Getting a good night’s rest has taken on a lot more importance in recent days. From Arianna Huffington’s book on The Sleep Revolution, to Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep, no longer are the days where we ‘pull all-nighters’ and marvel at the other person’s ability to get things done or admire those that work in fields with long hours of no sleep (truck drivers, doctors).
Sleep, and getting really good sleep, is a game changer – don’t believe me? Get a good night’s rest and compare that to a day where that previous night, you tossed and turned, stayed up late watching Netflix and hit the snooze button multiple times before begrudgingly getting out of bed.
I used to be one of those people that stayed up late working. That was my time of productivity, but I also felt like my days were half gone when I ended up sleeping in to make up for the late night. Like many things in life, I decided to experiment and try waking up earlier, which mean that I should be sleeping earlier as well. After a year of experimenting, I’d like to share some of my findings:
No food or drinks after 6 PM
I read about one CEO who has an interesting routine – no food or drinks after 4 PM, no blue light after 6 PM, in bed by 8 PM. He is someone who maximizes and optimizes his sleep routine and it’s something for you to think about as well. You don’t want to wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom because of something you ate late at night (and it also helps with restricted time feeding windows / intermittent fasting if you practice that). Blue light (that is, smartphones, tablets, computers) all have negative effects on the quality of your sleep so the more you can minimize blue light, the better, especially as you wind down for the night, and finally, your bed is a sacred place for one or two things only – sleep being one of them. If your body and mind associates sleep with bed, then it will fall asleep much faster.
Putting on sleep wear after dinner
Right after dinner, I put on clothing that I sleep in. Why? I like to use the clothing as a symbol to my body and mind that I am getting ready for sleep. Your sleepwear can be different from mine, but I quite enjoy the Underarmour Sleepwear Recovery clothing – I can’t speak at all about whether I recover faster but personally, I find that the very notion of associating clothing with sleeping is a good thing for me.
Brushing my teeth and putting on skin care
Brushing my teeth serves two purposes: good hygiene and preventing me from doing any late night snack binging. When you stay up late, you get hungry and when you get hungry, you might munch on a snack or two. By brushing my teeth right after dinner (or early on), I have one more obstacle to go through before I dig into that yogurt or bag of potato chips – I’ll have to brush my teeth again after. It’s a small obstacle but one that has helped prevent me from eating snacks when I shouldn’t be (and see the rule on no food after 6:30 PM).
One thing I’m not sure has caught on yet is skin care for men. I’m sure it has and I know a few friends that put an emphasis on their skin care routine but all I do is wash my face and then put on a night cream. In the morning, same thing, except I have a day cream with sun protection. I’m sure there’s a lot more I could do but I keep it simple so that I’ll actually do it (otherwise, the more complex it is, the more time I have to devote to it and when I’m rushing in the mornings to get to a meeting or to work, I’m more likely to not do it the more time it might take).
Many moons ago, I thought stretching was a waste of time. Why stretch the muscles? I had heard a lot about stretching beforehand but felt too lazy to do it. Then, at work, I encountered a runner and confessed that I had not got into running. She gave me a bunch of tips on how to get started running and told me that stretching was not good at all. After I gave her a confused look, she told me that the best way to warm up for running was to run. At that point, I was even more confused. She explained that the best stretching was not static stretching but more of a dynamic stretch (that is, you are jogging on the spot or kicking up your feet in toy soldier kicks). It was many moons after, as I got older, that I finally devoted time and energy into stretching. It could just be me but my experience with stretching is that it has helped to relieve pain and aches in my body and primed me for relaxing and cooling down (or warming up).
Cold room with no light sources
I am very careful about keeping the room a certain temperature (a little bit colder than what you may normally have) and blocking out any ambient light from the outside. The room has to be completely dark, completely silent and a little cool and I’ve found that with these kinds of environments, I get to sleep faster and I sleep deeper and better.
Blue light blocking glasses
Once I get home or back to my hotel if I’m traveling, I’ll put on blue light blocking glasses so that I block out any blue light coming from smartphones, tablets or laptops. I know the effects of blue light on sleep and in short, it’s not good, so any help I can get in minimizing the blue light coming into my eyes is a good thing.
Get to bed about 8.5 – 9 hours before I need to wake up
This is ideal and certainly not the case every night but I’ll try to get to bed at least 30 minutes to one hour before I need to sleep. I don’t want to get into bed 8 hours before I need to wake up and ‘force’ my body to sleep. I want to ease into it and not have to stress about getting enough sleep – because if I stress about it, it means that I’ll be less likely to sleep.
Light reading before bed
The other reason I like to get into bed early is to do some light reading. Many of the people I watch, follow and read about with night time routines suggest fiction and I have tried fiction but I always end up going back to non-fiction books before bed. There’s something about using the time to learn that I just can’t seem to get out of.
Put on a sleeping mask
I used to have a sleeping mask and ear plugs but I found that the ear plugs ended up popping out of my ears in the middle of the night so I just have a sleeping mask that I use. Even if I know that I don’t need a sleeping mask or ear plugs to block out noise, it’s just insurance in case something happens in the middle of the night. Why leave it to chance when you can almost guarantee yourself a good night’s rest without disruptions or interruptions?
Put on a sleep music app
Many of the meditation apps these days also have a section for sleep or relaxation. Sometimes, I’ll put on something short (about 10 – 15 minutes long) and listen to hypnotherapy or relaxing bed time stories as I lay in bed. What I’ve found is that the noise will keep me up but there are times where I have drifted off to sleep without realizing and those are the times where I have found my sleep to be quite good.
Don’t stress about sleep
My last tip, and maybe the best one out of the list, is to not stress about sleeping. I tell myself that I’m going to get a solid X hours of sleep and I’m going to wake up refreshed and if I still can’t fall asleep, one trick that I use is to force myself to keep my eyes open as long as possible. Again, I don’t stress about sleep because stressing doesn’t help you get to sleep any faster and I figure when I sleep, I’ll sleep. I also make a mental note to get to bed earlier the next day (it won’t make up for the lost sleep time but it certainly can’t hurt).
What about you? What are your night time routines? What do you do to get the best sleep possible?