10 Ways To Guarantee Better Sleep
You weren’t made to be tired all of the time
Sleep is really important. While I don’t like to admit it oftentimes, it is necessary for my existence. It is necessary for my productivity. It is necessary in order for me to live a happy and reasonably successful life.
“You need as much sleep as it takes for you to stay awake and alert the next day, without caffeine.” (Nathaniel Watson, M.D.)
While we all know that sleep has some level of practical use in our lives, we also know that it can be hard to fall asleep and stay asleep at night. Below, to combat this is a combination of practical tips, mindset shifts, and emotional breakthroughs that have all helped me to sleep longer, and with better quality in the long run.
1 || Give yourself more time to sleep
While this seems like a given, give yourself more time to sleep longer, this piece of advice becomes harder and harder to follow given how much the average American works.
Not only are we spending 40+ hours on the job, but we’re continuing to work and think about work when we get home. Not only does this influence our stress levels, which influences our sleep, but it also causes us to have less and less time to lie in our beds and simply sleep.
“In today’s global economy, working late into the night or first thing in the morning is often a necessity.”
(From Consumer Reports’ “Why Americans Can’t Sleep”)
The most successful individuals in the world, and consequently those who sleep for a decent amount of time every night, are those who give themselves ample time every evening to complete a sequence of evening rituals in order to prepare them for sleep. They end their day, start their evening routine, and carve out specific time to sleep.
2 || Record what’s stressing you and let it go
Everyone has something, if not multiple things, going on in their life that’s stressing them out. The problem with most Americans that can’t sleep is because they’re letting that stress follow them to bed.
While you can’t completely let go of your life when you go to bed, you can release the stresses until tomorrow.
“Don’t fight with the pillow. But lay down your head and kick every worriment out of the bed.”
- Edmund Vance Cooke, poet
Simply writing down what’s stressing you out, or following a journaling prompt before bed can drastically reduce your stress levels. Name your fears, and they become quite a bit smaller and more manageable. Whatever you do, don’t let the stresses in your life, everything that’s worrying you, follow you to bed. It doesn’t belong there and it will bring you no benefit to bring it there.
3 || Ensure that you’re ready for sleep
Don’t try and force yourself to sleep if you aren’t tired. As you’ve probably found out, it won’t work. If you’re not tired and your body and mind are wide awake when your head hits the pillow, odds are you won’t fall asleep for quite some time.
If you’re still a few hours out from your designated bedtime and you know that you haven’t done much that day and your mind is still wide awake, consider working out or doing something mentally strenuous in order to give your body a reason to sleep.
Don’t do this too close to your bedtime, because you’ll wake yourself up even more, but making sure you’ve worked your mind and body is a guaranteed way to help you sleep — if your body needs it, it and your mind will try to get it. Ensuring that you’re ready to go to sleep when the designated hour comes around reminds your body to help you out.
4 || Work through your fear of sleep
Sleep is a primal need. The reason it is so hard today is that how much trauma, stress, and emotional demands we experience every day through our jobs, relationships, and social media interaction.
You might be thinking that it’s impossible to be successful and get everything done without sacrificing some of your sleep hours to work. I want to address that fear and emotional block head-on with three important reminders:
You probably aren’t spending that time working.
People often decide to put off sleep so that they can finish a project. While this is sometimes the case and certainly isn’t a bad thing to do, so long as you don’t make a habit out of it, most of the time we put of sleep and don’t do the work we intended to do.
Most people, when putting off sleep to “work”, might get a minimal amount of work done and spend the rest of the two or so hours they stay awake dozing off, watching Disney+ or Netflix, and overall wasting time in a way that doesn’t make them feel better about themselves.
Your work during these tiring periods won’t be nearly as productive.
Even if you do manage to squeeze in some work during these hours, as the hours get closer and closer to midnight and further into your designated hours of sleep, the less and less productive you become. You can’t be as productive when you’re tired — the rewards of staying awake are diminishing.
Go to sleep, and finish your work in the morning.
The most successful people in the world sleep for 6+ hours.
It might seem like those who sleep longer are missing something. While some choose to sleep for 6 hours instead of 8 and get meaningful work and routines accomplished in that time, the most successful people in the world tend to stick to a regular sleep schedule, sleep for 6 hours or more, and get some amazing things done in the world.
You can do the same.
According to Forbes Magazine, Arianna Huffington sleeps for 7 hours, Bill Gates sleeps for 7 hours, Tim Cook sleeps for 7 hours, Barrack Obama sleeps for 6 hours, and the list goes on and on. Successful people tend to sleep for a normal amount of time.
While there are some successful individuals who are able to get by with less than 6 hours, these individuals tend to be the exception to the rule, and can’t sustain sleeping like this for long periods of time. It has been pointed out by Mattress Inquirer that these individuals often have to keep up using “sleep binges” or taking week-long breaks at a time.
5 || Don’t treat sleep leisurely
“A new study by Johns Hopkins researchers shows that there’s a difference between sleep that’s long but interrupted and sleep that’s short but sound. As you might guess, it’s better for the brain to sleep for a shorter number of uninterrupted hours than a longer number of fitful ones.”
From Forbes’ “The Sleep Habits Of Highly Successful People”, by Alice G. Walton
Sleep is a serious matter that needs to be set apart from other activities. We’ll discuss this in the final sleep-help recommendation, but for now, I want to point out that successful people don’t sleep for fun.
While napping is a great idea earlier in the day or early in the afternoon when you need a few more minutes, a good pick-me-up, or some time to think creatively and destress, it isn’t meant to replace sleep — and if you’re feeling the need to nap all day, you should probably exchange that to simply sleeping longer.
Sleep also isn’t something that you finally decide to do the moment you turn off your laptop. Fast Company put it well in saying, “Working right before going to sleep, and looking at a bright screen, reduces the melatonin you need to fall asleep.”
Treat sleep as something you schedule in your day, and prepare for it accordingly. Don’t think of an evening routine as a waste of time, and don’t treat sleep as something you do if you don’t have anything better to do. People who prioritize success in their life tend to prioritize sleep.
6 || Read fiction immediately before bed
Everyone goes to bed thinking about something. Until the moment your brain finally shuts off and you fall into that first stage of sleep, your train of thought, as the film Inside Out accurately pointed out, is still chugging along.
The key to being able to fall asleep is making sure that whatever track that train of thought is traveling on is one that won’t stress you out and prevent you from falling asleep.
“A study highlighted in the Telegraph by the University of Sussex raised a number of participants stress levels and then attempted to reduce them. Cognitive Neuropsychologist Dr David Lewis found that ‘reading worked best, reducing stress levels by 68 per cent’. Stories give your mind the option to be somewhere else for a little while. This means you can leave your own troubles behind. Reading also allows your muscles to relax and slows down your breathing, leaving you feeling calmer.”
From Sleep Science’s “What Does Reading Before Bed Do To An Adult’s Brain?”
While it can work to simply think about what you’re grateful for and what’s going well in your life, when you’re tired, it’s easy to lose hold of these thoughts and watch as they disintegrate into stressful thought loops once again.
The way out of this is thinking about the life of someone else, someone that won’t stress you out. While I won’t suggest reading the Star Wars novelizations, Stephen King novels, or anything with a cliff hanger before trying to fall asleep, reading some warm and fuzzy fiction before going to bed can give your brain something to think about that has a very low probability of stressing you out. Not to mention, it helps you practice your empathic powers in a non-consequential way.
7 || Allow your body to get colder
Simply change the thermostat in your home.
“As nighttime approaches, our body temperature naturally drops, signaling that it’s time to slow down and get some rest. By keeping your bedroom cooler, you’re reinforcing your body’s natural instinct to sleep.”
The colder the temperature, the more efficiently and effectively your body is able to release melatonin to help you fall, and stay, asleep.
8 || Stretch before you lie down
Our body undoubtedly holds stress. It holds it in our legs, in our arms, in our shoulders, in our chests, and in our backs. Letting go of these stressful muscle knots and anxious residue from the day behind us is a great practice to ensure better sleep. Stretching or doing a short (or long) yoga practice before bed is a proven way to sleep better.
“Stress restricts blood flow, causing tension in your muscles and lower back. Stretching stimulates receptors in the nervous system that decrease the production of stress hormones.”
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD, Cardiologist
Doing this can help you to slow down your body, as well as your mind — bringing to the forefront of your consciousness various mindfulness practices and general awareness of your body.
9 || Pick your ideal time to sleep
Not everyone is meant to go to bed at the same time. Not everyone is meant to wake up at the same time. Everyone’s circadian rhythm is different, which means that we need to find out what ours is and cater to our sleep schedule to it. There’s no point in forcing yourself to sleep from 7 pm — 4 am if your body would rather sleep from 11 pm — 6:30 am.
Let your body tell you what it needs and when it needs it, and, within reason, listen to it. Healthline’s Sleep Calculator provides some great instruction on what the best time to sleep is in terms of sleep cycles. Amerisleep’s “How to Find Your Chronotype–and Get the Best Sleep of Your Life”, by Mary Grace Taylor, also provides some amazing insights into what your chronotype (biological sleep clock) might be.
While there are tests to take and studies to do, the best way to find your chronotype on your own might be to simply try out different times of sleep and determine which leaves you feeling most refreshed and awake, ready for the day.
10 || Make your sleeping area a dedicated space
It has often been said in the sleep help community that it is a bad idea to look at your phone, work on your computer, or even read in the same bed that you sleep in. (Okay, you probably don’t have more than one bed — so don’t do any of those things in your bed.)
What isn’t often said, though, is why this is a bad idea.
That comes down to basic neuroscience. When you do stimulating work in your bed, you associate your bed with that work. When you lie down to sleep, your brain has already formulated a habit. It starts gearing up to work when all you want to do is sleep.
Your brain is easily confused — try not to confuse it.
All ten of these sleep-improving ideas come down to two main things:
- Prioritize sleep as your life depends on it — because it does.
- Don’t be afraid of sleep, because it is a good thing and it is a thing that can be enjoyed and greatly benefitted from.
To learn more about me and my work, you can go check out my website onpurposeenneagram.com , and my new book On Purpose: Discovering Who You Are With The Enneagram.
Thanks for reading! Have a great rest of your day.