Over the years, I’ve built up a perfect method to help consistently achieve a deep, restful sleep. I’m sharing all the details here to serve as a reference for anyone who’s interested in improving their own sleep.
Looking through the lenses of pharmacology, technology, habits, and setting, you can cultivate a thoughtful and comprehensive approach to getting the best sleep.
- No caffeine 6–8 hours before bedtime. Caffeine’s half-life is about 5 hours, so even 8+ hours later you’ll still have at least a quarter of the caffeine in your bloodstream.
- When you need a little extra help winding down, you can take 5-HTP, GABA, L-Theanine, Melatonin, and Magnesium supplements about 30 minutes before bed. This is a fairly common “sleep stack” that helps your mind and body relax. You can even order an all-in-one capsule on Amazon. I only have these when I need that extra bit of help so that I don’t build a dependence/tolerance.
- Many natural supplements have been proven to help you fall asleep as well. Chamomile tea, lavender, valerian root… there’s a lot out there so start by doing your research to see if there are any verifiable claims. If you’re taking anything in capsule form instead of the natural form, make sure that they’re coming from reputable brands with good quality control.
- Lift heavy weights (or any kind of intense exercise)— when you’re truly tired, your body will fall asleep easier and sleep deeper.
- Use the iOS/Mac “Night Shift” feature on your devices so the screen automatically shifts the color temperature to be warmer at night. There’s a good amount of research showing blue light suppresses melatonin production and may prevent you from getting good sleep.
- You can also automatically switch to Dark Mode at night. Put together with True Tone and Auto-Brightness, your display should always feel right for your environment and time of day.
- Use the Sleep Cycle app to track your sleep so you can understand what affects your sleep quality. You can also use it to play wind-down music and wake you up in the morning when it detects you’re in the lightest phase of sleep.
- Wake up at the same time every morning, including weekends.
- Have a wind-down routine that’s the same every night. Try to create a ritual out of it, like a prescribed set of steps. The more ritualized it is, the more it helps build the neurological cue/trigger. Besides the usual brush-teeth-wash-face-drink-water, I also use ambient music (Marconi Union and Melquiades are two artists to check out), candles, and incense to help set a soothing mood.
- Binaural beats are a proven and effective method for helping your brain synchronize with a particular wavelength, so you can listen to low-wavelength binaural beats for sleep. I especially love doing this with noise-cancelling headphones in a loud environment like a car or plane. The Binaural app on iOS is excellently designed and free to use.
- No TV or devices 30–60 minutes before bed.
- The one exception I make to that rule is if I’m using Headspace to do a meditation or wind-down.
- If you have random thoughts, ideas, tasks you remember during this process (or as you’re trying to fall asleep), keep a little notepad and pen in the bedroom nearby so you can scribble a note instead of using your phone.
- Charge your phone in another room. Use a good old-fashioned alarm clock if you need one. I started doing this just a few weeks ago and it’s game-changing. It helps me go to sleep more restfully, but the effect really comes into play in the morning. Before, I would wake up and immediately see a dozen email/Slack/etc notifications, disturbing the precious moments of creativity and calm that most people naturally have when waking up.
- Dark, cool bedroom. A little airflow is nice from a fan, but an AC on all night dries the room out too much for my skin and sinuses. A humidifier for cold winters or dry environments helps make sure that your skin and nasal passages are happy.
- Find your perfect pillow. It’s going to be different for everyone, so find something that works for your sleeping position and temperature preference.
- Everyone’s different when it comes to sleeping with their partners. For me, if I really need to sleep deeply, I sleep on my own side of the bed.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned out of the accumulation of sleep tips, it’s that getting good sleep is a mindset you cultivate into the last hour of your day. The ritual of winding down sets the stage for great sleep.
And once you develop that habit, the feeling of waking up truly, deeply refreshed is unbeatable.
Rest well 🙏🏼