There’s nothing worse than laying awake at 2am knowing you need to get up in 4 hours but not being able to switch your mind off. When I sleep badly, I feel rubbish the next day; I’m irritable, have less energy, and I make questionable decisions from a lack of sharpness.
A few years ago I got intentional about being a great sleeper. Here are some of the rules and tools I put in place. Some of them you may know, some may be brand new. Either way, I hope they are useful:
Block light and sounds
Even if random noises in the night don’t wake you up, they disturb your deep sleep – it’s a survival thing. I use a Manta sleep mask and 3M earplugs to completely block out my surroundings.
Eating cutoff time
Eating late gives me zany dreams so my food cutoff time is 7pm. If you’re still digesting, your heart rate is higher overnight which could compromise your deep sleep. Eating further away from bed means this isn’t an issue.
I choose sheets instead of a duvet because sleeping when too hot isn’t fun. Open windows, air conditioning and light or no clothes also helps.
Bathroom night light
Turning the light on in the middle of the night isn’t conducive to getting back to sleep after. A movement-activated night light sorts this out.
No phone in bedroom
Having my phone within arms reach makes it too tempting to use. I leave my phone in a different room and use a sunrise alarm clock instead.
Don’t check the time
If I wake up in the middle of the night I don’t look at the time, because it switches my brain on and makes it harder to go back to sleep.
Learn how to sleep well
Reading Paul McKenna’s book, I can make you sleep, was a great use of time. It has breathing exercises, mantras, and a load of other tips to try.
The Calm meditation app has lots of sleep meditations. I like one called “drifting off with gratitude” before bed (using headphones to keep my phone out of reach!) There are also ones to help you get back to sleep if you wake up.
Journal before bed
Writing a summary of the day in a journal entry before bed helps me draw a line under actions and mentally prepare to be asleep.
Read boring books
Nonfiction books that go into laborious detail to prove points or are densely packed with historical tales send me straight off to sleep. Fiction has the same effect when it’s intricately written.
Notebook by bed
As my default mode network kicks in (discussed here) I start to make sense of the day and all sorts of ideas and solutions pop into my head. Keeping a notebook nearby stops me thinking and planning into the night.
Lie on your back and close your eyes. Breathe in for 4, hold for 4, breathe out for 4, then hold for 4, and repeat until you fall to sleep. This is my last resort option for peaceful nights and it usually works!
Get good at sleeping to change how you feel every day. A combination of the above methods might be exactly what you need.