“Before I take down this evil mastermind, I’m just going to lie down for a good night’s sleep,” said no action hero ever.
This means the good guys in flicks like Die Hard and Lethal Weapon must step off-camera for their fortifying snoozes. How do we know this? Because no one, not even Detective Lieutenant John McClane, can kick ass and take names without the proper rest.
How much is enough? The U.S.-based National Sleep Foundation recently released a “Recommended Sleep” chart. For guys between ages 26 and 65, there are no surprises: You’re looking at 7 to 9 hours as your ideal sleeping window.
Fact is, there’s plenty of evidence that getting the right amount of shut-eye each night improves every guy’s performance in three key areas. Is proper sleep important for your health? Are there any explosions in Die Hard?
The Big 3 Benefits of Sleep
Healthy mind: During sleep your brain strengthens memories and skills learned while you were awake in a process called consolidation. Solid shut-eye has also been linked to self-control, focus and avoiding depression. So whether you’re filing paperwork or hacking into a spy network’s mainframe, sleep helps you get the job done and feel good doing it.
Healthy body: Research has shown that well-rested guys have less body fat than those who are sleep deprived. Have you seen Bruce Willis in Die Hard? Case closed! Plus, getting enough sleep keeps your appetite in check. (Maybe that’s why we never see those action heroes eat anything, either.) As a big-time bonus, a slimmer, fitter you is bound to get more attention from your significant other, who may also be charmed by your sleep-strengthened intuition. Sleep, it turns out, plays an important role when it comes to reading emotions, a recent study suggests.
Longer life: A lack of sleep can cause tissue inflammation, which has in turn been linked to heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and premature aging. Sleep has also been shown to reduce stress, which can help lower your blood pressure. Another way to reduce stress and live longer: Cut down on mountaintop bazooka duels with evil masterminds.
How to get the sleep you need
Can’t get proper sleep? These 10 simple tips will help ensure you get enough shut-eye:
- Keep the bedroom exclusive
The bedroom should be a sanctuary for sleep and sex. Ban the TV, smartphone and computer, are of which all stimulating, and read a book or magazine instead. (The movie Die Hard, by the way, is based on the novel Nothing Lasts Forever.)
- Keep it clean
The bedroom, not necessarily the sex. A clean sleeping space helps induce slumber.
- Cool down
The bedroom should be cooler than the rest of your home, about 15-18 degrees Celsius.
- Let darkness reign
The human body is programmed to wake when it’s light and sleep when it’s night. Keep the bedroom dark and cover the bright lights of any electronics, including laser-guided weaponry.
- Nix the booze
Don’t be fooled by alcohol’s sedative effects – they actually thwart a good night’s sleep.
- Curtail spicy food
Heavily spiced food, or even a heavy meal, can also disturb sleep.
- Eliminate stimulants
Coffee, tea and nicotine will wreck your sleep patterns, so switch to decaffeinated drinks in the afternoon and nix the cigarettes. Even chocolate, which contains a stimulant similar to caffeine, can hinder a good night’s slumber.
- Stick to a routine
If you go to bed at about same time every night, you’ll enjoy a good night’s sleep. A wild weekend can throw your sleep routine off.
- Limit the water you drink before bed
Drinking too much water right before bed will have you up to use the bathroom during the night, disrupting your sleep. Make a point of drinking water throughout the day to avoid feeling thirsty when it’s time to sleep.
Being physically tired helps you sleep, but exercise a few hours before bedtime does the opposite because it boosts your adrenaline levels. That’s right: No rappelling down skyscrapers before bed!
Are you trying to get more and better sleep? If so, we’ve got your back!
Download the free “How to Rule the Bedroom” ebook right now.
Adam Bisby is a Toronto-based freelance journalist and father of two. His award-winning stories have appeared in The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star and National Post newspapers, in magazines like Explore, Reader’s Digest, International Traveller and Canadian Family, and on websites including MSN, MSN Canada, and DontChangeMuch.ca. Visit Adam’s website for more details on his award winning work.