The room is dark, my bed is warm, and I fell asleep way too late last night. So I hit snooze, feeling a little guilty, then squeeze my eyes tightly shut. Just give me a few more minutes, I think, hoping it will make a difference. It doesn’t. The next few hours I’m groggy. I get to work dragging, needing caffeine to get going.
Doctors and health experts report that Americans are experiencing a “sleep epidemic.” We don’t get enough sleep. In fact, we don’t even know how to sleep correctly.
We spend a third of our lives in bed, and yet most of us have never stopped to ask, “What’s the best way to sleep?”
Almost everyone’s researched how to get the most out of the 1-3 hours they spend at the gym each week. I bet you’ve read magazines, taken classes, purchased equipment, and maybe even hired a personal trainer. But how much time have you spent studying sleep, the activity you do for hours everyday?
Here’s the truth: you’re probably not sleeping as well as you could.
Luckily, there are weirdos like me who have spent countless hours, and lots of money, learning how to optimize sleep. Some call us “sleep hackers.” I’ve purchased sleep tracking software, interviewed experts, read endless books and articles. Most importantly, I’ve experimented to discover what methods provide the best results.
And, this is what I’ve found. The #1 best way to drastically improve your sleep, is to write down best practices, and implement them for 30 days, so they become habits.
Don’t just read this blog post and hope to remember 1-2 things you might do to improve your sleep. That won’t work. Make a plan.
If you want to feel healthier, happier, and more energetic, there are only a few ways to do so. Sleep is one of them. In fact, it’s perhaps the best way to start feeling better because it’s free, has no side effects, and you’re already doing it every night.
So if you’re serious about sleeping better to become more energetic and healthy, here’s what you do:
1. Read the tips below and decide which habits you’ll form.
2. Share this article with a friend who will keep you accountable. If you both commit to forming new habits, you’ll be much more successful.
3. Get started tonight!
Top 8 Ways To Sleep Better Than Ever Before
1. Limit food, caffeine and alcohol before going to sleep – Follow this rule: no food or alcohol 2 hours before sleep, and no caffeine after 3pm. I know, you enjoy wine before bed and love midnight snacks, but just try this for 30-days and you’ll feel the difference. You can drink water before bed, just not so much that it will force you to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. If you are hungry within 2 hours of going to sleep, try some almond butter and small glass of Good Belly.
2. Create an evening ritual, and do it every night – Did you know your mind works like those dogs in Pavlov’s experiments that salivate every time a bell rings? That’s actually a good thing because it means you can train your mind to fall into a deep sleep on a regular schedule. An evening ritual is what you do to tell your mind it’s time to fall asleep. Here’s an easy ritual to do before bed every night: stretch (try a forward bend and cobbler’s pose), give thanks (in a journal or prayer), state an intention (like, “I will sleep deeply and wake up filled with energy and optimism.”)
3. Only use your bed for sleep and sex – this is a continuation of the last point, but it’s so important it deserves its own paragraph. Do not train your mind to know that your bed is a desk or couch. You want your mind to think that when you get into bed at night, it’s time to sleep. Also, bringing your computer or smart phone to bed to check email or watch movies is a big mistake. Working before bed can cause stress and the light from your screen will negatively impact your sleep. “Falling asleep” watching TV is not healthy.
4. Make your bedroom a sleep palace – you want your room to be dark, cool, and quiet. Make sure your shades block out all external light and/or use a sleep mask. Turn off or unplug any devices that light up. Put your phone on airplane mode. Use a fan to cool the room. Use a white noise machine and/or ear plugs if sounds wake you up. You may also want to clean your room before going to sleep so it’s an orderly and peaceful environment.
5. Have a consistent sleep schedule – Go to sleep and wake up at the same time. If you can’t go to sleep early, still wake up at the same time. Catch up on sleep with 20-40 minute naps, not by sleeping in. Remember, consistency is key. Train your mind and body.
6. Go to sleep early – Remember how well you slept when you had a bed time? Well, it’s time to bring that back. I generally sleep 10:30pm-6:30am. It feels awesome. Your goal is to get 8 hours of sleep a night for the next 30 days. Pick a time that allows you to do that, and stick to it.
7. Create a morning ritual, and do it everyday – this is one of the most powerful habits I’ve formed. One of the benefits is that it trains your mind when to wake up, so you’re not groggy. NEVER SNOOZE. When it’s time to get up, gently sit up, get out of bed, then pull the sheets up so you don’t get back in bed. Put on warm clothes, open the blinds and turn on the lights. Get a glass of water, brush your teeth, and do anything else you want add to your morning ritual (Neti Pot, exercise, meditation, healthy breakfast, etc.).
8. Track your progress – the way I found out what truly worked for me was to analyze the results I was getting by implementing the advice above. You can buy products like the Zeo Sleep Manager or Wakemate. Or you can print this spreadsheet out and put it beside your bed. Fill it out each morning and loop for patterns. You’ll be amazed. For example, you might notice that the night when you were tossing and turning was caused by an evening cup of coffee.
So are you in? Commit to doing at least 5 of these for the next 30-days, track your progress, and prepare to be amazed.
Photo credit: Amina Michele