I’ll sleep when I’m dead.
This was my mantra for most of my life. On the outside, I appeared to be functioning alright. I was fairly active, spending time with family and friends, working a full-time job, and generally exercising outdoors or getting in some form of movement throughout the day. For many, I fit into the “doing good” column.
But the truth was, I not only felt tired but somedays, completely exhausted.
Being a generally high energy, type A personality, I’d usually push through my energy valleys often rely on sugar and caffeine to give me that mid-day boost to keep the engine going.
In 2019, I set a goal to read fifty books, essentially a book per week. The problem was I had no time to read and it became pretty obvious that if I actually wanted to read that many books, I needed to make some shifts. At the time I was reading about a book every six weeks.
Reading was a nighttime activity that looked something like this:
- Crawl into bed
- Open the book and resume where left off night before
- Realize I don’t recall what’s going on
- Reread previous 2 pages
- Continue on for about 2–3 pages more while eyes lids continually drift south
- Escape near-miss of book smacking me in the face
- Reread the last half-page
- Get smacked in the face with the book
- Put the book down and lights out
I decided that in order to read fifty books my best option was to get up thirty minutes earlier each day. In theory it sounded so simple. What’s thirty minutes, right?
That thirty minutes in an already painfully early morning felt… dreadful. The first couple of months of my new schedule had me hitting snooze or falling asleep on the couch reading my book.
I heard about the importance of good sleep hygiene and many of the podcasts I listened to spoke about the necessity of quality sleep.
Need More Time? I have the answer.
This was the beginning of extensive changes to my sleep habits. Over the course of three months, I make little changes every week and these changes have made a huge impact on how I feel every day.
I feel more vibrant, energetic, focused, and efficient. I literally feel like I have created more time in my day.
Here are 10 changes I made to sleep like a baby.
1. In bed by 10pm
I won’t lie, this one was really tough. Being a night owl, I’d generally get my son to bed, do a bit of work and maybe watch a little Netflix before retiring around 11–11:30 pm. Over the last year, I’ve experimented with going to bed at 9:30 pm and even 9:00 pm some days. That may sound ridiculous and I would have laughed if someone told me this a year earlier, but going to bed earlier leaves me feeling more refreshed and clear.
2. Learned about my circadian rhythm
If you’re not familiar with circadian rhythm, this is our internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. Every 24 hours it is repeated. If you ever notice you start to feel drowsy at the same time throughout the day, this is what you’re experiencing.
Prior to electricity and fire, human sleep patterns generally followed the cycle of the sun. We’d rise and retire with the sun. It wasn’t until the last century that we had the option of electricity and no longer needed to follow this schedule. Regardless of this luxury, it does not negate hundreds of thousands of years of human history and our circadian rhythm.
All hours are not created equal. Studies have shown that the number of hours slept before midnight is worth about double the hours captured after midnight.
3. No computer work after 7 pm
I try not to do any computer work after 7 pm or at a minimum one hour before bed. I find this gives my brain the chance to calm down and not only do I fall asleep faster but also enjoy longer periods of uninterrupted sleep. The same rule applies to my phone which I put on airplane mode to help avoid any distractions. I tend to use blue blocker glasses to negate the blue light emitted from screens if using after 5 pm.
4. Get an alarm clock and move my phone out of the room
In addition to moving my phone out of the bedroom, I moved my alarm clock to the other side of the room. This helped block any light emitting from the clock. It also forced me to get out of bed to shut the alarm off in the morning and not just hit snooze when it sits beside me.
Full disclosure, in the last couple of months, I did move my phone back into the room because I detested the sound of the alarm clock compared to the much gentler sounds that come from my phone. My phone is always placed on the opposite side of the room and on airplane mode when it’s in my room.
5. Make the room really dark
I invested in blackout blinds which have been worth their weight in gold. There are no lights in my room from plugins or cables. This helps produce more melatonin which assists with a good night’s rest.
6. Wake up by 5 am
If I get to bed by 9:30 pm, I find that I actually need fewer hours of sleep to feel well-rested. Generally, by 4:30 – 4:45 am I will wake up on my own.
7. Make my bed and clean up my room in the morning
This is a great small habit that has made a big difference. I’ve read books and listened to interview with extremely high performers and this consistently comes up as one of their habits. It makes for a much more inviting environment when I go to bed at night, instead of digging through clothes to find where my blankets are. If you want a peaceful sleep, create a peaceful environment. This included removing all items from my room that makes me anxious or stressed.
8. Moved the TV out of the bedroom
Someone once told me, bedrooms are for sleep and sex. And maybe for reading a page or two.
9. Stop eating after 6 pm
I’m very passionate about nutrition and have spent years studying and continuing to learn new things every day. Without getting into the food science and in an effort to keep this simple, I’ll say that if I do eat something after 6 pm, it’s generally small and light. I don’t want my body to be busy digesting food all night and not get the rest it deserves. Also, I try not to drink any caffeine in the afternoon.
10. Cool bedroom off
I tend to be a cold person and would prefer sweating over freezing. When it comes to the bedroom, I’ve definitely noticed a difference in my sleep when I cool the bedroom down and open the windows to let in some fresh air.
I’d love to say that I stick to these habits every day, but life happens and sometimes I’m up later than 10 pm or end up having a late dinner. I try not to be so rigid and enjoy life. Knowing that if I return to my plan above I feel better, perform better, and have more time!