he would have probably died in the process, still keeping Mr. Wise-Guy off the hook. The king was better off sleeping rather than depriving himself from such a natural and consistent rebirth.
A different wise man once said, “Every time I go to sleep, I die. Every time that I wake up, I am reborn.” I list sleep as the first key to the fountain of youth because I believe it is the most essential, the most overlooked, and the easiest and cheapest to begin improving on. It literally does not cost any money to sleep. Some people even make money while sleeping (have you ever snoozed at work?).
Now, telling you to sleep is a pretty vague recommendation to help you achieve eternal youth, you already sleep. How much do you sleep and how well do you sleep, are the magic questions to ask. It’s always easier to measure quantity of sleep because time is objective and not subjective. How many minutes of sleep do you consistently get each night?
Start by beginning a sleep journal. Every day after waking up write down in your journal the amount of sleep you got (in minutes). Write down the number of times you woke up during the night. Try to estimate how long it took you to get back to sleep. Make this a habit. After obtaining a good 2-4 weeks of data, let’s begin to analyze. Is the number of minutes you sleep each night consistent? When does it vary? Why? For example, weekends might be completely different than weekdays or certain weekdays vary from others completely. Are you going to bed at the same time each night? Waking up at the same time every day? If not, why not? Write all of this down in your journal. Look for patterns. Which days do you feel amazing after waking up? Which days not so much? What’s the sleep difference between those days?
As you work to get your body into a consistent routine everyday (yes, weekends included), pay attention to your sleep rituals. By improving sleep rituals you will be improving the quality of your sleep. A few examples of healthy sleep rituals are:
1). Sticking to a consistent bedtime daily.
2). Shutting screens off at least 2 hours prior to bedtime (this includes cellphones, tablets, and tvs).
3). Having a pre-sleep procedure in place, such as meditating or reading a book before bed.
4). Using blue-light blocking glasses as bedtime approaches.
Other sleep quality improvement strategies include but are not limited to:
1). Keeping a dark room while asleep.
2). Avoiding caffeine after 2:00 p.m.
3). Keeping cool room temperatures while asleep (below 67 degrees).
4). Avoiding large amounts of liquids as bedtime approaches.
5). Keep distractions out of your bedroom. Teach your body and yourself that your bedroom is meant for two things, sex and sleep. Not Netflix, not guitar lessons, or work.
As you take these tips and implement them into your lifestyle one by one making each of them a habit, keep filling your journal up. Take notes about the times you got to sleep, the quality of your sleep, the energy you wake up with, etc. You will find trends and can then adjust course to achieve the desired results. Your body and health will immensely thank you for this.
As a general rule of thumb, younger people will need more sleep. As we progressively get older we tend to require less sleep quantity, even though quality should still be a priority. This being said, nobody should be sleeping less than 6 hours consistently (and that’s pushing it). Ideally we want to consistently sleep 8-9 hours per night, again, this is a general rule of thumb, every individual will vary. Some individuals will even vary in sleep times. Night owls will stay up later and sleep in more, and early birds will rather sleep earlier and wake up at an earlier time. You might even change back and forth between night owl and early bird throughout your life. Teenagers tend to be night owls, while older adults will probably be asleep much before midnight, but awake at dawn.
Many factors will play into your sleep schedule and rituals, such as work schedule, and family members’ life schedule, season of the year, etc. Recognize where you currently sit and make the best next move for you personally. I promise this first step to mastering the fountain of youth will be much more rewarding and doable than sailing the seven seas or trying to stay awake for a week straight.