Do you have trouble sleeping at times? Tossing and turning, without any apparent reason? And at other times you are out just as if a pro boxer hit you? A good night’s sleep is one of the essential ingredients to living a healthy life. Unfortunately, getting a good night’s sleep is easier said than done. If it were easy, then many of us wouldn’t have to suffer through long nights of tossing and turning. How to sleep better at night is a common question.
The good news is that there are ways to improve the quality of your sleep.
There are so many ways to sleep better. But you wouldn’t believe how many ways you can also mess up your circadian rhythm. Here are some dos and don’ts of getting a good night’s sleep.
Getting adequate sleep is all about developing healthy habits. It’s about getting yourself into a routine and training your body to know when it’s time to sleep. Get sleep right, and you’ll be rewarded by feeling great when you wake up and full of vigor throughout the day.
Take time to unwind. Many people have trouble shutting their minds off when they go to bed. This can happen if you don’t take the time to wind down at the end of the day. You could try meditation, reading, making a to-do list for the next day. Any activity that puts your mind at ease will help you get to sleep at night. Try to avoid gadgets, though, since they will put your mind into overdrive, making it harder to enjoy the restful sleep.
Buy yourself a good mattress and keep it clean. On average, we spend around 24 years of our life sleeping in our beds. This means that getting yourself a good mattress is one of the best investments that you can make in your life. It doesn’t have to be an expensive mattress, though. Make sure that you buy a mattress that’s just right for you. A good idea would be to buy from a manufacturer that lets you try out their mattresses for a trial period, so you can see if it’s right for you or not.
Eat right. What you eat during the day has a huge effect on the quality of your sleep at night. Eating processed foods high in low-quality fats and sugars can affect your sleep and make you feel groggy in the morning. Too much spicy foods can lead to heartburn, which can make it hard to sleep at night. If you can’t help yourself from getting a pre-bed snack, avoid anything loaded with sugar. Try something with little carbs with some fat, like celery stick with peanut butter for long lasting energy and satiety.
If you are sensitive to caffeine stay away from chocolate. Few people know this, but chocolate contains caffeine. It may not be enough to give you energy in the morning, but it will suffice to keep you up at night.
Stay away from coffee at least 6 hours before your bedtime. If you are struggling with sleep, or want the highest quality sleep, don’t drink coffee after 2 PM. Of course, if you have a low tolerance to caffeine, you may want to consider avoiding coffee. It’s helpful to note that even decaf coffee contains a small amount of caffeine. On that note, if you are struggling with sleep, you should limit alcohol in the evening. While a bottle of beer may help you relax and fall asleep faster, it can affect the quality of your sleep. Thus you might be sleeping more with alcohol, but the rest you are getting is of lower quality. Not what we want.
Stick to a consistent sleep routine. The human body functions better if we stick to a routine, and sleeping is no exception. You should stick to a regular sleep schedule. Try going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day for two weeks and you will be amazed by the impact it will have. Of course, you should every now and again go out, sleep in late, but make sure you have a schedule to get back to.
Sleep at the right time. Your body has an internal clock called the circadian rhythm. The rhythm is based on the timing of sun, not on your calendar. The circadian rhythm dictates the hormonal balance inside our bodies, upping the cortisol in the morning to wake us up and increasing melatonin in the evening to get us to go to bed.
Due to this internal clock, there are better and worse schedules to have. That is the reason why you might go to sleep at 4 PM and get solid 9 hours of sleep and still feel exhausted. Your body and your mind need repair, and they happen at different times during the night.
What can you do? The physical repair occurs between 10 PM and 12 PM, and after that, your body starts psychological repair. So, for deeper sleep, optimal learning and recovery, aim to be in bed and asleep by 10 PM.
Make sure that your bedroom is conducive to sleep. There are two very important things to consider in setting up your bedroom for sleep. First is the temperature, which should be around a cool 16-19 degrees Celsius (60-67 F). Second is the light or rather the lack thereof, as the room should be completely dark. The cold and darkness will both trigger more melatonin be released resulting in deeper and more restorative sleep.
Try to avoid waking up to go to the bathroom. Drinking lot of water throughout the day will help with sleep and feel rested in the morning. So drink at least 2 liters of water throughout the day to stay hydrated. 2 liters is the minimum and you might require more based on your size and activity during the day.
Try not to drink a big glass of water right before bed. You’ll end up waking up in the middle of the night t-o use the bathroom. As a result, you might have trouble getting back to sleep. Simple, but often overlooked.
Getting lost on the Internet. It is so easy to start checking a detail that is nagging you, and before you know it, you have spent an hour looking up something of little or no importance for your life.
Get a blocker. Get a quality Internet blocker, like LeechBlock (extension for FireFox), ColdTurkey. Set up a clear schedule when the blocker will cut your access to the Internet. 99% of the seemingly interesting or urgent things can wait. Using a blocker will give you the freedom to not have to choose to close your browser. Odds are you’ll get to bed when you know you should.
ColdTurkey closes my browsers at 9.30 PM. After that, I can still stay up if I want. But rarely are those things interesting without the endless link hopping and novelty of the Internet. An important feature of the blocker is the possibility toset it up so you can’t change or bypass the blocker. I have to wait for the morning to access the Internet.
This strategy alone has dramatically helped me limit my Internet use and get to bed earlier. It’s a great tool if you want more time for your relationship, journaling, or reading books.
You can block any application in your computer with the ColdTurkey. So that eliminates any games or other distractions.
One nasty problem with laptops, smartphones, and TVs is the blue wavelength of light they emit. The blue light tells your brain that it’s daytime so your brain doesn’t produce melatonin hormone. Melatonin is the key player in making you sleepy and repairing your body and brain. Lack of melatonin means you don’t get sleepy, and even if you force yourself to bed, the sleep quality isn’t as restorative.
Limit devices 2 hours before going to bed to minimize the blue light you are getting. If you can’t eliminate the devices, you should get the blue blocking glasses. You can get a pair at Amazon.
Stop using your smartphone in the bedroom. I use simple rules to manage my life. Too complicated – and it is not effective.
My smartphone rule is “no phones in the bedroom.” Using that rule and “in the bedroom by 10 PM” rule, I am all set.
If you want, you could be stricter with yourself and say “No browsing after dinner.” I don’t use the rules to punish myself, but to make sure I am focusing my time and energy on the most important things. Often, the most important thing in the evening is to get a better sleep and more sleep than I otherwise would.
TV as wind-down routine. Watching TV or other entertainment as a wind-down routine can be hard to quit; especially when it affects other people. Your spouse might feel betrayed when you stop “spending quality time together.” You might feel like you are depriving yourself of something fun and innocent.
You can still watch TV before going to bed. But try to avoid that being the last thing right before bed because it is too stimulating for the mind.
Set an absolute time of stopping. One episode of your favorite show or 30 minutes is fine. After that, it’s just you lying there with a bad posture. The blockers described above can come in handy if you are using your laptop as the source for viewing. There’s no need for willpower to stop the “one more”-cycle.
If you want to keep TV in your routine, make sure you are watching something soothing. No horror and preferably no action or thriller movies either. Your subconscious mind doesn’t know it’s not happening and it ramps up the stress hormones in the body.
Go for comedy or, my favorite, nature documentaries.
An excellent way to learn out-of-the-TV habit is to have it on in the background while you are doing something else. That will make it easier to get important things done while not feeling like depriving yourself of quality time. Also, use the blue blocker glasses.
Worrying about the future. A common problem disturbing sleep is concerns about the uncertain future and everything you have to get done the next day. Stress kills quality sleep.
Simple fix for that is to write down your 3 most important outcomes for the next day. Writing down only 3 forces your mind to focus on finding the most important ones from all the clutter. The 3 most important outcomes are enough to make progress in your life, as opposed to worrying about everything and not getting anything done.
Write down a plan for the next day before retiring to the bedroom. You should have a pen and paper on your bedside table. If things keep popping into your head while getting to sleep, you can write them down. Then rest in the knowledge that you will get to them. The mind can relax when the tasks are out of working memory, on the paper, and you won’t forget them.
Studies suggest that meditation helps with sleep and anxiety problems. A good app for that is headspace. Using the app in the bedroom violates the “no phones in the bedroom”–rule, but you can make exceptions based on your situation.
Wake up early. Waking up an hour or two before any obligations ensures a peaceful start to your day. You can do your best, most meaningful and impactful activities before anyone is around to disturb you.
I set my clock to wake me up at least an hour before I have to do anything. I use that time for meditation, drinking tea and reading, and taking a walk. That way I am already dominating the day before the rest of the world even wakes up.
I have noticed that I wake up best when I know I have a treat waiting for me when I wake up. Most often I use a delicious cup of tea or coffee as treats.
Don’t check your email first thing in the morning; there is nothing that can’t wait for few hours. Doing so will only put you in a reactive mode and kill any creativity or free thought.
Do your best work in the morning. A mistake I was doing for years was procrastinating and doing all kind of busy work during the morning hours and waiting until the evening to do my important, creative work. At 6 PM (or sooner, depending on the day) my mind is toast, no creative ideas or willpower left to accomplish important things. Fix: Do the important things first and you have fewer things to procrastinate on.
The-three-most-important-outcomes list comes in handy. Focus on those tasks first before reacting to anything new.
Have a routine. Like with the bedtime routine, you should create a morning routine. What are the things that would set you up for a great day? A good book about it is a Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. More on that in later posts.
Find out how much sleep you need. It’s not fair that some people need 9 hours while some can work optimally with only 7 hours. But fair or not, we have to get the amount we need.
Schedule when you need to start your evening routines to get to bed on time, stress-free.
Build positive habits like reading and journaling for less stress and more happiness in your life.
Cut out everything that interferes with you getting enough and proper quality sleep. Be ruthless. Sleep is vital for weight loss, recovery, building muscle, productivity, and happiness.
Decide that sleep is a priority for you and act accordingly.