I have a friend who is a true All Pro Dad. He has five light-hearted, faith-filled, and energetic children. He is under 50 years old, exercises regularly, eats well, and has a vibrant social life and the best spiritual practice of anyone I know. But he has had one really bad habit.
This habit could cause him to lose his memory, to get Alzheimer’s, to gain weight, or to destroy his immune system. Like many of us do, he even would brag about this bad habit—until he had a heart attack. He was destroying himself without even knowing it by refusing to do this. And you might be doing that, too.
Like many fathers who yearn to provide for their families, my friend refused to sleep. He sacrificed rest for productivity. But if we don’t sleep, we may leave our families without their All Pro Dads. Here’s how to get better sleep in four simple ways.
1. Know your type (your chronotype, that is).
I used to get upset at my mom, who would sleep all day when I was a kid. I didn’t realize that by being a bartender during late shifts, she became a night owl. Her energy was at its height during the night and at its lowest in the morning. We all have a chronotype—the time when your body naturally wants to go to bed and wake up. Our types can change, though. I used to be a Wolf (hating on the early sun) but became a Lion (loving a sunrise) when my first daughter was born. All men should learn their body’s natural chronotype to apply the rest of these principles best.
2. Have a bedtime routine.
Having a strict bedtime routine works beautifully for toddlers. If you stick with it, they almost put themselves to bed, but if you waver from it, chaos reigns the next morning. We have to hold ourselves to that same standard. Here are some tips for perfecting your bedtime routine. Avoid screens 90 minutes before bed. Don’t drink caffeine past 2 p.m. Caffeine stays in your system for six hours and will keep your mind awake. Avoid alcohol at night. Use low light or blackout curtains in your room. Keep the temperature cool, around 65 degrees. This lowers your body temperature, helping your body to prepare for sleep.
3. Put in the hours.The human body is not able to function at full capacity with anything less than four hours of sleep.
One major mistake men make is assuming they get enough sleep. Some guys I work with like to brag about how little sleep they get—as if it is a competition. But healthy adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep. The human body is not able to function at full capacity with anything less than four hours of sleep. Your body reacts cognitively and physically to four hours of sleep the same way it reacts to being under the influence of alcohol. It would be best if you put in the hours.
4. Don’t be afraid to nap.
Our kindergarten teachers were on to something when they put us to sleep after lunch. Naps are not just good for school children. Naps improve memory, problem-solving, and decision making. Winston Churchill napped every day to regain his physical and mental strength. He would go back to taking down Hitler for another six or seven hours with a renewed mind. I’ve heard you only need 26 minutes for a good nap—less time than your lunch break. If you think you would not be able to wake up from a nap, that is a sign you are sleep deprived. Your body will try to reclaim the lost sleep.
What do the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, Chernobyl, and the Challenger Space Shuttle all have in common? All had major disasters occur because of human error due to lack of sleep. Sleeping is manly. Avoiding sleep is the worst way men are destroying themselves without even knowing it.
Sound off: How much sleep do you get each night on average?
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “Why do you think it is important to get plenty of sleep?”