Sleep is underrated. It may not feel like that when you’re trying to climb out of bed in the morning – that’s when you really understand the value of sleep. Yet so many people wake up tired every morning and never change their routine.
That’s not you though. You’re smarter than that.
You read trendy articles about sleeping yourself to success.
We’re talking about actual sleep here. Not the other kind of “sleeping” your way to success. Get your mind out of the gutter! I’m going to explain the importance of sleep, and mostly, how to do it well.
How to Get Better Sleep
You’ve likely heard that you should avoid blue light before bed. And obviously you shouldn’t be ingesting caffeine in the evening. You may even know that alcohol and heavy meals before bed can reduce sleep quality.
I know what you’re thinking: “tell me something I don’t know.” And that’s exactly what I plan to do. But first, let me address an issue that is not widely talked about. If you’re having issues with sleep, that could mean one of two main things:
- You’re not able to fall asleep and/or stay asleep
- You always feel tired when you wake up
Those are very different issues, and they require different strategies to handle each one. As I go through this list, I’ll try my best to keep both in mind.
- Sleep enough, not too much or too little. Just as not sleeping enough can make you tired, sleeping too much can make you feel even worse. To figure out how much sleep you need, try to sleep without an alarm for a week. You can either do this on a vacation, or go to sleep quite a bit earlier to make sure you wake up. Of course, you can still set an alarm just to be safe, but try to go to sleep early enough so that you wake up before it goes off. It really helps to go to bed and wake up at the exact same time each day, even on the weekends. You won’t feel the need to sleep in, because you’ll feel refreshed from getting adequate sleep.
- Plan around your sleep cycles. A sleep cycle is approximately 90 minutes long, so it’s best to sleep in multiples of 90 (7.5 hours, 9 hours, 6 hours in rare cases). If you tend to feel bad when you wake up, try planning around sleep cycles. If you miss your bedtime, you may be best waiting for the next sleep cycle. For example, if you plan to go to bed at 10:00pm and wake up at 5:30am (7.5 hours of sleep), but you miss your 10:00pm bedtime, try waiting for 11:30pm to shoot for 6 hours of sleep. I wouldn’t suggest waiting for the next cycle if it puts you getting less than 6 hours of sleep. And if you have a hard time falling and staying asleep, just go to sleep as soon as you can.
- Make your bedroom a sleep sanctuary. You probably know the importance of sleeping in a dark, comfortable room, but is your room a sleep sanctuary? Your body and mind should only associate your bed with two things: sleep and sex. Anything else (reading, playing on your phone, watching TV, etc.) should be done elsewhere. If you associate your bed with things that require you to stay awake, your body and mind will automatically want to stay awake when you’re lying in bed. Take the TV out of your bedroom, put the book your reading by your favorite chair, and consider leaving your cell phone in another room. You can buy an alarm clock for a few bucks if you need it, so “I use my cell phone as an alarm clock” isn’t the best reason to keep it in your bedroom, unless you only use it as an alarm clock. Everything about your bedroom should promote sleep, from your sheets to the temperature to the curtains and décor.
- Take naps wisely, or not at all. Naps can make you feel great, or they can make you feel worse. Limiting them to 30 minutes or less will generally help their effectiveness, but you may not need naps at all. If you have a hard time falling asleep, and you take naps, try to go without them for a while and see if that helps you sleep at night. If you do have a hard time falling asleep and you still want to nap, try to do it before noon. The later the nap, the more your sleep will be affected.
- Develop a sleep strategy. If you have a hard time falling asleep, you must develop a strategy. Caffeine should not be ingested after noon, and no more than 200-400mg before that. Caffeine has a half-life of over 5 or 6 hours for most adults. That means that if you consume 400mg at noon, you still have 200mg in your system 5 or 6 hours later. Nicotine is another stimulant that shouldn’t be used with the last hours of the day. Large meals and alcohol right before bed can hinder sleep, but a small snack may actually help you sleep. Try not to consume any liquids in the last few hours before bed to reduce nighttime bathroom trips. Finally, plan the next day on paper before you get in bed. Not only is this effective for productivity’s sake, but it will take all of those thoughts out of your head and help you relax. A sleep strategy will also ensure that you feel refreshed upon waking.
With these practices, you should be able to sleep and sleep well. If you’re currently taking sleep pills, try to kick them. They really only help you to fall asleep, and this is also true for natural remedies like Sleepy Time Tea and Melatonin. While, they can be effective for that aspect, they won’t help you stay asleep, and sleep medication may not be worth the side effects.
If you do have a hard time falling asleep, and you can’t fall asleep within 15-20 minutes of lying down, don’t stay in bed. Get up and go read or do something else that will make you tired. Then return to bed when you feel ready. It does you no good to stay in bed if you’re not falling asleep, and it will force your body to not associate the bed with sleeping.
Sleep and Success
You may still be curious as to why this article is titled “How to Sleep Yourself to Success”. There’s a good reason: your quality of sleep will directly affect your quality of work, whether work comes in the form of your job, a side hustle, or simple tasks around the house. If you don’t sleep enough and sleep well, you’ll be functioning at a small fraction of your potential.
To tie all of this together, here’s an infographic that explains the relation of work and sleep well: