How To Say Goodnight: 11 Ways To Improve Your Sleep

How To Say Goodnight: 11 Ways To Improve Your Sleep

Sleep is undoubtedly important for your well-being, yet we don’t always sleep well, sometimes due to physiological problems, often though resulting from the sheer level of distraction that we are exposed to every day.

Some conventional advice to get better sleep is:
1. Keep the room in complete darkness.
2. Reduce blue light from your computer before you sleep (inhibits melatonin production in our brain after dark).
3. Use apps to improve your sleep experience. For example, f.lux turns the computer screen orange after sunset.

When I thought about the ways that help me get better sleep, I realized there are three different categories of advice.

  1. Install good habits and routines.

Fall asleep the same time every day, sleep the same amount of hours and wake up at the same time.

Suggestions in this category aim to get your body and mind into a habit of sleeping. Habits assert themselves in a strong way – as everyone who wants to lose vices is all too painfully aware of. Once installed, habits turn into automatically executed patterns, so the key to good sleep could be getting the body and mind used to a constant sleep-wake cycle.

  1. Drugs and medication.

Clearly, sleep has a physiological component. That is what you help along with drugs.

  1. Tiring yourself out over the day.

Focussing on your work, sports and physical activity before sleep, sex… when you are really tired, you can sleep like a baby.

Here are my 11 methods for improving your sleep quality.

Sunrise on the beach

#1 – Figure out how long you sleep without an alarm clock.

Record the times you go to bed and wake up without an alarm clock for 1 – 2 weeks.

This will give you an average of how much sleep your body really needs. Without an alarm clock, I am sleeping close to seven hours – so that’s my ideal amount of sleep.

I can do with less than that if I have an alarm clock, but after 5 – 6 days on six hours of sleep, for example, I need to sleep longer than 7 hours to catch up on lost sleep.

#2 – Figure out the best times to fall asleep and to wake up

This is also hugely important.

I used to think I was an evening person, yet I now have a much better time getting up early. What changed my behaviour was the requirement of waking up between 5 and 7 am in Victor Pride’s 30 Days of Discipline.

So what you do here is you try a couple of days to go to bed at various times, for example between 9 pm and 1 am and then see – ideally without an alarm clock – when you wake up the next morning.

Which time is easiest for you to fall asleep? There is no use in forcing yourself to get to bed too early or to stay up too late.

#3 – Figure out the best activity before you sleep.

I would actually try out to read, use my iPad, work on my computer, listen to music, just close my eyes… and then see what gave me the best sleep quality.

Yes, several people say you should not play on your computer immediately before you sleep, but it may still work for you. No way of knowing unless you try it out yourself.

#4 – Do an evening routine – wind down the day and look forward to the next morning.

This one is especially difficult for me at times. But it’s very useful.

There are days when I am so motivated that I don’t want to sleep. I can just continue working and working and working.

Well – if there is a deadline you have to keep, or if this is the end run of a project, staying awake during the night now and then will not hurt you. But do that too often, and your screw your body up. Sooner or later you will crash.

Yet a mini version of “working through the night” happens if you go to sleep directly from working. If you don’t give yourself the time to review what you have done over the day, you are never switching off work. As a consequence, your sleep is less efficient.

In other words: the gains you get from working a bit longer in the evening are nullified by your lack of comfortable sleep. You start the next morning tired and thus work in a less efficient manner.

How do you wind down your days?

There are different ways, but I normally do the following:
1. – I write a list of daily tasks for the next day.
2. – At the evening, I review how many of my tasks I got done.
3. – I also write a few other things down: (a) What went well today. (b) What I do want to improve. (c) How I will improve. (d) Three amazing things that happened today.
4. – And based on those points, I write down the tasks for the next day (see 1.)

Such a list also has the advantage that I can set weekly goals and then track them by reviewing those days once a week. Can you get more done? Or did you have consistently “too much on your plate”? Is there one item that consistently sticks out?

I use “Day One” for journaling.

This list often gets me motivated for the next day. I go to bed with a happy feeling and can’t wait waking up for the next day.

#5 – Have something you are looking forward to the next day. E.g. a “morning routine”.

That follows basically from #4 above. When you wind down your day properly and wake up the next morning, over time it becomes part of your ritual and your body gets used to regular sleep just by force of habit.

When I have a sequence of evening routine – sleep – morning routine. Even sleep is exciting, it’s like a nap before Christmas.

#6 – Polyphasic sleep.

Some people claim that polyphasic sleep is a more natural way to sleep. In fact, people claim that a sleep schedule of several naps during the night has been the natural sleep pattern for many people before the advent of electric lighting. While the science behind multiple “nap cycles” is controversial, if you have trouble sleeping, you may just try out to sleep 30 minutes every six hours (or 20 minutes every 4 hours).

This article by Piotr Wozníak (who authors the learning resource SuperMemo) gives a great overview about polyphasic sleep.

#7 – Make your bed directly after waking up.

Always Make Your Bed

That puts a physical landmark on the transition between night and day, sleep and being awake. It gets you used to the notion that you can’t dose off over the day – you have to use the night to “get your sleep in”.

#8 – Kratom

Not all of you may have heard of that – basically, Kratom is a plant grown in Southeast Asia, the leaves of which increase your focus and happiness. Goodlookingloser has a great write-up about Kratom, and I have used it myself over the last half year, with great effects.

I also realized that this supplement makes me slightly more sleepy – I actually require 30 minutes more sleep per night while I am burning Kratom. If you have trouble sleeping, this is definitely worth a try.

#9 – Becoming present

One of the reasons that I have sometimes trouble sleeping is that there are just too many thoughts in my mind that I try to manage.

For example – while doing the dishes, I sometimes already think about the article I am writing after that.

That’s not how you get into a balanced life. Instead, you want to be present in the moment and fully focus on what you are doing right now.

If you are present in the moment, let go of things and don’t try to actively manage all the different thoughts you have, you will have an easier time “letting sleep come to you” when you are laying in bed.

I see three different ways – not mutually exclusive! – to learn to be present:
1. Meditation – Headspace has a great introductory course that takes 10 minutes out of your day – first 10 days are for free.
2. Gorilla Mindset has a whole chapter on becoming present.
3. A simple trick that I use is to write down all your thoughts over the day. That way, you can stay focused on your current task without worry about forgetting something.

#10 – Workout

If you tire yourself out physically 30 – 60 minutes before you sleep, you will sleep like a baby 😉

#11 – Focused work during the day.

If you focus the whole day, you will tire yourself out by the evening. Your body has no choice but to sleep – similar as with a workout (#10).

What helps you find good sleep?

Do you have some additional ideas?

Please comment.

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