sleepy woman sipping from mug

Self-Care

Sleep: the #1 most underrated tool to health, performance and longevity

Here are 5 ways you can make sure sleep is happening for you. 

As a busy parent, entrepreneur, or student, some days it feels like a badge of honor to pull an all-nighter, or shout from the rooftops that “Sleep is for the dead!” When productivity is the ultimate prize, and you’re “hustling”, sleep is the most likely to get cut. 

And while you may get an extra hour or 4 today, that lack of sleep is going to catch up with you sooner rather than later. 9 years into leading my functional food start-up, I can tell you that sleep is the top priority for my health and the health of my team. And although it’s so basic, it’s still maybe the most underrated tool in health and peak performance. 

When I don’t get optimal sleep, my brain is foggy, and I can’t make the important business decisions I need. If I miss multiple nights of good sleep, my feelings of anxiety increase, and I am likely to get irritated even with the people I love the most. 

There are a lot of great resources out there about sleep health (sometimes called sleep hygiene), and if insomnia is an ongoing issue for you, definitely talk to a healthcare professional. But there are 5 daily habits that help me to make sleep a top priority for me:  

  1. Track, track, track 

Do you love metrics? Step counts? KPIs? Now it’s time to track your sleep cycles as obsessively as you track your retail turns. The research is out on the optimal number of hours of sleep, and it may seriously vary from person to person. So ditch the 8-hours-a-day rule and find out what works for you. There are many tech tools to help you find your perfect amount of time. I love the Oura ring because it also measures heart rate variability.  Even just 1 week of observing will help you figure out how you can get your best sleep. More is not always better. Better is better. 

  1. Create the perfect sleep environment

My good friend Shawn Stevenson is also my sleep guru. He wrote the book Sleep Smarter and something I’ve really learned from him is the importance of building a sleep environment. Black out shades, not having a screen in the bedroom, and good sheets help. Like most start-up founders, I also love my blue light blockers. If you don’t have central air and can’t reduce the temperature in your bedroom that way (or by opening a window), OOLER mattress pads will change your game. It will help to keep your bed at the most optimal temperature all night long. Benefit is that my fiance can have her side warmer than how I like it. 

  1. Watch the sun rise and sun set 

This may seem a little woo-woo but I have found significant improvements in my sleep once I started to watch the sun rise, and set, every day. Even when traveling (pre-2020), this is an essential in my daily routine. I try to also pair this with a walk (because movement outside is really good for you), but even if it’s just from a window, letting your eyeballs see the sun rise and set helps to cue your body for when your circadian rhythm should hit. It’s also fun!

  1. Adaptogenic routine

Now this one may be a little biased, since it’s what I founded Four Sigmatic on, but adaptogens are amazing for helping you unwind before bed. Adaptogens are functional foods that help your body adapt to occasional stress. They are safe for long-term use and non-toxic. Stress-supporters like Ashwagandha and Reishi are a key part of my evening routine. I’ll usually add their extracts with unrefined cacao and hot water and sip while reading 5 pages of something.

  1. Embrace the Nap 

My first nap as an adult felt seriously like cheating. I thought naps were only for kids. But taking naps has completely changed my life. I take a 15-20 minute nap every day, often on a nail bed (that’s a separate article). Block it from your work calendar, buy an eye mask (not just for women!), and take a nap. Using a weighted blanket like the Gravity blankets helps. 

I know it isn’t taught in university, and it feels very counterintuitive but sleep will change your life. Now go catch some Zzzzs. 

Tero with Huge Reishi

Author: Tero Isokauppila

Tero Isokauppila is the founder of Four Sigmatic. Tero’s roots (or mycelium, if you will) are in Finland, where he grew up growing and foraging natural foods on his 13th generation family's farm. He later earned a degree in Chemistry, Business, and a Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition at Cornell University. An expert in all things related to nutrition, health, and wellness. Tero is the author of two best-selling books: Healing Mushrooms, an educational cookbook from Avery Publishing, and Santa Sold Shrooms, a children's book for adults about the magical origins of Santa Claus.

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