Do you wake refreshed and energised every morning? Or is the first hour of your day one of the hardest? Getting enough high quality sleep can help…
How much sleep?
Sleep research studies (often involving rather uncomfortable experiments) have indicated that we all require a certain number of hours’ sleep in order to operate successfully. There seems to be a lack of consensus about exactly how long this should be; suggestions I found on-line vary between 6 and 9 hours.
For me, getting less than 7 hours is not helpful: I can manage for a couple of nights on 4 or 5 hours but then I go downhill pretty quickly! I have friends who seem to manage on a regular 6 hours, and others who swear by a minimum of 9 or 10. Clearly it’s not a simple matter.
To complicate things further, it seems all sleep is not the same. For example, if you go to bed feeling contented and fulfilled it makes sense that you will sleep better than if you are upset, angry or stressed.
I’m no sleep expert, but I am definitely a good sleeper, and as part of my Self-Improvement I have paid some attention to helping myself sleep even better. So I offer you my seven “better-sleep secrets” in the hope that there’s something here to improve your sleep, too…
DISCLAIMER: As a successful sleeper, I hope my Seven Secrets For Successful Sleep will help you to sleep better. But I am not a medical professional, so if you have serious sleep problems you should seek help from an appropriate expert.
- Set a consistent bedtime
Decide on your bedtime and stick to it. Going to bed at the same time every night allows your body to get into a routine and lets it know what to expect and when. What time should you go to bed? Simple: do the mathematics. Decide how many hours you need to sleep and subtract it from the time you want to rise. Don’t compromise. I need 7 hours sleep and I try to rise at 5am (read this post about getting up to find out why!) so I aim to be in bed around 9.45pm.
- Develop a Bedtime Ritual
I am a great believer in Rituals (sometimes called “routines” but that makes them sound less interesting or important). See my post on The Morning Ritual. Start to do the same things in the same way in the same order before you get into bed. This gives your brain fewer decisions to make; you’re trying to relax your thoughts, not complicate them. Include some relaxing activities, such as some light reading, a gentle stroll or a relaxing bath. My pre-defined Bedtime Ritual definitely helps me settle better.
- Impose a one-hour Screen Ban
I try to turn off all screens by 8.45pm (I set an alarm on my smartwatch to remind me.) Apparently the light from a screen on a TV, computer, tablet, phone or illuminated e-reader “does things” to your brain. I don’t claim to understand these effects, but turning off my screens early has certainly made a difference to me. I make an exception for my Kindle as it has a non-illuminated e-Ink display that seems to cause no problems for me.
- Adjust your environment
Think about the rooms where you sleep and where you spend your last hour before bed. Turn the lights lower if you can, and perhaps listen to some gentle music at a lower volume. Temperature can be important, too: during the night it is recommended that our sleeping environment is cooler, but I definitely like to start the night off warm!
- Set your alarms
Setting an alarm to wake you in the morning is not just for tomorrow: it can help you tonight, too. By setting an alarm you can relax in the knowledge that you will not sleep in. If you are a snooze-button surfer, consider moving your alarm clock out of arms reach so you have to get out of bed to turn it off. Put a second alarm clock in another room or even buy multiple alarm clocks if you have to! Just do whatever you need to do to be confident you won’t oversleep. I have three watch alarms followed by a phone alarm in the next room. Add to these a wife who gets (justifiably) grumpy if they all go off, and that works just fine for me…
- Write things down
Before you settle down, as part of your bedtime ritual, I suggest you have a notepad and pen handy. Do one final “brain dump” before you go to bed. Write down anything currently on your mind: left-over thoughts, ideas, things you want to remember. I find this relaxes me because I don’t have to worry about forgetting them. You can put the notepad by your bed in case you want to add any last-minute items or even jot something down during the night (not an option for me as I usually sleep right through the night.)
- Try a mindfulness exercise
One of the things I have learnt (the hard way, see my “About Me” page) is the value of mindfulness. There are some simple exercises ideally suited to lying in bed. I don’t use these every night, but if I arrive in bed feeling like I’m am not yet relaxed or settled, I use a “Body Scan” or “Mindfulness of Breath” meditation exercise to help. “Mindfulness for Dummies” is a good book to start with if you’re unfamiliar with these techniques. Or there are plenty of free resources online.
Remember: intentionality and consistency are at the core of Self-Improvement. Don’t keep these principles just for your daytime productivity: apply them right through to the end of your day, too. Don’t let your bedtime just “happen”. Make intentional decisions about how you will prepare for sleep and be consistent in how you apply these decisions. As always, be prepared to “fail gracefully”: if you end up going to bed too late or leave the TV on too long, don’t beat yourself up about it. Just resolve to do better tomorrow.
How is your sleep? What challenges have you faced? What’s your number one better-sleep tip? Please let me know in the comments below or email me.
To our continued Self-Improvement and success!
The Self-Improvement Guy